“Black Lives Matter”
“All Lives Matter”
Lately it’s seems to be the battle of the bumper stickers as to how allegiance’s have being defined. Dump Trump. Hillary Hater. As long as it’s tweet-able, i.e. 146 characters or less, it works. Our sound-byte attention spans don’t go much longer than that. We have 24/7/365 news that cycles over and over but doesn’t tell us much. We get headlines with very little background or context and we are not encouraged to actually think about things, to go deeper and ask more probing questions. It feels like we are no longer anchored anywhere, so it’s no wonder we are tossed to and fro by the winds of change and the whims of the loudest voices.
As Jesus continued to walk toward Jerusalem and his inevitable death there, he addressed the crowd that walked beside him and behind him. Did they have any idea where they were going? They were truly like sheep, just following his voice, hoping to be fed and to be ‘there’ when something dramatic or miraculous happened. He was the ‘rock star’ of the day and they were his groupies. And then he turned to them and said, if you are not ready to deny your family and friend, to give up your very life, then don’t be following me.
The word he used was “hate”, but the meaning was ‘to deny or turn from’ whatever, in favor of commitment to Jesus and the way which was being directed by God and for God’s purposes. You will have to carry a cross; you will have to bear rejection, pain, betrayal, humiliation, everything that following the Christ brings. It will be very, very hard. Are you ready for that? He was being graphic because he knew they were not considering what discipleship means. They were just ‘groupies’ at that point.
The teaching he then gave them, about how one lays a foundation for whatever you want to create, or how you strategize and assess your resources for whatever you hope to achieve, is essential for any success. He laid out the possible outcomes, some of the scenarios they would encounter, if they continued to follow him. They needed to make an informed choice, a commitment based on careful, thoughtful consideration. He wasn’t about bumper stickers or sound bytes. His path was one that required faithful dedication and hope in the grace of the one God.
We are in a time of transition. I’m in transition; this church is in transition; our country is in transition. We need to spend time to reconnect with our foundational beliefs and values. We need to anchor ourselves in our faith and spend time considering what path we choose going forward. There are lots and lots of loud voices spewing all kinds of rhetoric in an attempt to incite our emotions and build on our fears.
That is not the way to make good decisions and wise choices.
God is a forgiving God, who allows us to make the mistakes that are inevitable when we become full of ourselves, and then fall flat on our face. There may be a time of feeling abandoned and/or punished for our sinfulness, but there will always be a time of repentance and renewal. God doesn’t give up on us even when we give up on God. Also, this passage reminds us, as it reminded Israel, that this covenant relationship, this life engagement is not just with us as individuals, but is communal. The clay is the whole people of God, just as we are part of the whole people of God.
And, just as the clay is pliable and able to be recreated, it requires the hands of the potter to bring forth the piece from a simple lump. God is intimately involved in bringing the kingdom into the world. We are God’s hands and feet, but we are empowered by and through God’s Holy Spirit. This is not simply our task alone. God is with us in all of it.