It seems pretty wimpy to complain about going back to work after a disappointing vacation when you start your first day back with the next Sunday's gospel, and this is what you read:
16:21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he
must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief
priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
16:22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it,
Lord! This must never happen to you."
16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling
block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them
deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
16:25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life
for my sake will find it.
16:26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?
Or what will they give in return for their life?
16:27 "For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father,
and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.
16:28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before
they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.
That's from Matthew, and it comes right after the strong testimony of Peter, a passage that taken out of context might leave you thinking the story could come out all right, that the disciples have gotten the message, and together they can all change the world!!! But it's not so simple, is it? They don't ride off into the sunset together, or set up the Best.Church.Ever, one formed with such clear understanding of mission and purpose, with such clarity of community standards that no fights could ever possibly occur.
In fact, all that taking up of crosses has nothing to do with church, and I would say that's pretty clear in the way most of our churches operate. We are so focused on the institution that we have forgotten the sacrificial, unless we're asking people to give sacrificially to maintain the institution.
I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind.
This is hard talk for church people to hear, especially those with a Congregational bent. We understand ourselves collectively rather than individually and while there's something to be said for spreading out beyond a "me and Jesus" frame of reference, there is a risk, always, of avoiding the deep personal commitment Jesus demands in this passage and others like it.
I wonder, often, how much to give up? I wonder, often, what is enough? These words, spoken, or at least recorded, in an apocalyptic context, assume it's all going to be over soon. Can we maintain that tension? Ought we?
Monday morning thoughts after a foreshortened vacation, from an unrested pastor who didn't get her coffee until 10 a.m.
How are you this morning?