June 21, 2020 – 3 Pentecost, Proper 7A
Jeremiah 20:7-13; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Jesus calls the twelve together and tells them that their life is going to be hard. “Don’t follow me looking for things to be easy,” he tells them. ”It’s not going to be hard all the time; there will be lightness and joy. But there is a cost to following.” The gospel lesson is about the twelve, but it applies to us in our following of Christ too.
Late in his life, William Alexander Percy wrote a hymn to express his take on what Jesus is telling his disciples and how that message applies to us. We began our worship with that hymn, hymn 661, and it’s worth me reading to you again. If you’re watching on video, you can follow the words on your screen.
They cast their nets in Galilee just off the hills of brown;
such happy, simple fisherfolk, before the Lord came down.
Contented, peaceful fishermen,
before they ever knew the peace of God that filled their hearts brimful,
and broke them too.
Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,
homeless, in Patmos died.
Peter, who hauled the teeming net,
head down was crucified.
The peace of God, it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod.
Yet let us pray for but one thing – the marvelous peace of God.
– William Alexander Percy (Hymn 661)
We pray for comfort in life, for happiness, for ways in which we can relish the great joys of life, for ways we can be freed from our great struggles. Certainly one of the gifts God offers us is joy and the sense that he is making things well around us and in us.
But as we grow in Christ, as we grow in awareness of ourselves in relation to the gift God offers us on the cross, we find tremendous discomfort as well. The Christian path is not always one of ease. Inevitably it must at some point become one of huge cost and great struggle. As we come to know God’s great love for us, we also come to know that certain things simply are not right in this world. Some of those things we may be called to change through great personal sacrifice. Some of those things we may be called simply to accept through similar sacrifice. If our goal in being Christian is merely to be happy, we have missed the point.
A faithful and devoted Christian shared with me that when she has recently taken time to be quiet she has experienced great sadness. “Maybe I just cannot be happy,” she wondered, knowing there are many joys in her life and reasons for happiness. There is much that is amiss in this world, however, and surely anyone with any depth at all must feel sadness and brokenness.
Races are divided; suspicion, tension, and hatred exist between us simply because of our color. We say that the lives of all the children of God are precious but we don’t act that way.
Public schools are in shambles. Some have choices about where their children will attend, while others have no choice whatsoever. Many schools are not safe. Many teachers are so poorly educated and are such poor role models that the classroom is the last place they should be. Many wise people have tried to improve the situation and it just seems impossible. Most of us have just given up.
We are at war with each other in our beloved country. We are so polarized that we have demonized each other. We read horrendous things about the left and the right: very little of what we read is actually true. We are defensive and accusatory in our conversations. We are more invested in being right than kind. We have forgotten that none of us is right. There is no humility in our political climate.
As Christians, we cannot be satisfied with the way things are. We cannot hide from our responsibilities. God calls us to be aware of own participation in things sinful and evil. He calls us to repent and return to him. He calls us humbly to ask for his forgiveness, his presence in our lives. The Christian walk necessarily involves pain. Jesus tells us that he does not bring peace but a sword. The sword he speaks of is not a sword for me to use against you. It is a sword meant to cut out the sin, arrogance, and indifference in my own life.
God calls us to be moved by his sacrifice. The peace of God is not given for us just to be comfortable. The peace of God is given for us to be transformed. How is God calling you to step out of your comfort? What has he shown you that he wants to be different? What grieves the heart of God as you understand him? And how might you be called to respond? It may simply be to know more fully the pain of the world and offer it to him in prayer. It may be that a big change in the way you think and act is expected of you.
What sadness do you hear as you are quiet? It may be the peace of God calling to you, a peace that is so challenging but the only peace worth having, the peace offered to us on the cross of Christ Jesus.