Christianity is more than a doctrine. It is Christ Himself, living in those whom He has united to Himself in one Mystical Body. It is the mystery by which the Incarnation of the Word of God continues and extends itself throughout the history of the world, reaching into the souls and lives of all men, until the final completion of God’s plan. Christianity is the “re-establishment of all things in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:10)
Thomas Merton – The Living Bread [ix]
[From Johann Tauler
(1300 – 1361), disciple of Meister Eckhart]
It is certain that if God is to be
born in the soul
it must turn back to eternity….
It must turn in toward itself with all is might, must recall itself,
and concentrate all its faculties within itself,
the lowest as well as the highest.
All its dissipated powers must be gathered up into one,
because unity is strength.
Next the soul must go out.
It must travel away from itself,
There must be nothing left in us
but a pure intention towards God;
no will to be or become or obtain anything for ourselves.
We must exist only to make a place for God,
the highest innermost place,
where He may do His work; there, when we are no longer putting ourselves in His way,
He can he born in us.
If one would a prepare an empty place in the depths of the soul
there can be no doubt that God must fill it at once.
If there were a void on earth the heaven would fall to fill it….
So you must be silent.
Then God will be born in you,
utter his word in you and you shall hear it;
but be very sure that if you speak the word will have to be silent.
If you go out, he will most surely come in;
as much as you go out for him
He will come in to you; no more, no less….
When shall we find an know
this birth of God within us?
Only when we concentrate
all our faculties within us
and direct them all towards God.
Then he will be born in us
and make himself our very own.
He will give himself to us as our own, more completely ours than anything we have ever called our own.
“A child is born to us and a son is given to us.”
He is ours.
He is all our own, more truly ours than anything else we own, and constantly, ceaselessly, he is born in us.
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God.”
Christmas Day is not half over and already many people are exhibiting symptoms of the “post-nativity” depression! Needles are dropping from trees that were cut in July and put up at Thanksgiving. Scraps of wrapping paper and ribbon peep out from under furniture. Our clothing is tighter around the waistline and we are almost sick from the excess of the Christmas feast. We are like the little boy who unwrapped package after package on Christmas morning. Finally sitting up to his chin in wrapping paper and bows asked, “Is this all?”
The Third Proper (sets of readings) for Christmas are not of mangers and shepherds, but the cosmic hymn of the mysteriously glorious origin of the Son of God recorded in prologue to St. John’s Gospel. To see what John is up to here we need to go back to the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures. Genesis 1:1 is usually translated from the Hebrew into English as, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” A more descriptive English translation can be found in Everett Fox’s brilliant translation of the Five Books of Moses. Here Genesis 1:1 goes like this, “At the beginning of God’s creating of the heavens and the earth.” Here the emphasis in on process and the sense is more verb than noun. The Hebrew word is “Dabhar,” which can be legitimately be translated, “creative energy.”
It is no accident that this is the very language that John uses in the prologue to his Gospel. “In the beginning was the WORD,” says John. Here word is not a noun so much as verb. We could accurately say, “In the beginning was the Creative Energy: the Creative Energy was with God and the Creative Energy was God. The creative energy was with God in the beginning. Through the Creative Energy all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through the Creative Energy. Through the Creative Energy all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through the Creative Energy. All that came to be had life in the Creative Energy and that life was the light of humanity . . .. The Creative Energy was made flesh, it pitched its tent among us, and we saw its glory, the glory as is his as the only Son of God, full of grace and full of truth.”
Here is the deepest mystery of the Christian faith! How can this be? How is it possible that God has come among us becoming authentically human? Yet this is the core belief of our faith. We have been thinking, reflecting and fighting about how this is so ever since.
H. Richard Niebuhr spoke to this mystery when he said, “Jesus Christ is not a median figure, half-God, half-man; He is a single person wholly directed as man toward God and wholly directed in his unity with the Father toward man. He mediatorial not median!”
Let us reflect on this glorious mystery.
1. Jesus is fully human, wholly directed as a human man toward God. There was no alienation, no sin, between Jesus as a man and God as creator and Father. The alienation that has existed between humanity and God since Eden is overcome in the person of Jesus, the Son of God. It is essential to realize that all that Jesus accomplished as a human on earth was not accomplished through his divinity! The acts of Jesus, his preaching, his teaching, and his healing were done through his human obedience to God NOT because he was God! Thus he demonstrates for us what we are intended to be, authentically human.
2. Jesus is wholly directed in his unity with the father toward humanity. The important thing to say here is not that Jesus is like God, but rather to say that God is like Jesus. God, of course, is totally outside the realm of our understanding. As John says, “No one has ever seen God.” God is not playing hide and sick with us, it is just not possible to experience God the creator directly. Traces of transcendence are revealed in creation, but that is not enough to intuit God adequately. So in the fullness of time God’s son appeared, so that we believe we can now know who God is. So when someone asks, “what is God like?” The answer for Christians is, “God is like Jesus.”
The incarnation is good news because by the coming of God’s son in the flesh heaven and earth are joined and the alienation between God and humanity is overcome. Our God has acted! Alienation is overcome by LOVE! The incarnation changes everything. There is nothing so broken; nothing so jaded; nothing so twisted that it cannot be made new.”
- What happened in Bethlehem of Judea on that day when the calendar moved from one to one, there being no day zero
- The Creative Energy: the Word has become flesh, the One who forgave those who crucified him, forgives us.
- The Word who was baptized in the Jordan comes to us in our Baptism and claims us as his own.
- The Eucharistic elements of bread and wine are more than mere bread and wine. Here the Word become flesh, broken on the cross, comes to us in the broken bread.
- The same Word become flesh, drank the cup of suffering, comes to us in the cup of wine: the cup of salvation.
- As the Word of God became flesh in Jesus, the Christ, so the truth of the Good News of that same Christ should become flesh in our lives.
We are to go from here to be for those in world what this Word become flesh is for us. That is what it means to be the Church, the Body of Christ. The creative energy of God has come and dwelt among us and behold all things shall be made new! The Ideal and the Real here unite in the Actual. Is this all there is? Yes, and it is sufficient.
Merry Christmas! Amen.
“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”
– Meister Eckhart, 1260-1328, German Dominican
The birth of the Divine Son in the human soul is the very center of Eckhart’s teaching. After contemplating this notion for some years, I find that at the end of the most challenging of my thirty-five years of ordained ministry, this is the core of my affirmation of faith. My collection of works by and on Eckhart has grown from a couple of books to several shelves in my library. My discipline is to read Eckhart every day. I commend his work to you. It is difficult reading, yet paradoxically very illuminating.
Merry Christmas Eve. John Sewell+
“If I had my life to live over, I would love more. I would especially love others more.
I would let this love express itself in a concern for my neighbors, my friends, and all with whom I come in contact.
I would try to let love permeate me, overcome me, overwhelm me and direct me.
I would love the unlovely, the unwanted, the unknown, and the unloved.
I would give more. I would learn early in life the joy of giving, the pleasure of sharing and the happiness of helping.
I would give more than money; I would give some of life’s treasured possessions, such as time, thoughts and kind words.
If I had my life to live over, I would be much more unconventional, because where society overlooks people, I would socialize with them.
Where custom acknowledges peers as best, with whom to have fellowship, I would want some non-peer friends.
Where tradition stratifies people because of economics, education, race, or religion, I would want fellowship with friends in all strata.
And I would choose to go where the crowd doesn’t go, where the road is not paved, where the weather is bitter, where friends are few, where the need is great … and where God is most likely to be found.
ST. LUKE 1:28.”Hail, thou that art highly favoured among women, the Lord is with thee.”
I count my time as Rector of Saint John’s as the high mark of my public ministry for a myriad of reasons and near the top is the murals by John Henry De Rosen in the church.
Under the rubric of the ancient practice: Constant Prayer, several of Saint John’s company has spent the summer reading the writings and teachings of Meister Eckhart.Today (July 31st) we listened and followed alone with the text of sermon 3. This sermon’s text is the greeting of the archangel Gabriel.
HERE there are three things to understand: the first, the modesty of the angel; the second, that he thought himself unworthy to accost the Mother of God; the third, that he not only addressed her, but the great multitude of souls who long after God.
I’ve never considered the event from the point of view of Gabriel. I supposed that being one of the Four Archangels of the Quarters, Gabriel was not starstruck by celebrity. However, for the first time a detail in the DeRosen annunciation mural was thrown into high psychological relief. Always, I have pondered the posture of the messenger.
Gabriel’s body is full of tension. Note especially his right foot, especially the great toe. His modest diffidence is carried in this posture. The weight of expectation and hope, perhaps.
He does not look directly at the woman before him.
I affirm that had the Virgin not first borne God spiritually He would never have been born from her in bodily fashion. A certain woman said to Christ, “Blessed is the womb that bear Thee.” To which Christ answered, “Nay, rather blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.” It is more worthy of God that He be born spiritually of every pure and virgin soul, than that He be born of Mary. Hereby we should understand that humanity is, so to speak, the Son of God born from all eternity. The Father produced all creatures, and me among them, and I issued forth from Him with all creatures, and yet I abide in the Father. Just as the word which I now speak is conceived and spoken forth by me, and you all receive it, yet none the less it abides in me. Thus I and all creatures abide in the Father.
Hereto I adjoin a parable. There were a certain man and wife; the woman by accident lost an eye, and was sorely troubled thereat. Her husband then said to her, “Wife, why are you troubled? “She answered, “It is not the loss of my eye that troubles me, but the thought that you may love me less on account of that loss.” He said, “I love you all the same.” Not long after he put one of his own eyes out, and came to his wife and said, “Wife, that you may believe I love you, I have made myself like you: I, too, now, have only one eye.” So men could hardly believe that God loved them till God put one of His eyes out, that is took upon Himself human nature, and was made man. Just as fire infuses its essence and clearness into the dry wood, so has God done with man. He has created the human soul and infused His glory into it, and yet in His own essence has remained unchangeable. If you ask me whether, seeing that my spiritual birth is out of time, whether I am an eternal son, I answer “Yes,” and “No.” In the everlasting foreknowledge of God, I slumbered like a word unspoken. He hath brought me forth His son in the image of His eternal fatherhood, that I also should be a father and bring forth Him. It is as if one stood before a high mountain, and cried, “Art thou there?” The echo comes back, “Art thou there?” If one cries, “Come out.” the echo answers, “Come out.”
Again: If I am in a higher place and say to someone, “Come up hither,” that might be difficult for him. But if I say, “Sit down,” that would be easy. Thus God dealeth with us. When man humbles himself, God cannot restrain His mercy; He must come down and pour His grace into the humble man, and He gives Himself most of all, and all at once, to the least of all. It is essential to God to give, for His essence is His goodness and His goodness is His love. Love is the root of all joy and sorrow. Slavish fear of God is to be put away. The right fear is the fear of losing God. If the earth flee downward from heaven, it finds heaven beneath it; if it flee upward, it comes again to heaven. The earth cannot flee from heaven: whether it flee up or down, the heaven rains its influence upon it, and stamps its impress upon it, and makes it fruitful, whether it be willing or not. Thus doth God with men: whoever thinketh to escape Him, flies into His bosom, for every corner is open to Him. God brings forth His Son in thee, whether thou likest it or not, whether thou sleepest or wakest; God worketh His own will. That man is unaware of it, is man’s fault, for his taste is so spoilt by feeding on earthly things that he cannot relish God’s love. If we had love to God, we should relish God, and all His works; we should receive all things from God, and work the same works as He worketh.
God created the soul after the image of His highest perfection. He issued forth from the treasure-house of the everlasting Fatherhood in which He had rested from all eternity. Then the Son opened the tent of His everlasting glory and came forth from His high place to fetch His Bride, whom the Father had espoused to Him from all Eternity, back to that heaven from which she came. Therefore He came forth rejoicing as a bridegroom and suffered the pangs of love. Then He returned to His secret chamber in the silence and stillness of the everlasting Fatherhood. As He came forth from the Highest, so He returned to the Highest with His Bride, and revealed to her the hidden treasures of His Godhead.
The first beginning is for the sake of the last end. God Himself doth not rest because He is the beginning, but because He is the end and goal of all creation. This end is concealed in the darkness of the everlasting Godhead, and is unknown, and never was known, and never will be known. God Himself remains unknown; the light of the everlasting Father shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. May the truth of which we have spoken lead us to the truth. Amen.
July 24, 2016
Lately, I have been listening to an audible book by Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy
Ryan became breathtakingly successful in 2006, when at the age of 19, he became the youngest executive among Hollywood Talent Agents. By 25 he wrote a bestselling book, and a TV show was optioned, based on his story. He began to believe his own script, believing that he had produced all this in the power of his ego carefully editing out his own failures and mistakes. Then in 2014 his 3 mentors who meant everything to him each crashed and burned.
These were the people I had shaped my life around. The people I looked up to and trained under. Their stability— financially, emotionally, psychologically— was not just something I took for granted, it was central to my existence and self-worth. And yet, there they were, imploding right in front of me, one after another. The wheels were coming off, or so it felt. To go from wanting to be like someone your whole life to realizing you never want to be like him is a kind of whiplash that you can’t prepare for.
How did this come to pass? Ryan continues.
The ego we see most commonly goes by a more casual definition: an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition. That’s the definition this book will use. It’s that petulant child inside every person, the one that chooses getting his or her way over anything or anyone else. The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility— that’s ego. It’s the sense of superiority and certainty that exceeds the bounds of confidence and talent. It’s when the notion of ourselves and the world grows so inflated that it begins to distort the reality that surrounds us. When, as the football coach Bill Walsh explained, “self-confidence becomes arrogance, assertiveness becomes obstinacy, and self-assurance becomes reckless abandon.”
In this way, ego is the enemy of what you want and of what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight. Of working well with others. Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity. Most of us aren’t “egomaniacs,” but ego is there at the root of almost every conceivable problem and obstacle, from why we can’t win to why we need to win all the time and at the expense of others. From why we don’t have what we want to why having what we want doesn’t seem to make us feel any better.
We think something else is to blame for our problems (most often, other people). Especially for successful people who can’t see what ego prevents them from doing because all they can see is what they’ve already done. With every ambition and goal we have— big or small— ego is there undermining us on the very journey we’ve put everything into pursuing.
Hang on to your egos, I’ll circle back in a few minutes.
Following Jesus must have been a heady experience. Most of the disciples were working class folk with a couple of exceptions, but even then there were no blue-bloods. Imagine how it was the first time Jesus sent them and others out in pairs and told him to get busy doing what they had seen him do all over Galilee. They proclaimed the Kingdom of God, they taught, they healed and they cast out evil spirits. Everybody thought they were pretty important (and so did they).
The wanted to be like Jesus for all the wrong reasons.
So his disciples watching this asked him to teach them to pray and. he taught them what is called the Lord’s Prayer.
I. THE LORD TEACHES HOW TO PRAY — OUR FATHER …
Robert Farrar Capon, “Parables of Grace” – “It begins, simply, “Father” a term of relationship which is natural rather than earned. Then Jesus tells the disciples and us to pray for the food they need for each day. Notice that nothing in the way of human achievement is requested. The heart of the prayer is, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone indebted to us.” We receive forgiveness because Jesus died for our sins.
And lead us not into trial (insert your most recent one here). Life is a web of trails and temptations, but only one of them can ever be fatal, and that is the temptation to think that by further, better, and more aggressive living that we can have life. But that will never work. If the world could have lived its way to salvation, it would have, long ago. The fact is that it can only die its way there, lose its way there. The precise temptation, therefore, into which we pray we will not be led, is the temptation to reject our saving death and try to proceed on our own living. Like the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that is the one thing that cannot be forgiven, precisely because it is the refusal of the only box which forgiveness is ever delivered.”
II. THE SHAMELESS NEIGHBOR
To make his point about praying clearer, Jesus then tells a story: ”It’s like,” he said, “you are sound asleep in bed when the doorbell rings. You look at the clock and see that it is nearly 2:30 AM. Peeping through the curtain you see your college buddy, whom you have not seen in years standing at the door. He needs to spend the night and has not had a thing to eat all day. You’re glad to see him, but you have not gone to the grocer all week and all that is in the fridge is a head of dead lettuce and a bottle of good champagne.
What to do? “Well,” you think, “I could go next door to the neighbor.” So in your robe and bare feet you paddle over next-door and ring the bell. Your neighbor first doesn’t answer the door, no doubt hoping that you will go away.
So you lean into the doorbell and your neighbor’s sleepy and irritated voice comes on the intercom by the door. “What on earth do you want at this hour?” You explain your unexpected company. He says that this is not his problem, and furthermore his baby with the colic has just gone off to sleep in his bed and he doesn’t want to get up and wake the kid. Off goes the intercom. You STAND on the doorbell! If your neighbor will not get up because you and he are golfing buddies, he will get up and get you what you need because of, as the scripture puts it, your PERSISTENCE.
III. SHAMELESSNESS AS A VIRTUE.
The word persistence is not really the best translation. The better translation would be shamelessness or lack of shame.
Capon says, “What is this shamelessness but death to self? People who lead reasonable, respectable lives, who are preoccupied first and foremost with the endless struggle to think well of themselves – do not intrude upon their friend’s privacy at midnight. And why don’t they, because that would make them look bad. But if someone were dead to all that – if he could come to his friend’s house with nothing more than the confession that he was a total loss as a host (or anything else) – then precisely because of his shamelessness, his total lack of a self-regarding life, he would be raised out of that death by his rising friend.”
IV. ABRAHAM: A MODEL OF SHAMELESSNESS
In the reading from Genesis for today God tells Abraham that he is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness. This is a problem for Abraham because his nephew, Lot, lived there. “I’m going to nuke’em,” says God. Abraham said, “Suppose there were 50 righteous men in the twin cities? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be it from you! Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” [Jews talk to God with an intimacy that few Christians ever muster]. God said, “If I find at Sodom 50 righteous, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.”
Abraham knew the twin cities so he thought to himself, “I’m not sure there are 50 righteous men in the city limits.” So he begins a shameless negotiation: “What if there are only 45 righteous?” God agrees; 40 – God agrees; 30 – God agrees; 20 – God agrees. “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more,” said Abraham peeping through his fingers, “If there are only 10 righteous men, will you not destroy it?” God agreed and went his way. (I wonder if God got out there before he gave away the farm.)
Just like the man caught at midnight without a thing to serve his buddy, Abraham is shameless. Why did Abraham risk such shameless behavior? Because he knew his God. As the Prayer Book puts it in the Rite One Eucharistic prayer, “You whose property is always to have mercy.” This merciful God is our Abba/Father.
V. GOD’S CALL TO SHAMELESSNESS?
We can define prayer as an endeavor to behold what is real.
That brothers and sisters is the only antidote to the Ego-centeredness we call sin.
What is real then to those who accept the good news of God in Christ? What is real is that Abraham and the man with the empty larder and, yes, we also are invited into a shameless and bold relationship with the Holy One of Israel.
Paul, writing the Christians at Colossae, spells out the invitation, “When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him though faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.”
We cannot make it on our own; therefore we are invited into a life of shameless reliance on God. God desires that we pray not to pester him into doing what he would not do unless we whine long enough. Our shameless – boldness rises from our being dead in ourselves and alive in the power of Jesus and his resurrection. It is a case of, as the Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous puts it, surrendering to win. It is a matter of life and death that we learn that God really loves us. He promised that He would never abandon us or leave us.
Let’s live like it, maybe?
To him be glory, now and forever. Amen
Any Christian who wants to understand the Scripture will want to know this. Good work Brother Mark Oaks.
PROPER 8C – Saint John’s, Memphis, Tennessee – June 26, 2016
Who Can Pass Jesus’ Test?
Jesus is about to be “taken up” or crucified. So he “set his face” or literally, “He set his face like flint” to go to Jerusalem. This is a Semitic expression, which means opposition or contention. What is about to happen is difficult and requires courage and will. This is in sharp contrast to what has been going on in Galilee. Jesus had been going from town to town, village to village, teaching, healing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom of God. He was very successful: there were great crowds following him, around hanging on every word that he said. People were beginning to nominate him “Messiah” (the anointed one of God).
The Kingdom of God is what scholars call a “tensive symbol” which evokes not one meaning but a whole range of meaning. There are certain symbols that always have a one-to-one relationship to the things they represent such as the mathematical symbol pi or a red signal light at an intersection. These are steno-symbols; they are useful precisely because they have single, clearly defined, and clearly understood meanings.
Norman Perrin writes, “Since the kingdom of God is such a tensive symbol it is a mistake to try to reduce it to any one idea or conception.” That is why we are always frustrated when we attempt to “define’ the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God does not have a definition: it tells a story.”
People were fascinated and excited about the stories of the Kingdom: the Kingdom is like a mustard seed, the Kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field. The Kingdom is like a party. These images and metaphors suggest and evoke what cannot be properly put into words: the fullness of salvation wrought by God beyond this present world…
Some of the people who heard Jesus were overcome with the excitement of it all. It is these people that we encounter in today’s Gospel lesson. They illustrate what might be called the three tests of what it means to be a disciple:
The sentimentality test, the tribal test, and the conditional test.
THE SENTIMENTALITY TEST
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” This person has decided to follow without counting the cost. Excited by the Jesus movement he does not realize that Jerusalem lies at the end of the journey and that the cross is the point to which Jesus is traveling. Jesus said to him, “foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Marshall, p. 410 …Jesus bids the man count the cost. The Son of man experiences rejection and homelessness, and his followers must be prepared to do the same. As one writer [Synthesis] says, “Jesus reminds this disciple, whose boldness suggests that following Jesus is a never ending
Marshall, p. 410 …Jesus bids the man count the cost. The Son of man experiences rejection and homelessness, and his followers must be prepared to do the same. As one writer [Synthesis] says, “Jesus reminds this disciple, whose boldness suggests that following Jesus is a never ending succession of kumbayas, that, if he is to follow, all financial standing and social security have to be reattached – from the world to the Kingdom of God. For Jesus’ closest disciples, there will be no worldly security whatsoever. Faith is not an electric blanket. Even foxes and birds have less vagrancy than the Son of Man.
To follow Jesus requires an enlightened recklessness.
To follow Jesus means that one gives up the traditional securities and opens oneself to rejection and homelessness that has just occurred in the village of Samaria.
THE TRIBAL TEST
To another, he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Marshall, p. 411, Burial of the dead was a religious duty that took precedence over all others, even including study of the Law. To assist in burying a person who had no claims on one as a relative was a work of love that carried great reward from God both in this life and in the next world. It follows that the burial of a father was a religious duty of the utmost importance. To leave it undone was something scandalous to a Jew. This does not mean that the person’s father was lying in state at the local funeral home. He wants to wait until his father is dead so that he will not be troubled by the decision of his child to follow Jesus. But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury the dead; but as for your, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” To follow Jesus, to be part of the Kingdom of God, takes precedence over all commitments, even burying the dead.
I knew an old couple in Lauderdale county Alabama who waited to get married until their parents were dead. They dated for over forty years. Then when both parents were dead they married. Only a few years passed before the husband died. We can’t put off following.
THE CONDITIONAL TEST
Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home. This is the yes, but of discipleship. It is the Yes I will give sacrificially, Lord, only when I get a raise. Yes, I will commit to being at worship on Sunday when I get caught up on my sleep. I will … But …Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” I grew up in the country. The family had five farms that joined. Dad borrowed a mule from Great Granddad’s place to plow the garden as it began to mature because the mule didn’t damage the crops like a tractor. Plowing with a mule is interesting. Plowing a straight furrow requires looking at the end of the row in front of you and moving toward it. If you keep looking back to where you came from or at your watch to see when quitting time is the row is crooked. That’s what Jesus is talking about.
THE CALL IS UNCONDITIONAL
The call of Jesus is unconditional. The OT story of Elijah and Elisha illustrate the unconditional call clearly. Elijah came by and threw his cloak over Elisha, which meant that Elisha was chosen to succeed Elijah as the prophet of the Lord. Elisha was out plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. This was a big farming enterprise. Elisha slaughtered the yoke of oxen, broke up the yokes and plows for fuel, fired up the grill and threw a farewell barbecue.
BELOVED, IT IS A TRUE SAYING AND WORTHY OF ALL TO BE RECEIVED, THAT IT’S HARD TO GO BACK TO PLOWING IF YOU JUST ATE YOUR OX! JWS
Every so often, I have a glimpse of what appears to be the movement of the kingdom. Only the other day I read how an alcoholic mother abandoned her baby in the edge of the desert. When he was discovered, he was alive. While not in good shape, he was alive, the medical types said, because a pregnant dog nursed that little boy child and he lived. I wept.
The type is the peaceable kingdom (Isaiah 11:1-10)
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
The Antitype of the peaceable kingdom appears in the person of an emaciated baby boy and a poor old hound dog. I trust someone was good to her. Jesus told us we would encounter him among the poor.
Here we encounter the holy one in a pitiful but holy nativity.
In hope, in spite of the facts.