9/8/2103, The Cost of Discipleship

Wisdom 9:13-18;  Philemon 9-10, 12-17;  Luke 14:25-33


You might remember a gospel reading a couple of weeks ago which quoted Jesus as saying:


“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? 

No, I tell you, but rather division... 

A father will be divided against his son

and a son against his father,

a mother against her daughter...”


     It seems contrary to what we might ordinarily understand about the mission of Christ, doesn’t it?   What about honoring our father and mother?  What about loving our neighbor?  What about turning the other cheek...and today, we hear these words:


“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,

wife and children, brothers and sisters,

and even his own life,

he cannot be my disciple...”

     

     Awhile back, Sandi asked me to facilitate this communion service, and knowing I would be giving the reflection,  I have been pondering these difficult readings.  

     Recently, I had a dream in which I was visiting my parents.  You should know that I have come from a wholesome family environment.  My parents loved my brothers and me.  We all felt secure, connected and provided for.  Our life experiences were very positive.  In my dream, I was doing something in the kitchen.  The rest of the family was in the living room watching TV. 

     My father came into the kitchen and said, “Marcia, this is the way it is.  You need to pack up your stuff right now and leave.  I don’t want you to ever set foot in this house again.  I never want to see your face again.  I never want to hear your voice again.  Don’t write.  Don’t call.” 

     Stunned, I asked, “What’s wrong?”

     “Just get out.”  he said, and turned and left the room.

I asked my mother what had happened.  She told me that there was no need to extend the conversation.  It was just time for me disappear.  When I asked my brothers, Sam and Greg, if they they felt the same way, they indicated that they stood with my father.  They all wanted to be rid of me, forever.


     Then I woke up.  What a strange dream.  Though the dream was completely at odds with my actual life experience and my relationships to family members, I lay there in my bed feeling absolutely desolate.  I knew the origin of the dream was connected to my pondering of these scripture readings. However disturbing, I decided to allow myself to drink in the desolation, to experience it to its depth.  

     

     Taken literally or out of context, these scriptures just don’t make sense.  However, they make a lot of sense in the context that Jesus was using when he made them.  The readings over the last five or six weeks, from the 12th, 13th and 14th chapters of Luke, have been telling the people that they need to prepare themselves. They need to be ready.  They cannot let possessions get in their way.  They cannot let pride get in their way.  They cannot let what they think get in the way.  They cannot let family get in their way.  In fact, they cannot let their own lives get in their way.  He was telling the people that being a disciple of his was a commitment, and it was going to cost  No excuses.  His disciples were going to have to pay the price.   He says,  

     

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me

cannot be my disciple.”


     So, there we are.


     Richard Rohr writes about the two halves of life.  The First Half of Life, we enter the world as one of the most helpless of creatures.  Our survival and growth depends upon the kindness of others.  Parents take care of all our needs.  We learn to walk, talk, and acquire our education.  We develop social and vocational skills, and distinguish ourselves as individuals.  We develop physically.  We may get married and have children.  We acquire homes and accumulate possessions.  We develop an identity and reputation.  Our world keeps getting bigger and bigger.

     During the Second Half of Life we start paying the price.  Our children grow up and move away. The beauty of our youth slowly fades.  We may be replaced at work with younger employees.  As we age, our parents eventually die, and we may begin to outlive some of our friends and relatives.  We begin to lose our health and independence.  We become more aware of our own mortality. 

     It sounds like a rather desolate scenario, doesn’t it?  Is there any basis for hope?  As the first reading from the book of Wisdom says:


Mortal reasoning is faulty,

and our plans shaky.

Our best guesses about the things of this earth 

are only approximate,

and we toil to discover even those things 

that are within our grasp.


     All is not lost. There are grandchildren.  Though our cognitive abilities may fade, Wisdom flowers with age.  Love becomes less self centered, less egotistical.  And as for all those possessions we have accumulated, we need less.  We can now delight in sharing what we have and what we have learned with others.  We become more simple and authentic. Today’s reading from Wisdom goes on to say:


It was because of Your Holy Spirit

that we on earth were set on the right path,

that we mortals were taught what pleases You

and were kept safe under the Spirit’s protection.


     Jesus’ words in today’s readings do apply to the natural progression that our lives take which Richard Rohr describes.  I believe, however, that Jesus’ words were directed more specifically to those who at any stage in their lives were and are moved by the Holy Spirit to be his disciples.  I believe he describes the attributes of his disciples when he addresses them on the Mount in the 5th chapter of Matthew saying:


Blessed are the poor in spirit,

                  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, 

                for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, 

                for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, 

                for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, 

                for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart, 

                for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, 

                for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are you when men reproach you and persecute you, 

                and utter ever kind of evil against you because of me. 

                Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will great in heaven. 

                Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


     These “blessed” are the ones whom Jesus calls Disciples.  These are the ones stirred by the Spirit to be builders of His Kin-dom. They are young and old. They are male and female. They come in all colors. They are scattered throughout the nations.  

 

     These Beatitudes are indeed eloquent words of hope spoken by Jesus himself for those who would be his disciples. He knew the cost which he would have to pay, and he paid it.  Though we must also, like Jesus, pass through circumstances and times that will cost us dearly...

      we will find our hope in the One who went before us,

           who passed through it all, and rose to a new, eternal life,

                who lives here among us today,

                     who speaks from the Mount

                          and who calls you and I “blessed”.


by Marcia Lee