Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
To hear your voice
To listen deeply to your word.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice,
To follow you in all of life,
In the way of God’s gracious reality.
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
This week the gospel lectionary reading places us among the crowd traveling with Jesus.
They have been following him for a while as he makes way south. Jerusalem—the capitol city, symbolizing religious and political power—is beyond the horizon, but yet very much in sight in the eyes of this multitude. Even the close followers of Jesus–the twelve and the seventy—look towards Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem as a moment for his triumph as Messiah. Jesus would take the throne and be king! The Roman occupation would come to an end! Israel would once again be restored to a world power! For the close disciples this hope also translated into being appointed to positions of power and prestige alongside Jesus.
Hence the shock as Jesus stops walking, then turns to face the crowd on the road, and says:
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life
itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross
and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)
Matthew remembers similar words, spoken earlier by Jesus:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy
of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is
not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and
follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will
lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Jesus is not talking about political take over here, not of political power and prestige.
He draws the horizon close into the realm of family and personal relationships: those whom we love, those who have shaped and guided us since birth. Love brings us into multiple layers of relationship, all intertwined with each other. This shaping and intertwining forms our personal, local, cultural, and national world views and values. This shaping and intertwining governs our relationships, defines whom we follow within our deepest self, our thinking, and our outward actions.
Jesus knows this. Jesus knows us. Hence his choice to stop, and to clarify what following him is really about: a totally different inner and outer formation. This will call us to awaken to how we have been formed, how we have been guided, which voices we obey, and whom we truly follow. In this process we will become aware of our “formed self” which needs to be seen for what it is – formed and controlled by those who may have meant well, but who were also formed and controlled by the rules and values of the world’s system.
The scripture passages included in the lectionary readings this week call our attention to this formative and transformative work within us. It also includes our hearing God’s invitation to stop walking, to pause and pay attention. It includes God’s work in us—the One who sees and knows us deeply, and the One who reshapes and transforms us.
This work is not without anxiety and pain – for loss of the old self is not without resistance and struggle. But as the new self emerges, a new freedom, grace, and clarity emerge. We see what Jesus is about with new eyes. And our lived response is changed.
We see our human selves for what we are, those around us for who they are—in the gaze of God—and what God’s loving invitation is to all of us.
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
- 8/30 Monday: Luke 14:25-27
- 8/31 Tuesday: Luke 14:28-33
- 9/1 Wednesday: Psalm 139:1-6,13-18
- 9/2 Thursday: Jeremiah 18:1-11
- 9/3 Friday: Philemon 1-21
- 9/4 Saturday: Luke 14:25-27
- 9/5 Sunday: Luke 14:28-33