Tuesday, June 21, 2016

e-vo for week of June 22

Dearest e-votees,

Jesus sums up all the commandments as two: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind." and "Love your neighbor as yourself." He says that we should tend to the vertical relationship with God and the horizontal relationship with neighbor. We should live a cruciform (cross-shaped) life.

Our appointed gospel text in Luke for this week speaks to Jesus' priorities. What might they say to us who have so very many commitments and so precious-little time?



51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:51-62, NRSV

For quite a while I have been struck by the shape of Jesus' life--cruciform. In verse 51 Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem. In the NIV it talks about Jesus resolutely setting out towards Jerusalem. Jesus knew what was waiting for him--the cross. Jesus knew why he had come into the world and how he would leave this world. He would not be deterred from his purpose. He was tending to his relationship with his Father in heaven. Nothing could distract him from that pinnacle moment of his ministry

That said, Jesus' ministry seems to be all about being interrupted by the needs at hand. Jesus restores a dead son to his widow mother. Jesus feeds thousands from meager resources. Jesus casts out demons. Jesus restores sight. Jesus takes moments to teach, console, cajole and confront. While never taking his resolute focus off of Jerusalem he seems completely engaged in the needs that come into his peripheral vision. He was faithfully tending to the needs of his neighbor.

This balance between the vertical calling of his life to the cross and to heaven and the horizontal calling of his life to love and serve neighbor is what the cross looks like. Our lives also have a cruciform calling. We are called to put God first and foremost. If we get distracted from putting God first we need only remember Jesus' sharp words to those who wanted to tend to their father and say farewell to friends. Some have tried to explain away Jesus' seeming callous disregard for these human needs and desires. I choose to think that Jesus knew the hearts and intentions of those to whom he was speaking. If these words catch us up short that might be more about us than what Jesus said.

But, certainly, part of taking up our cross and putting God first is caring for those created in the image of God who interrupt our plans and intentions for any given day. If Jesus can take time to wash the feet and serve communion to his disciples just hours before his grisly and painful death then we, too, should be open to the call towards inconvenient service. Some have described hospitality as making yourself uncomfortable for the sake and comfort of another. Jesus surely lived and died this path of hospitality. We, when we take up our cross and follow after Jesus, are also called to this sort of life and this sort of death.

When we try to bring about God's kingdom in our own understanding it looks like the sons of thunder wanting to rain down hellfire and brimstone on enemies who resist God's plan. Jesus rebuked them and would surely do the same to us. When we allow God to bring about God's kingdom through God's wisdom in our lives it looks much more like a basin and a towel and a cross. And while we are enduring that cross we are taught be example to pray for our enemies who don't know what they are doing. That is surely an aspect of taking up our cross for the sake of the kingdom of God.

God, bring your cruciform mold to the uncommitted flow of our lives. Draw us resolutely towards you; pour us out abundantly in service to neighbor. Amen.

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