“Anyone who does not take up the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple!” Lk 14:24

23rd Sunday Ordinary Time Year C  7 SEP 2013

 

I have to believe that if Dale Carnegie and Jesus were to have a strategic planning meeting and Jesus laid this at his feet, Dale might well have stood up shook his hand and wished him well in his endeavor and walked away in haste!  Because I am quite certain, that would not be the opening line of winning friends and influencing people.

Unless you were going for the shock and awe value….or unless you were trying to get folks to look deeper, very deeply into the soul.

You see my friends the thief on the Cross next to Jesus had it right…please remember me when you come into your kingdom.!

Let’s be honest….the Cross is not an attractive branding….is it?

But the mystics, those who think and live and pray themselves deeply in faith….the mystics of every major faith tradition do agree on several things…and one of those is that somehow, someway, each and every one of us have something  or somethings…that stand in the way of our grasping the mind and heart of God.

Souls will be unable to reach perfection who do not strive to be content with having nothing, in such fashion that their natural and spiritual desire is satisfied with emptiness; for this is necessary in order to reach the highest tranquility and peace of spirit. 

St. John of the Cross

 

 

This whole pericope….this whole Gospel reading….it can not and it does not stand on its own.  There is a context, a cultural, political and religious understanding, that we must know in order to understand what Jesus is saying.

Family was the highest value…to disown it meant to change everything about ones’ life.  To deny ones family meant to give up their birth status, to give up real estate, to give up economic security and to give up social status.

Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees…a group…an elite group of highly educated, highly influential, politically savvy, religiously powerful leaders.  And his confrontation was shocking!  To give up that status was almost unimaginable! 

Maybe that is why some of the Offenders I work with do actually understand what Jesus is saying.  Stripped of dignity, status, and alot of civil rights because of the crime they have committed, the only thing they can do is stand before their God, and say…here I am, I have come to do your will.

Every cross has a lesson for us to learn….every cross has a truth about the mystery we call God.  And we can make the choice to wallow and wail about the Cross, or we can choose to seek the wisdom of it.  My Dad used to remind me….pity pots are good for resting for a short while, but if you stay on it too long you will end up with hemroids!  What do our Crosses have teach us and what do we have to learn from them?

For some of us, our Cross may be our lack of patience, for others it may be the burden of disease or dysfunction.  For some it may be our possessions, or our titles or positions in society, family or Church.

For some it may be our wealth, privilege, or our status.

The call of holiness is a call to let go….to as we say in recovery…to let go and let God.

To strip away all our “stuff” in order to stand naked before our God and know that all we need is to be grateful for being who and how we are!  Nothing more and nothing less.  A child of God.

So when the Cross shows up this week in our lives…however it is made manifest…maybe the challenge we can take is to stop and take stock….maybe we can stop and ask ourselves the question…what is there to learn from this pain? 

But in the questioning never forget….just as our opening song reminded us….God dances with joy because of you!

 

BY the study of different RELIGIONS we find that in essence they are one.”

 

 

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The Wise take proverbs to heart;

The Wise take proverbs to heart;
every sage is a good listener!

There is a story told of a football player of the Alabama Crimson Tide by the name of Henry Peterson….

Under the coaching of the infamous Bear Bryant,

Henry had never ever made it off the bench or off of third string.

He tried, but to no avail.

The day before the Alabama/Auburn game, one of the Crimson’s greatest rivalries Bear received a call from Henry telling the coach that Henry’s Dad had died and that he was back home and the funeral was to be the next day and that he would not be present for the game.

Bear whole heartedly agreed with Henry and told him it was good that he was with his family during that important time.

But something happened,

as Bear Bryant walked into the locker room the next day for the pre-game pep talk and roster…

Henry, fully dressed and filled with excitement almost knocked over the coach as he came in.

He said: Coach you have got to let me play today!
I have got to play!

Bear was stunned to see Henry and stunned at his request as well.

He said to Henry…are you nuts Son?
I am sorry about your Dad, but you are out of your mind?

You are third string bench and have never played even one play in any game…

I am sorry son…but this is our biggest game of the season ….

but Henry persisted and insisted…

to the point where in Bear’s own words…said:

I have no idea what has come over me, but I will put you in on the first play.

Henry Peterson scored three touchdowns in the first half of that game….almost beating Auburn by himself.

Bear Bryant walked into the locker room at half time and said to Henry:

Son, I dont’ know whether to kiss you or kill you.

Why haven’t you shown me you can play football like that before now?!

Coach, Henry said,
have you ever seen me walking around campus with my Dad?

Bear, with a puzzeled look said “yes I have!”

Henry said: you see coach, my Dad was blind and today is the first day he ever got to watch me play football!

While the Scriptures that we heard today at first glance and even at first read seem to talk about Humility….we have to understand the translation in light of the whole of the Scriptures.

“all who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

You see my friends…Jesus isn’t talking about a self-effacing, or self-degrading or shaming self-concept…as Rev. Joan talked about last week.

Jesus is talking about being what today we may term: Authentic….real….without pretense but with self appreciation and other appreciation….
it is about having a sense of mutuality instead of a sense of superiority or inferiority.

You see what Henry’s Dad’s death did, was set him free to be his AUTHENTIC self….to let go of the chains of his fathers blindness which he had allowed to hold him back….

Henry had allowed the chains of his fathers blindness to define his paradigm…

he didn’t believe his Dad could enjoy his playing because he was blind…

the truth of it all is that it wasn’t his Dad’s limitation….

it was Henry’s limitation of his paradigm that was holding him back.

As I prayed the Scriptures this week I came to realize that many times we have hindered our own holiness with the chains of our own misconceived notions of life,

of relationships,

and even of God! .

Sometimes we have stopped Gods grace from becoming fully active in our lives because we didn’t believe it could be possible to be that holy.

But as life’s years and the struggles of trying to live the message of the Gospel continue to unfold…

they are like the constant drip of water on the rock….

they continue to eat away at our pride, our selfishness, our shame and our sin,

I come to realize more and more how truly amazing is this God with whom I am growing more and more in love with!

Being humble…

is not being less than the other….

being humble is not being self degrading or self effacing….

being humble is simply acknowledging the fact that you and I and everyone else on this planet are all to be about the same thing….

to be the best, free-est, grace filled agents of God’s love that we can be.

Being humble is being willing to risk losing the grip of our certitudes in order to come to realize that those certitudes can be the chains that have kept us from growing into who we can be!

Maybe this quote I found, but whose authorship I can not….maybe it will help us as we step into the week ahead:

Care more than others think is wise;
Risk more than others think is safe;
Dream more than others think is practical;
Expect more than others think is possible;
Live each day to the fullest and as best as you can;
Because God expects nothing less and wants nothing more!

How many touchdowns can we score? I bet we might be surprised!

©Rev. Martin Shanahan