June 28, 2020 at St. Andrew Parish, Moore, OK
Kings 4, 8-11, 14-16 + Psalm 89 + Roman 6, 304, 8-11 + Matthew 10, 37-42
There is an old saying that always gets me riled up. It goes like this: “That’s just the way things are.” It has a parallel saying that is just bad: “It’s always been that way.” Disciples of Jesus Christ are never content with the way things are, and they cannot stand still or keep quiet when someone tells them that “It’s always been that way” because that’s not the way of God’s creation. The whole point of the Incarnation, the reason why the Son of God left the Father was to make things different from the way they are now. The reason the Holy Spirit came to us was to re-create the face of the earth.
The church Matthew is writing to is living under social, economic, political, and religious pressure. Sounds like us doesn’t it? The narcissism, individualism, and secularism of our age makes a striking parallel to the times of Jesus. It makes his word all the more important and relevant today, because this Word of God is alive and speaks to us when we are gathered together. We may not sit here and think that these instructions are for a time and place in the past. To read this text and admire the trials, difficulties, and the faith of early Christians is nice, but it is not enough. To call this the Word of God is to be addressed by it now.
Jesus both charges and encourages us today. He tells us we can expect opposition because he met opposition, and the servant is no greater than the master. We’re not excused or exempt. Jesus was called Beelzebub, an Aramaic name for the devil. We can expect to be called names too like, “Tree hugger”, or “Socialist” when we care about this earth as our Holy Father keeps insisting, or care about the health and safety of others who may not be as well as we are. Sometimes verbal abuse is just as painful as physical abuse. We may not be flogged or crowned with thorns, but the social abuse and verbal abuse we may face is just as hard. Remember that old saying about sticks and stones?
In the end, what Jesus addresses here is what we could simply call, “priorities”, and there is a strong push here to critique our priorities in light of the values and priorities held by Jesus. Ours cannot be different. If they are, we don’t belong. In this text, there is no suggestion that families should be divided. You know, the result of an action is not always the purpose of the action. There is something called unintended consequences. When Jesus speaks of families being broken up, it’s not his fault, nor necessarily the fault of the one whose values and priorities cause the breakup. The purpose of God’s call to us is not to divide families. The purpose of these words is to encourage those who find this painful by insisting that this is no surprise to God. These are words of encouragement to those already suffering because of a family divided.
For Jews and Gentiles at the time this Gospel was prepared, strong family connections were an ultimate value. Whatever religion the head of a household held, all the family and the servants embraced the same. Maybe the critique here ought to be: “Who is the head of the family?” When the head of the family is God, I find it hard to imagine there could be any division. So, beyond the encouragement of those suffering, Jesus is re-ordering family priorities so that God and God’s will comes first. When it does, it is good. When it is good, it is exactly the way the Creator intended.
My friends, we are all called to put things in the right order and trust that God will care for our needs. While this text may seem harsh, Jesus is inviting us into the love of the Trinity in a deeper way. Finding life is the ultimate adventure of discipleship. In doing so, we can never accept the unacceptable or tolerable the intolerable. We live and show an alternative to “the way things have always been.” Our mission is to prove that the forces working against life are doomed. The more we believe and live with Gospel values and Gospel truth, the more it becomes a reality in and through us.
This is what our vocation is all about. It matters not whether we are priests, teachers, cooks, physicians, farmers or carpenters. The heart of the matter is whether or not we are willing and whether or not our commitment is equal to the task before us. It takes a kind of prophetic dedication that will allow others to know Christ’s love because they have met us. Jesus said exactly that when he said: “Whoever receives you, receives me.”
Keep in mind, that before these verses we hear today, Jesus was commissioning a community, not individuals. No one of us will ever be sufficiently worth or equal to take up the mission of Jesus. Husbands and wives share in each other’s vocation. Communities are called together to create the physical, psychic and spiritual spaces that heal the wounds and divisions of this world. That is exactly what Saint Andrew Parish is about, and every other community sharing in the Gospel truth must be as well. The broken must find a place here. Those who feel alone or isolated, or left out, must come here to be loved and healed not scolded or judged. As we who are followers of Jesus, our every love fits uniquely into our mission. Rather than limit our focus and care as Christians, our love for father mother, son, daughter, friend and lover can make us ever more-worthy and ever more-ready to love without limit. No one is outside the boundaries of God’s love and compassion. There are no limits, and it must be the same for us, or we fail to be what we are called to be, leaving this world the way it has always been, because that’s just the way it is.
God sent Jesus to say: “No, it isn’t.”