Surprising Investment

Luke 15:25-32

When we hear the Parable of the Prodigal we usually think about it in allegorical terms. In other words, we view the father in the story as God and someone we know, or perhaps ourselves, as the prodigal come home. This parable tells us that God is forgiving, and we think about the image of God running out to meet us as I suggested last week. And we think of ourselves as repentant, having changed our hearts and lives, and that makes everything huncky-dory, right? At least that’s the way it should be.

But then there’s that older brother. A wrench in the gears of our happy ending. A fly in the ointment of a wonderful story about forgiveness. Why in the world would Jesus add this character to the story? And if this is indeed an allegory, then who’s the older brother supposed to be? And if we look at this text as something more, something beyond allegory, where might we see unforgiveness in our lives, in our world?

Well, to seek an answer to these questions, I think we need to look at the context of today text. As I read through the entire parable again this week I noticed something. I noticed a key line, an important contextual clue, that I miss last week. In verse 11 we’re told that the father divided his inheritance between the two sons. It’s not that he gave the younger son some cash and hung on to the rest. He gave it all to both sons, 50/50. What that means is, when the father calls for a celebration to be held, when the fatted calf is butchered for the feast, and when he gives the wayward son sandals, a ring, and the best robe – this stuff belonged to the older son! It was taken from his half of the inheritance! I mean, our capitalistic American brains can reasonably say at this point that the older son has a right to be angry. It was his stuff that his father was giving to this playboy of a brother of his. That’s not fair. He worked hard for it. This just isn’t right. So, what’s Jesus up to here?

Well, I think Jesus told his stories to turn our world upside-down, to shift our thinking from “a human point of view,” and to shake us up in such a way, that in our dizziness, we might come to realize that we may not have it all figured out; that in our certainty, we may have missed the point.

Like the older brother. He had it all figured out. He knew what his father’s welcome of his no-good brother was costing him. He also had in mind a pretty good picture of how his sibling wasted his share of the inheritance. He said, “…but then this son of yours comes home after wasting all your money on prostitutes,” Dad. And “you killed the fatted calf for him.” I’ve not been wasting my inheritance, I’ve been working hard, keeping this place afloat, but there is no celebration for me.

Now, the twist here is that the older brother was just as lost as his younger sibling. He just can’t see it. Furthermore, he doesn’t really know how to celebrate. You see, joy doesn’t depend upon everything fitting together as we think it should. Sometimes we can be so dutiful that we miss what’s really-real. The reality here is that what was once dead had come to life, what was once lost had been found. This story is about a fresh beginning, a second chance, a new creation – for all of us, prodigals and prodigies alike.[i] The older brother was focused on what he was losing, namely wealth, rather than seeing the really-real that was right before him.

I read a story recently about someone seeing the really-real. Millard Fuller, as many of you might already know, was a businessman who heard God’s call to share his vast wealth with those who were struggling by starting an organization called Habitat for Humanity. Now, the following story is about a visit he made to Charlotte North Carolina a number of years ago, and specifically, his introduction to the crowd.

“We decided that instead of having a professional, preacher type to introduce him, we would get a resident from a Habitat House,” said Rev. James Howell, the teller of this story. “We asked Melissa Cornet; tall, gangly, not an accomplished speaker. She was nervous. She poked around for words, but then suddenly began to speak directly to Mr. Fuller, who was sitting on the front row: ‘Millard Fuller, you are the answer to my prayer,” she said, “I grew up in a tenement, a terrible place, full of drugs, violence. I wasn’t nobody, knew I’d never be nobody. I grew up and had a little boy, and there he was, in a terrible place. I knew he wouldn’t never be nobody either. So, I got on my knees and I prayed, I prayed hard, I said, Lord, I will do anything, I will give up my life. But please, please, I just want my boy to have a chance to be somebody. Millard Fuller, when God told you to give away your money, you were the answer to my prayer. I heard about Habitat, and I got to build a house. Before we moved in, my boy had started school, but his teacher said he was slow, he would probably never catch up. He never smiled. But then we moved into our new house. He had his own room. And he began to shine that day. He got to where he played and had fun. And he started making good grades in school. Now he’s in the third grade, and he’s making straight A’s. The other day, my boy said to me, Momma, do you know what I want to be when I grow up? I said, No, what do you want to be? He said, I’m going to be a doctor. Millard Fuller, you’re the answer to my prayer.’”[ii]

My friends, this parable is about more than sibling rivalry. It’s about more than just forgiveness. It even about more than changing our hearts and lives. This parable is about grace. The grace to forgive and be forgiven, and to forgive ourselves. The grace look beyond my steady success and celebrate the return of one that was lost. This Parable of the Prodigal is about finding the grace to take what we’ve earned, our wealth, our success, and share it with those who have less; even those whom we perceive to have “squandered” all their chances. And it’s when we let the scales fall from our eyes, to use an image from Paul’s conversion; it’s then that we can truly see the lost one standing before us, the poor one in our midst, the oppressed one struggling on the margins of society. When we accept the grace that God has given to each of us; when we realize that all our success and wealth are finally a blessing from God’s grace; it’s then that we are able to embrace what’s really-real.

One final thought. Abraham Lincoln was once asked what he would do with the Confederates once the Civil War was over. He said, “I will treat them as if they had never gone away.” My friends, sometimes we find ourselves in the role of the father, sometimes we’re the younger son, the lost who’s come home, and sometimes, if we’re honest with ourselves, we fill the role of the unforgiving elder son. But here’s the good news! God is always gracious, always waiting for us to come around, always calling us to put our faith into action, always encouraging us to be generous, always providing opportunities for us to be compassionate and kind and grateful, and always, …always, inviting us to come home. My sibling in Christ, God says to each of us here today, and to all of humanity, “I will treat you as if you had never gone away.”

May it be so for you and for me. Amen & Amen.

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[i] Peter Haynes. I have Sinned (www.rockhay.tripod.com) 2001

[ii] James Howell. The End of All Exploring (www.Day1.org) 1996

Coloring on the Sidewalks of Life

Luke 15:11-24

One of the cool things we did this summer at Camp Kindness was to cover the sidewalks of Cable with messages of kindness and encouragement. With the permission of the store owners, the kids took sidewalk chalk and shared their individual messages of kindness with the community. I think was so cool because it’s one thing to “talk a good game” but it’s a whole different thing to put kindness into action. And the kids did a great job of converting their thoughts into written words and beautiful pictures.

Now, this got me to thinking: What messages do we as adults and as a congregation send to the community? How do we convert our faith, our thoughts and good intentions into beautiful pictures of kindness and grace? Well, (CABLE: the rainbow signs on the front of the church) (DELTA: our words of invitation to the wider community) send a message of extravagant welcome to all, that’s a good example. We give generously to the food shelf, to the 5 for 5 and many other special offerings, we have dinners and seasonal worship that offer opportunities for our neighbors join us in fellowship and prayer and song. And over the course of the past four years, I’ve come to appreciate that both of our churches have a special way of including visitors, summer residents, and members into the very fabric, the very life and leadership of the church. That’s really a unique and I would say “Christ-like” quality.

But I think our actions must go even deeper than even these things. But how? How can we go deeper? Well, consider that in Eastern culture, old men didn’t run. However, the character of the father in today’s text “ran out” to meet his son. Why? Well, one obvious reason was paternal love and his desire to show that love to his returning son. But there’s something else, a cultural aspect in play here as well. You see, this wayward son had brought disgrace to his family and village and according to the Law of Moses, specifically Deuteronomy 21, he should have been stoned to death. But if the neighbors had started to stone him, they would have also hit the father who was embracing him![I]

And since this parable is an allegory in which the parent represents God and we are to see ourselves in the character of the son, we, I think, are meant to see that God loves us in that same unconditional, willing to be stoned, kind of way; that God loves each of us, all of us; mistakes and transgressions and bad choices and all.

And if God was then willing to turn an emblem of shame, to turn an icon of guilt; if God was willing to turn the most humiliating way of being executed in his day, namely, crucifixion upon a cross, into a channel of grace and a symbol of healing and restoration, then why in the world would we sit on our hands when it comes to proclaiming “a just world for all”?

You see, all of these parables that we find here in the middle of Luke’s Gospel point us forward toward to cross; that’s a literary tool called “foreshadowing.” But these parables and teachings are also meant to remind us of Christ’s mission and purpose. A mission that he revealed in the fourth chapter of this gospel: “I came,” he said, “…to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, and to liberate the oppressed.” And that’s exactly what Jesus did back then and what God is still doing today.

Because no matter where you find yourself today, God loves you. God loves you! Do you get that! GOD LOVES YOU! So, no matter how far you think you’ve wandered off, God’s awaiting your return. BUT God isn’t standing still, according to this text, God is symbolically running toward you, embracing you and celebrating with you when you change your heart and life.

Because, and this is important, sometimes I’m the one who’s poor and at other times I’m the bearer of good news. Sometimes your neighbor is the one who’s in prison, either literally or figuratively, and at other times they may be the “keeper of the keys.” Sometimes you’re the one suffering from spiritual blindness, apathy, or indifference to the plight of others, and at other times you’re a beacon of Light in the darkness. And sometimes, sometimes, we’re the ones being oppressed. But there are moments, my friends, there are moments when we are the liberators. We cannot be all things to all people, but we can seek to be the hands and the feet and the voice and the heart of the Sacred One each and every day. If… if we have the courage and the will and the faith to stand up and be heard.

Which leads us back to our original question: How can we go deeper? Well, how we go deeper may be different for each of us and that’s okay. I’m going to offer some suggestions and an illustration, but please understand that this list is neither exhaustive nor is every suggestion going to fit the purpose and calling of every person. Jesus invites us to live-out the gospel in unique and wonderful and diverse ways; just like we, as a community of faith, are unique and wonderful and diverse.

So, first, a little about Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi, as you might already know, read from the Sermon on the Mount nearly every morning and evening for over forty years. Although he wasn’t a Christian, he decided early on to live his life according to Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. As he wrote in his autobiography, the first time he read them they went straight to his heart. Such teachings, he writes, “Offer no violent resistance to evil,” [And they] delighted me beyond measure.”[ii] Gandhi goes on to say, “When I came to the New Testament and the Sermon on the Mount, I began to understand the Christian teaching. It is that Sermon which has endeared Jesus to me.”[iii]

Dr. King once said of Gandhi, remembering that Gandhi was Hindu; King said that Gandhi was “the greatest Christian of modern times.” Why did Dr. King offer such high praise? Because Gandhi went deeper. He didn’t just offer lip service to Christ’s call and example of non-violent resistance, he lived it! And in the end, it did make a difference. He made a difference to the marginalized and oppressed people of India and South Africa.

How can we make a difference? Well, we must put the full weight of our voice into action. I mean, we cannot simply say we welcome all people into our midst unless we’re actually welcoming. Right? We cannot say, “God loves you, warts and all,” and still gossip or talk about someone behind their back. We cannot call ourselves a “safe sanctuary” and then turn a blind eye to domestic violence or bullying or sexual abuse even when taking such a stance is unpopular. But instead, we can participate in things like the upcoming Break the Silence Sunday on October 13 and candlelight vigil that evening in support of those harmed by domestic violence or rape or sexual abuse.

Do you see what I’m driving at here? Going deeper means getting our hands dirty, stepping outside our comfort zone, and leaning into the problems that surround us. Perhaps it even means changing our hearts and lives and attitudes about some of the most critical issues that face us today.

For instance, we cannot claim to be a people of justice and then put our own self-interest before the plight of the poor, or the asylum seeker, or the refugee. That’s counter to the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. But instead, we can offer a calm voice in the debate, debunking hate-filled words like “invasion” and instead advocate for a fair and just immigration system. And we can participate in becoming a part of the healing process by contributing to our care-kits for children at the border drive this November.

And same is true when it comes to climate change. We cannot claim to be a climate justice congregation if we don’t look inward and change our ways and habits, even if those changes are painful in the short run. We could instead, take inventory of our carbon footprint as individuals and as a community, we could participate in marches to raise awareness, and we can continue to offer hope to our children and grandchildren by making decisions based upon the effect those decision will have upon the next seven generations.

Now, I know this is a lot to process. But it’s vital that we not only consider these issues, but that we act upon them. My friends, it’s time for each of us to take out our chalk and begin coloring pictures of kindness and grace and acceptance on the sidewalks of this world and the time is now for us to turn and come home into the embrace of a Creator who’s running out to meet us, and who loves each of us, all of us, all of humanity and all of creation, unconditionally and beyond measure. My friends, the turn begins today. Amen and Amen.

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[i] William Flippin. The Day God Ran (www.Day1.org) 2013

[ii] Mahatma Gandhi, An Autobiography, or The Story of My Experiments with Truth, trans. Mahadev Desai (Navajivan Publishing House: 1996, ©1927), 58. See Gandhi on Christianity, ed. Robert Ellsberg (Orbis Books: 1991), 5.

[iii] Mahatma Gandhi, “The Jesus I Love,” Young India, vol. 13, no. 53 (December 31, 1931), 429. See Ellsberg, 21.

Growing in God’s Love

Luke 15:1-10

What does it mean to be lost? One of the things I tell Manny, as matter of fact it’s one of our rules of life, #8 I believe; I tell him “Never go into the woods without a compass.” And it’s a good rule. It’s a rule born out of experience. You see, when I first moved out to Birchwood Road, I was excited to explore the endless acres of national forest behind our new home. So, one Friday morning, off I went. It was a beautiful early spring day and I found a few old trails to follow. But, after several hours of hiking, I got turned around. And since I had no compass, I had to rely on my sense of direction. Those of you who know me can see where this is going. I have been loving described as “directionally challenged” by family and friend alike. So, when I passed the same downed tree for the third time, I began to realize that I need to change directions; find a new path. And when I did that, when I was finally became humble enough to give up on the same way and move in a new direction, I found my way out of the woods. What was once lost was now found and there was great joy finding my way home.

One day, the Gospel of Luke tells us, Jesus had a conversation with some people who were also having some problems find a new path; finding joy. These people were the Pharisees. Now, we’ve learned to think of them as the bad guys, the villains, but they really weren’t all that bad. You see, the Pharisees were loyal and genuine in their worship and prayer. Scripture told them they had a responsibility to give their money to the poor and to feed the hungry. And we know they honored the Scripture, studied it, and lived it out to the best of their ability.

But Jesus was critical of them, and they found themselves on the wrong side of history, because they had a problem understanding the joyful side life and faith. Oh, they were great at proclaiming and enforcing the letter of the Law, but grace, living joyfully and gratefully, these things were outside their purview, outside their understanding of God’s requirements, and most definitely, outside their comfort zone. So, it goes without saying that the Pharisees had a problem with the kind of joy that Jesus generated; joyfully eating and drinking with sinners and prostitutes and tax collectors.

So, in order to teach them something about joy, Jesus shared some stories; some parables about joy. He told them about a shepherd who lost one of his little sheep and worried out of his mind, went searching for it. And when he found it he was overjoyed. God is like that shepherd, said Jesus. He told them about a poor woman who had only 10 coins, but one of them got lost. So, she swept the house until she found the lost coin, and she was so filled with joy over finding that coin, that she threw a party to celebrate. God is like that poor woman, said Jesus.[I]

God is over-the-moon when that which was once lost, is finally found; when those who are suffering find healing; when those who are broken find restoration; when those who were excluded, oppressed, considered “less-than” find acceptance. God is overjoyed when the poor and the lame and the blind are invited to the banquet and God is thrilled when even one outsider is welcomed into a community of faith.

Recently, I read an essay in which a woman was reminiscing about her father. She said that when she was young, she was very close to her father. The time she experienced this closeness the most was when they would have big family gatherings with all the aunts and uncles and cousins. At some point, someone would pull out the old record player and put on polka records, and the family would dance. Eventually, someone would put on the “Beer Barrel Polka;” and when the music of the “Beer Barrel Polka” played, her father would come up to her, tap her on the shoulder and say, “I believe this is our dance,” and they would dance. One time, though, when she was a teenager and in one of those teenaged moods and the “Beer Barrel Polka” began to play and when her father tapped her on the shoulder and said, “I believe this is our dance,” she snapped at him, “Don’t touch me! Leave me alone!” And her father turned away and never asked her to dance again.

“Our relationship was difficult all through my teen years,” she wrote. “When I would come home late from a date, my father would be sitting there in his chair, half asleep, wearing an old bathrobe, and I would snarl at him, “What do you think you’re doing?” He would look at me with sad eyes and say, “I was just waiting on you.” “When I went away to college,” the woman wrote, “I was so glad to get out of his house and away from him and for years I never communicated with him, but as I grew older, I began to miss him.

One day I decided to go to the next family gathering, and when I was there, somebody put on the “Beer Barrel Polka.” I drew a deep breath, walked over to my father, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “I believe this is our dance.” He turned toward me and said, “I’ve been waiting on you.”[ii]

My friends, standing at the center of our life; at the center of our faith; is the God who says to us, “I’ve been waiting on you.” God’s been waiting for each of us, individually and as a people, as a nation, to accept the invitation, count the cost, and then live-into our call to be loving, compassionate, and kind disciples of Christ. God is in essence tapping each of us on the shoulder and saying to us, “I believe this is our dance.” My friends, this is our dance, and we are being called onto the dance floor.

But what might this dance look like in real time? Well, I read a devotion on 9/11 this week that really speaks to the idea of find joy in change. Vicki Kemper askes the Biblical question, “’Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?’ In the realm of God,” she writes, “this is not a rhetorical question. It is, instead, both an expression of God’s anguish and a reminder that it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s an invitation to repent of our divisive ways, cooperate instead of conspiring, and find our security in the God of many names and no borders who laid down all power and every weapon that we might live.

This is not to minimize the terror and loss of that day 18 years ago. Whose heart doesn’t ache with the memory of that impossibly blue sky? Whose knees don’t buckle at the recollection of those mighty twin towers reduced to rubble? I cannot un-hear the awful sound of a passenger plane slamming into the Pentagon. And yet the nations still conspire; we peoples still plot.” Vicki concludes her remarks by saying: “…we can choose to live differently. On this day, of all days, let us recommit ourselves to nonviolence and holy interdependence.[iii]

“Non-violent interdependence” I like that phrase. I mean, isn’t that really the sum total of Christ’s teaching, the real reason he accepted death upon the cross? Wasn’t he advocating for, pleading with the Pharisees to come to grips with a changing world, a world where non-violent interdependence would push aside the old, set-in-stone ways of being? Isn’t this the very core of our calling as people of faith? Non-violent interdependence?

My friends, as we face the world once again this week; and as we go back to our lives, some of them troubled, some of them moving along on and even keel; as we depart this morning, I invite you to consider deeply this idea of non-violent interdependence. How it connect us with our call to discipleship and what changes in our hearts and lives might be necessary to bring it about. And finally, what changes in our nation might we advocate for in order to change the hearts and lives of others? And finally-finally, may each of you find a great joy and celebrate when that which was lost, whatever the “that” may be, is finally found. This is my wish for all of you; this is my prayer for our nation. May it become so. Amen and the people of God said: Amen.

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[i] Thomas Long Is There Joy in God’s House? (www.Day1.org) 2004

[ii] Ibid. Long

[iii] Vicki Kemper A Serious Question for a Horrible Day (dailydevotional@ucc.org) 2019

A New Identity

Luke 14:25-33

Who here has ever heard of an ear worm? I know. But it’s not as disgusting as it sounds. An ear worm is when a song gets stuck in your head. This happens to me all the time. I hear a song on the radio and then I sing the same two lines over and over and over. It also happens when I pick the hymns for worship (in Cable) I mean, last week I was constantly humming “Won’t You Let Me be Your Servant”. Does this ever happen to you?

Well, I think creating an ear worm of sorts is the intent of this passage. Luke wants us to come away from this text with a distinct understanding of what God requires of us. And he does this by being meticulous in how he orders events in his gospel. Discovering the meaning of each passage depends upon what comes before it and what follows it. And today’s passge is no exception. Standing alone it seems odd, out of place. But when we consider the immediate context, it begins to make sense.

So, let’s look at the context. The parable immediately before today’s passage is the story of the Great Banquet, the one we had last week. The crux of that teaching was about invitation; who’s invited to God’s table, or, in other words, who’s invited to become a disciple. And we concluded that everyone’s invited. Okay, easy enough. But today’s passage tells us about the cost of accepting that invitation. The Common English Bible calls it Discipleship’s Demands. And the third passage in this series, the one we will look at next week, is The Parable of the Lost Sheep. You remember that one. The Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to seek the one that was lost. So, right away we can see a pattern emerge, can’t we? An invitation to follow Jesus, what it means to accept that invitation, and finally, becoming lost or the result of not accepting the invitation.

Interesting. But for now, for today, let’s look at the cost or demands of discipleship. Today’s narrative begins by telling us that a large crowd was traveling with Jesus. So, he decides to offer them a series of teachings about the cost of following him; a cost that involves making discipleship one’s first priority.

Now, Jesus begins by saying that one must hate their family and friends and even life itself if one is committed to being a disciple. You know, I heard a pastor preach on this passage when I was a twenty-something back in Illinois. And my conclusion was that this old man was off his nut! Was he really saying that in order to be a person of faith I had to hate my family? If that’s the case, no thanks. I’ll go fishing on Sunday morning instead. But after I calmed down, and spoke with a trusted elder in this church, and with Pastor Sandburg, a different meaning began to emerge. What he told me was that loving God first, most, would improve my other relationships. He said this because God’s love in unconditional, and if I understood that, I could then bring at least a portion of that unconditional love into my family relationships as well. Okay, for a twenty-something that was a satisfactory answer. And, as you can probably guess, I continued to spend my Sunday mornings in church. The fish would have to wait.

And this morning, I’m going to offer this as the first “ear worm” that Luke wants to plant in our brains. We should love God first because the gains that we will realize from feeling that unconditional love will improve how we love our family, our friends, indeed, life itself.

But I’m still troubled by the word “hate.” Anyone else with me here? We’re told over and over again to love, right? Love God, love your neighbor, love your enemy, love beyond all measure, love those who hate you because of your faith, love, love, love. So, what’s really going on? Why did Jesus use the word “hate.” Well, as we’ve seen before in the gospels, Jesus uses hyperbole, extreme exaggeration, to get his point across. Remember the camel going through the eye of the needle bit? Hyperbole. So, it makes perfect sense that Jesus uses hyperbolic language here to stress the seriousness of what it means to follow him.[I]

And if you’re still not convinced, consider the original language and the choices made when translating it to English. Remember the New Testament was written in Greek and the Greek word used for here is properly interpreted as “hate.” But we must also remember that Aramaic was the common or spoken language in Jesus’ day. And the word used for “hate” in Aramaic is actually what’s called a comparative verb. So, it literally means to “love much less than.”[ii] So, Jesus isn’t telling his audience to literally hate family, friends, or life itself; but rather to value those relationships “less than” one’s relationship with God. Which brings us back around to Pastor Sandburg’s idea of loving God so we can improve our love for family, friends, and life-itself.

Cool, but “hate” language isn’t the only counter cultural notion to fall upon our ears this morning. Jesus also says that to be his disciple one must carry “their own cross.” Now, that doesn’t sound like much fun to me. Doesn’t carrying one’s own cross lead to death? So, what’s going on here? Well, this is about humility. And, first of all, please understand that humility isn’t about becoming “life’s doormat” to be used and abused for others’ convenience or pleasure. Rather, carrying one’s own cross is a symbol of humility. It’s a picture of a life in which one uses one’s gifts and abilities on behalf of the community, accepting sacrifice and complexity and inconvenience as part of one’s own faith journey. [iii] Humility finally isn’t about being weak, it’s about being strong enough to put the good of the other, or the good of the collective, above one’s own self-interest.

And when you do that, my friends, I promise you, you will be better off. When I show compassion toward someone who’s suffering, remembering that compassion literally means “to suffer with,” my suffering becomes less. And I know, it seem counter-intuitive, but it really works that way. Why? Well, I think showing compassion, empathy, opens up something within us, within our hearts, and allows us to become more than the sum of our selfish desires. And if we open ourselves to the invitation, to the demands of discipleship, if we choose to take up our cross, it will require us to put the other before self; it will require us to have compassion for all of those present at God’s banquet table: the poor, the marginalized, the refugee, the asylum seekers, anyone who finds themselves on the outside looking in. It will require us to adopt a new identity.

And that’s the second “ear worm” that Luke seeks to install in our brains this morning: Accepting the invitation means becoming humble enough to adopt a new identity.

My friends, God is inviting us to become a people who exhibit an identity of love and compassion, who advocate for social justice, and who offer an extravagant welcome to all who darken our door. Why? Because God’s invitation to take up our cross comes to us through an intimate, covenantal relationship with God, which then expands into the wider community. And it’s finally through this expansion of God’s love that we find the roots of our faith; that we find meaning in this life. Loving oneself is very limiting, but loving beyond the limits of our imagination, that’s liberating; that’s true freedom; that’s a new identity worth adopting.

And this is where we’ll stop for today. Next week we’ll talk about what happens to us, both individually and as a people or a nation, when we refuse to accept the invitation. Stay tuned.

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[i] Emerson Powery, from his commentary on Luke (www.workingpreacher.org) 2013

[ii] Leslie Holmes Discipleship is Demanding (www.Day1.org) 2007

[iii] Alyce McKenzie. How Not to Respond to an Evite. Edgy Exegesis (www.pathoes.com) 2013