Sermon Sunday 6 21 20
Our primary and greatest commandment is given to us in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is also found in Deuteronomy, long before the Messiah ever came among us. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” The next greatest commandment, “You must love your neighbor as yourself,” is found in Matthew and Mark. Not much room for doubt or waffling or equivocation there. Our gospel for this week tells us what these words mean in no uncertain terms.
Our gospel for this week is real nuts and bolts stuff. And this gospel is not necessarily comforting. It’s challenging. Jesus is telling us, “You’re either with me or you’re not. You’re either one of mine or you’re not. Jesus is telling us, “either you is or you ain’t.” And that is real. Jesus is telling us, in no uncertain terms that he requires commitment. We don’t get to sit on the fence.
Commitment. There’s a scary word. Can we commit to our faith? Most of the time, we’re content with Jesus promising us hearts and roses, and all we have to do is believe. Or say we believe. Do we really know what that means? But here, in today’s gospel, we are told what faith is all about – what faith really means,
First, Jesus challenges us to identify our master. What motivates us? Is it Jesus? Is it money? Is it position? Who/what do we believe in? Who is our model? What is our model? Do we even have a model?
What Jesus has to say in our gospel is reassuring for his tiny band of disciples. Contemporary Christians don’t know what it’s like to be persecuted for our faith. The disciples were persecuted. They knew what it was like to be whipped and scorned for believing in a god other than the Roman gods – in a god other than Ceasar. We’re all very comfy in our western christian society. We take a lot for granted. What if we were living in communist China, or Soviet Russia? Would we be able to stick to our Christian principles? Or would it just be easier to go along with the crowd and not rock the boat – “Nothin’ to look at here. Just keep movin’ along. There’s nothing different about me.”
How it must have struck ice cold fear into those disciples’ hearts to hear that they shouldn’t have any fear of those who were against the Christians. Easy for Jesus to say! “Have no fear of them. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, nothing secret that will not become known.” What if I don’t want to be uncovered? What if I want to hide? What if I don’t want to die in an arena?
“What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul;” Easy for you to say, Jesus! I don’t want my body to die! Maybe I don’t want to be noticed! Maybe every hair on my head is counted, but I wanna keep them all and my head. I know I am more valuable than many sparrows, but I don’t want to stand out. Maybe I don’t want to become known for being a Christian. Maybe I just want be a nice lady who is now also a grandmother who just wants to get along! And stop counting the hairs on my head!!
“Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” Now that’s scary. We read in other parts of the New Testament that Jesus has come to bring peace. What are we to believe? I think it’s pretty clear that sometimes Jesus brings us peace and sometimes our faith in brings us disagreement and even fighting. Jesus tells us that faith in him can cause disagreements. The most important question seems to me to be, where do we stand?
This is nitty-gritty stuff. I’d be willing to bet real money that there are more people who are ready to stand up for their politics than stand up for their faith. Any takers?
Maybe that’s the question we need to ask ourselves. What is important to us?
Well, Jesus puts it out there. He speaks of families divided. We know that can happen. And in the earliest years of Christianity, families were often divided. What he is telling us is that profound faith can lead to profound disagreements — even within families and among friends.
And finally, Jesus faces us with a problem that many families face and he presents us with the solution to that problem as well. He is telling us that we cannot sacrifice our faith for the sake of family. He is asking us to get our priorities straight. He is telling us that our faith must be the center, otherwise there can be no center. He is telling us that our faith must be stronger than family, because that will ultimately strengthen us and our families. A profound faith in Jesus Christ will lead to stronger love for everyone in our lives. He is telling us in the strongest terms possible that God needs to be the center for everything else to fall into alignment. That’s hard for many of us to hear.
But that’s the best way for us to find our lives. Only if we are willing to put Jesus first, before everything and everyone else, will we find our lives falling into place. That doesn’t mean that we lose our love for our loved ones – NO! Jesus is asking us to have faith that our love for all those we love will fall into alignment once we commit to our love for him.
Jesus doesn’t mince words here. He’s direct and to the point. Anybody who loves anything or anybody more than him isn’t worthy of him. Once he comes first, then we will be worthy of him and his love for us. A love that is ready and waiting to share our load. It is only by making our very selves less important than his presence in our lives that we can find ourselves. That’s what letting go is all about. And that’s when our load gets so much lighter. That’s when he shares our load. That’s what it means to “walk in newness of life.” Life get so much lighter and easier to bear when we entrust our lives to God.
Commitment. It’s an important word. It’s an important act. That is what Jesus is asking for today. Commitment.