“Don’t Be Gettin’ Too Cozy” June 21, 2020
“Don’t Be Getting Too Cozy”
Well, alright then. Jesus says some very hard to hear things in today’s gospel message, and depending on which translation you choose, they can be downright scary.
“I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
“For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
“Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Now imagine for just a moment that these were not the words of Jesus, who we adore, but instead were the words of some 3rd world dictator or a Charles Manson type of cult leader. Scary, right? I’ve always struggled with this text, which is also found in the Gospel of Luke, by the way. The temptation is great to simply pass over this troublesome passage- to chalk it up as “one of those weird things that Jesus said.” But it’s not – and so we won’t. Besides, I have a sneaking hunch that beneath all the powerful rhetoric that Matthew shares with us today, there is a goodly portion of good news to be found.
And so, I’d like to start with some lessons from one of my favorite windows to the teachings of Jesus – Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton. He writes,
All of us are here in church today because in one way or another we consider ourselves Christians and we have some desire to live a good life. And we believe that part of that effort to lead a good life is coming to church and hearing the Bible read and sermons preached on what has been read and we have to ask ourselves – “Okay, how is all this stuff about wielding swords and family feuds supposed to help me be a better Christian? Seriously, what’s the deal with this?”
A few years ago a young woman who had an appointment with me arrived a little early and was shown into my office to wait while I finished up a meeting down the hall. As I came into my office she turned from the wall where she had been examining my diplomas. She pointed at one of them and said, “What is ‘Spiritual Direction’?”
I fumbled around for an answer and finally said something like, “People come in to see me and I listen to them talk about their life, sort of like going to a counselor but, instead of whatever a therapist might say, a spiritual director tries to help people find where God is in their life.”
“That’s funny,” she said, “I should think it would be more important for them to figure out where they are in God’s life.” (I was tempted to take the diploma off the wall and give it to her – with my name scratched out and hers written in.) (continued)
“Things change, when we turn the question around. Instead of asking ‘What is God doing to make my life better, more whole, more spiritual, etc.’ The real question is ‘What am I doing to involve myself in the work and will of God in the world today?” (end quote)
I’m not crazy about the idea of copying the words of others to make a point, but this time I have to make an exception. You see, once again I needed a gut check, a face slap, a wake-up call to remind me that when we are dealing with a life in Christ, it’s not about me. Yes, the Lord cares for me; he cares for me immensely. (vs. 30) reads Even the hairs of your head are counted, which in my case doesn’t take a whole lot of time. When it comes to the love of God, it is endless; it is boundless; it is beyond our understanding. But it’s my understanding that God came to us in the flesh to make us a Kingdom people, not Kingdom persons – and there’s a big difference. It’s not about us; it’s not about me. What is God doing to make my life better, more whole, more spiritual? Nothing; it’s already been done. The ball, as they say, is in our court now. It’s in my court; it’s in yours. If the words of Christ in today’s passage make us just a little uncomfortable, then well…that’s OK. I believe they were meant to. (vs 34) Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy Jesus tells us. If you want to follow me, don’t be getting too cozy.
To say that we live in a time when things are up in the air would be putting it mildly. The world is being rocked with the worst pandemic in over 100 years. Out politics are dividing us, our lifestyles are isolating us, and even our own denomination is split down the middle by the subject of homosexuality. We are people of this world. We don’t like chaos; we don’t like to be in crisis. And so we find ourselves taking a position, making a stand; we find ourselves choosing sides. Meanwhile, Dr. Chilton’s question remains: “What am I doing to involve myself in the work and the will of God in the world today?”
I have to wonder how we will remember this time when it is over. Will we look back at mistakes that were made and opportunities missed? Of course, we will. But when it’s all said and done and we’ve moved on to the next set of calamities I’m sure this world will throw at us, it is my hope that we, as the church, will be blessed with the memory of Christ: Christ in our hearts, Christ in our midst, and the presence of Christ guiding our every move.
It’s not about me, it’s not about you – it’s all about God’s kingdom on this earth.
Amen & Shalom