Devotion for June 5, 2020 from Pastor Tim:
Why do you attend church? (Whether you currently attend a faith community or not, it is my hope that this devotion might prove helpful.)
Do you attend for worship, fellowship, community, coffee, donuts, music, the message, Holy Communion, you were forced or to make sure you have a place in Heaven?
Of all the possible reasons why you attend, let us assume, just as a working hypothesis, that you attend because you are trying to follow Jesus. Perhaps you are part of a faith community because you are trying, in your own little corner of the world, to be a disciple.
With that in mind I offer the following scripture:
Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 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.
Not exactly the text you want to read on a bright and sunny Friday, is it? Is this the description of a follower of Jesus you signed up for and strive to be?
Or would you rather “church” be something like:
A Sunday School class full of children with all of them perfectly bowing their heads in prayer; families lined up in a comfortable pew in a sanctuary graced by the spectrum of light filtered through stained glass; a graying, gentle pastor who is a friend to everyone and would rather die than ever hurt or offend. Never hearing a challenging word or vision.
Is that what appeals to you most? A “Christianity Lite”
So then I go and share an image where Jesus would greet you each Sunday by saying, “Are you absolutely sure you want to follow this way of life? It will take everything you have. It has to come before everything else that matters to you. The other thing is, if you succeed – if you really do follow me – it will probably get you killed.”
What are we dealing with here? How are we to understand? What is all this about hating our parents, our children, even our very lives?
The best way to understand it is to realize that Jesus was using a figure of speech we do not use anymore. In Aramaic, the word we translate “hate” has nothing to do with an emotion. It was a way of expressing priorities – so if I say, “I love the Warriors and hate the Lakers” (or vice versa), it would not mean I feel hostile toward one team or the other, but simply that one of those was my first choice.
In Jesus’ day, the way you stated a preference was by pairing two things and saying you loved one and hated the other. It had nothing to do with feelings. The issue here was priorities.
Here our speaker is Jesus, one we have come to know as caring and compassionate, one who goes out of his way to be welcoming, even to those whom society would shun. Suddenly, we are confronted with words that sound for all the world as if Jesus wants to push us away, to erect a wall of expectation too high to scale. How should we understand?
I think this is just a matter of Jesus refusing to lead us on. He will not lie to us, refusing to make his way sound easier than it is. No false pretenses. Jesus is letting us know right from the start that discipleship makes a difference; it makes a difference in the way we live; it makes a difference in the way we die.
I remember a few years ago seeing an ad for a drive-in passion play. It was like a drive-in movie; you could watch the story of Jesus without ever getting out of your car. And I’ll never forget the ad. It said this: “Come and experience the life of Christ all from the comfort of your own car.” I was overwhelmed with the truth that we will not experience the life of Christ or the life that Christ desires for us from within our areas of comfort. We have to get OUT OF THE CAR! We need to get into neighborhoods, workplaces, places where there is scarcity, hunger, pain, suffering, death and disease.
Discipleship changes us. Being a disciple makes a difference in the way we live. Suddenly, we see the world through new eyes, the eyes of Jesus. You see the needs and pain of others. Discipleship changes us and keeps on changing us…for now and always. Amen!
The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.