Skip to content

What Do We Love More?

June 24, 2017


On our way back from an all-day drive along the Cache de Poudre River valley and Arapaho National Forest that took us nearly to the Wyoming border and then back around through the Rocky Mountain National Park from Grand Lake to Estes Park, we spotted this Mama Moose and her calf. The calf was bouncing about and really quite cute as it tried to nuzzle mama. This picture was taken from a distance using my telephoto lens. One thing that I have learned over the past two years living with our wild neighbors is that you don’t mess with Mama or come between Mama and her baby!

That goes for Elk and Bear and Deer and other creatures who share the neighborhood with us. I have seen people (typically tourist types who don’t live here) be, frankly, quite stupid and nearly pay the price for their stupidity! Whether it is a Bull Elk during rut or a Mama and her baby, they want that cute photo up close and before they know it, they are running away as they get chased. Every year, it seems, somebody tries to do something stupid and they end up in the local ER! Let’s face it, you don’t mess with Mama when it is calving or birthing season and you don’t mess with the guys during mating season. If you follow those rules and respect your four legged neighbors, you can truly enjoy living in this beautiful slice of paradise we call home.

So, what does this have to do with the lectionary passages for this Sunday? To be honest, as several bloggers/pastors I follow have said, the readings for Sunday are not at all pleasant and we are all wondering if we can get someone else to preach or start a new sermon series! But, as I have told my present and previous congregations before, the lectionary forces you to deal with the difficult passages of Scripture instead of avoiding them. So, here we go!

When I read Romans 6:1b-11 and Matthew 10:24-39 to Denise, she said that she was glad she wasn’t preaching! What do you do with such difficult passages… good question, dear reader. Especially when some of the following gems are involved:

The Romans reading begins with the famous “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who die to sin go on living in it?” (Romans 6:1b-2)

Matthew 10:34-38 – “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Frankly, I have been struggling with these passages even though parts are quiet marvelous, such as: “if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Romans 6:8) Yet when I come to the second half of the gospel where Jesus talks about bringing a sword and not peace and dividing families, I frankly cringe!

At that point, I need to remember the context of the passage. Last week’s reading from Matthew immediately preceded the reading for Sunday. Jesus is preparing the disciples to go out on their first missionary endeavor and he tells them that it won’t be easy. In case they didn’t get the message about the difficulty, he gives them some graphic and over the top details. Peace? No! Sword? Yes! Families fighting? Yes! The life he was calling them to was not easy and would not set well with the religious authorities at all.

On the flight to Minnesota to see my parents and my son, I was reading a book about St Francis of Assisi and his mission to bring the gospel to the Sultan (“The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace” by Paul Moses). In preparation for the title event, the author provides background on Francis and his life. It hit me all of a sudden that when he decided to follow the radical call of Christ to poverty and service, he ticked off a bunch of people, including his own father!

Before Francis became the itinerant servant of Christ, he was the son of a wealthy merchant in Assisi. He was also swept up in the martial fever as Assisi went to war against Perugia who was a neighbor and rival. Francis bought (using his father’s money) the finest livery and armor a knight could buy and rode off to glorious war. Well, he soon found out that war was Hell (he was taken prisoner and spent over a year languishing in a nasty prison before he was exchanged for a substantial sum of money).

After his experiences of warfare (he again went to war for Assisi after his release), he finally heard the voice of the Lord calling him. He ended up selling all of the equipment that his father’s money had purchased and in a grand act of humility, gave his father the very clothes off of his back and walked away from that exchange naked! Needless to say, his father was not at all happy with his son and there was a rift in the family. That is when I realized that Jesus’ words about division happened in Francis’ life.

Sadly, it is also happening today in the fractured and hate-filled environment of today’s political and religious landscape. Whether it be a former religious fundamentalist who realizes that God has called him or her to love ALL of God’s children, including members of the LGBTQ community or breaking with political tradition because they believe that what they have been told for so long by family and the church is dead wrong; they find themselves cast out of their family. Why are they cast out? Because, as they seek to follow Christ, they find out that Christ calls us to do some pretty radical things. Francis stripped naked and walked away from his family… he also embraced and kissed a leper! He saw Christ in that leper!

There have been times in my own life when I have spoken out in the face of injustice and hatred to the detriment of relationships. When I told my Dad that the striking union workers at Hormel in the mid 80’s had a justifiable grievance, it strained our relationship. Yet, thankfully, later on, he told me that even though my words had been pointed and cut to the quick, I was right and he saw where I was coming from.

That was nothing compared to the scale of division that many people I know have faced when they have chosen to speak prophetic words to their family. The simple hash tag phrase, #LoveWins has created tremendous division in families that I know. Why? Because some don’t believe that love is for all of God’s children… to borrow a phrase: “you know you have made god in your own image when your god hates everyone that you hate…”. They have become the guardian of their own version of god and there is no room for grace, love, reconciliation, or peace unless it is on their terms!

This leads me back to the beginning of the reading from Matthew for Sunday… God knows us to the detail of every hair on our head… God knows the sparrows so how much more will God know and care for those created in God’s own image? What are we called to do? “What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27)

What are we to proclaim dear reader? Love God with your entire being! Love ALL of your neighbors as you love yourself! Do Justice! Love Kindness/Mercy! Walk Humbly with God! Only by loving God in such a fashion can we love others as we are called to do.


Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: