“When Following Jesus Involves a Sword” Matthew 10:24-39
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Sunday, June 21, 2020, Father’s Day
What is something you learned from your father or a father figure in your life? That question may cause you to pause for a moment, as there may be many lessons you can point to or it may be hard to think of anything in particular. Chances are, there is something you do now because your father/father figure did it. Maybe its how to mow the yard, check your oil, ride a bicycle, balance your checkbook, shave your face, cut a turkey, use a tool. The quote from Umberto Eco in our bulletin speaks to what we learn from our fathers, “I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” Those little scraps of wisdom can make a big difference in our lives.
In our gospel text this morning, Jesus gives his followers some little scraps of wisdom, ones that will make all the difference in their lives and world. We hear from Jesus what happens when we do what he does and become like him. Jesus used this time to inform his followers of what would happen when they followed him.
One thing he mentions is that they will be involved in sharing the truth of what he tells them. They were to share his words with the world, not whispering them in the dark but getting out into the light of day and into the city to go public with them for everyone to hear. Jesus’ words had power, getting people’s attention, directing them to God, calling people out and to repentance, and proclaiming good news. The disciples were to share them publicly, from the housetops.
We too will find ourselves on the housetops in our city and neighborhood. But it seems like so many times that’s not where we are. We have restricted the power of Jesus’ words to the classrooms of our churches, the walls of our sanctuaries, and the privacy of our personal devotions. Maybe one of the reasons slavery, Jim Crow, institutional racism, and white supremacy have gone on so long in the history of our nation is because white followers of Jesus who knew all these things were wrong failed to speak up and out with the words of Jesus. White followers of Jesus of today must repent of what they have–or have not–done with the words of Jesus and now speak them clearly and loudly in our communities, realizing that the life of liberty and abundance they describe is for everyone, especially those who have been mistreated, marginalized, and oppressed. There are many housetops for us to share from. I’m thinking today, Father’s Day, is a great time for fathers to consider the impact of sharing the words of Jesus with their children. And there are other perches in our world we must get to and proclaim from to share these words in the light of our day.
Jesus also wanted his followers to know that following him would sometimes cause a rift in their families. If they did what he taught them to do, said what he told them to say, lived as he called them to live, then they would sometimes be at odds with other people, especially with those in their families. I think this is what Jesus meant when he mentioned that he came to bring a sword, not peace. Jesus wasn’t discounting family relationships but he did want his followers to know that doing the kingdom of God work like he was would surely cause conflict with and bring opposition from those whom they knew the most.
The same thing can happen to us. Sometimes following Jesus will put you at odds with your family and other relationships. It happens when they haven’t had the same experience with Jesus you have, mistaking your passion for discipleship as fanaticism or just a fad. A disrupted relationship can also happen if the Jesus your family or friends follow is different from your Jesus. No doubt this is happening a lot right now as people in families are having conversations about what’s happening in our nation with racism, monuments, police brutality, and the issues at hand as we approach another presidential election. As one person on social media put it, “Thanksgiving is going to be interesting this year.” When you really follow Jesus in the issues of today, you may very well have some awkward moments at the dinner table. You may also lose some Friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter. But that’s ok. Jesus says don’t be intimidated. He says to remember that God knows how many hairs are on your head and is even more attentive to you than for the common birds God delights in and cares for every day.
A final lesson in these verses from Matthew this morning is of how Jesus wanted his followers to know that doing what he was doing would refine their lives and determine what mattered most to them in life. As Jesus would tell them, “whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” That’s the line in the sand Jesus draws for his followers. If they were not for him, they were against him. If they weren’t losing their lives for his sake, they weren’t really living.
And for us the same is true. We haven’t really found life if we aren’t trying to lose it. Following Jesus will test our allegiances in life; showing what really matters the most to us. If we are more worried about upsetting someone or being ridiculed for our devotion to the cause of Jesus in our world, then we have the wrong allegiance. If we say/sing “wherever he leads, I’ll go” but we aren’t willing to go where people are hurting and helpless, then we really don’t mean it. If we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” but our focus is about our kingdom and our will for ourselves, then our prayer is just empty chatter. If we say we will take up our cross but are unwilling to get out of our comfort zones, then our arms–and life–are empty. If we say racism has to change and we aren’t living as allies for Black people in our city, then we aren’t aknowledging Jesus before others.
I was thinking about what it means to commit to Jesus this week when I was in here (the Sanctuary), running some cables for the cameras. I was here alone and at one point looked out from the balcony at this room, thinking for a minute about all of the Worship services that have taken place in here throughout the years. As I looked at the altar area, I thought of all of the commitments that have been made there as people have “walked the aisle” to commit their lives to Jesus, to rededicate their lives, to surrender to vocational ministry, to dedicate a child, or to say vows to one another in a wedding. If these walls could talk, we would hear of countless commitments. And so here we are today, followers of Jesus, invited by our gospel text to become like him in all that we do. And what an urgent time in history for us to be committed to Jesus and his cause! What will our decision be here today, as we are gathered in this place or if watching online? Will we take our own route, missing out on what God is doing in such a time as this or will we become like our teacher, changing the world around us?