Saturday, July 7
Scripture Reading—Matthew 8:18-22
You may recall, if you’ve been following this blog, that the Scripture readings are drawn from the Daily Common Lectionary. The readings for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday point in a general way to the themes of the readings for Sunday. The gospel reading for tomorrow is Mark 6:1-13 which deals with the obstacles and opportunities presented to those who embrace God’s mission to the world in Jesus. Today’s reading, and Thursday’s and Fridays, deal in general ways with the costs and difficulties of discipleship. We have seen some of the challenges Paul faced as others challenged his authority and demeaned his strength. Today’s reading speaks very directly about the cost involved in following Jesus. A scribe approached Jesus saying he would follow him wherever he went. But Jesus seems to tell him, he has no idea of what is really involved in following him. Likewise, a disciple wants to follow, but only after he gets his family affairs in order. Jesus has no patience with this either. However we try to sugarcoat his response, Jesus is making clear that now is the only time to take up the path of discipleship. I will admit that Jesus’ words are hard to hear. They are hard to hear because Jesus seems to have no patience with our perception of our need for some degree of comfort, nor with our struggle to be loyal to other commitments—marriage, family, vocation, nation. I don’t know how to soften the harshness of these words anymore than I know how to follow them without reserve, let alone how to tell someone else how they should respond to them. I do know this: harsh as these words sound, challenging as they are, reluctant as we might be to invite others to embrace them—we give ourselves to all sorts of things that ask much, demand more, and give little in return that lasts. We do not often question the complete devotion of an artist to his craft, an athlete to her sport, the effort spent by a person on the way to the heights of a vocation, or the willingness of a soldier to lay down life in battle for freedom. But, when someone begins to radically orient life around Jesus’ call to service, justice, and witness, we worry that they’ve become fanatical about religion. I have not learned yet fully how to easily resolve these tensions between Christ’s call to total devotion and the other people, causes, institutions, and pursuits that rightly make a claim on us. But I do know that a disciple is someone who never stops wrestling with what it means to follow Jesus and put God first in all things. If the church is about anything, certainly it’s about us helping each other in this struggle to be faithful in the world as we find it, not as we wish it to be!
Thought for the day: A disciple of Jesus Christ is one who, however imperfectly, is trying to understand how to put God first in all things.
Prayer: O God, so many things seek my attention, energy, loyalty, and love. I do not always know how to establish priorities in my life. But I pray that with your help, and with the help of other Christians, I will always be growing in my understanding of what it means to make you first in all things. Amen.