Sunday Readings: Wisdom 9.13-18; Philomen 9-10,12-17; Luke 14.25-33
“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, spouse and children, brothers and sisters, yes even life itself, cannot be my follower. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14.26-27
Our relationship with God comes first. It’s God’s gift that we have life. Faith in Jesus, God’s Son, makes the same demand. Jesus’ saying calls us to follow him wholeheartedly. Real faith in him is not a sideline in our lives; it shapes our lives, our willingness to serve as he served, our willingness to love our neighbors and our enemies. Hating family members seems like an exaggeration to make a point. Giving ourselves in love to our families can demand everything we have. For most of us loving God wholeheartedly and our neighbors as ourselves lays claim to our love energies slowly over the course of our lifetimes. Following Jesus can also take us away from home, into the world, even away from ourselves, and into relationships with people not like us. The saying gets our attention: discipleship expects wholeheartedness.
The second saying equates following Jesus as a disciple with carrying the cross as he did. The cross is Jesus’ brand. The cross symbolizes Jesus’ wholehearted self-giving. We use crosses to decorate our walls, homes, vestments, church towers. We tame the symbol and forget crucifixion was an excruciating painful and shameful form of execution, reserved for those Rome regarded as the vilest criminals and insurrectionists. Crucifixion aimed to deter imitators and keep control in the Empire much as lynching aimed to control African Americans after their emancipation from slavery. Both crucifixion and lynching drew crowds of ghoulish hecklers. As a symbol of discipleship, the cross calls us to end violence and join in the work of building communities of love and justice in our world.
In what ways do you carry Jesus’ cross?
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