Friday, May 30, 2008

I Pledge Allegiance IV

Luke 9:59-62
He said to another man, 'Follow me,'
But the man replied, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.'
Jesus said to him, 'Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.'
Still another said, ' I will follow you Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.'
Jesus replied, 'No oone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'

Once again we are faced with some shocking and unpleasant words by Jesus. While it may be difficult to leave behind one's 'sins' to follow Jesus, we know that to be necessary and in the end, to our own good. It may be difficult to rearrange our priorities (like money) but in the end we know that the benefits will outweigh the costs. But here, Jesus is asking us (it seems) to leave behind the truly best things in life...
the temptation that I face as I sit to write about this, is to explain it away by saying, 'Jesus certainly didn't intend for us to leave behind wives or husbands or career or children. Two things comes to mind. First, this is exactly what the early church proclaimed that Jesus did, leaving the presence of God the Creator. 'Thou didst leave thy throne and thy Kingly crown when thou camest to earth for me. ' We sing this song at Advent and despite its antiquated language we get the point, Jesus gave up life with the Heavenly 'Father' that we might have life. Second, and this is not an attempt to explain away, but to clarify, Jesus' challenge isn't about breaking up families for the sake of having them broken. Jesus came to create family and community, because that is what Rome was tearing apart. And the acts of devotion Jesus is urging isn't meant as penance for past wrongs or to 'earn' good credit from God for our own individual good fortune or future. In these situations, pledging allegiance to God's kingdom is really just self -serving. Instead, Jesus is challenging us to not only think highly of the Kingdom,but to put our allegiance into action regardless of how others might react. I think for instance of churches that open their doors offering sanctuary to undocumented workers, or who start soup kitchens for the homeless who are often mentally ill or chemically dependent. To leave behind the comfortable and stable lives that we live for the risky and unknown community that is the Kingdom of god, that is what this passage urges us toward... this is the allegiance Jesus asks of us... all to the Kingdom over the personal kingdom we feel comfortable with now.

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