Today is April Fool’s Day and it dawns on me that it would have been fitting to offer yesterday’s devotion today; however, that would have required noticing that yesterday was the last day of March. This “sheltering in place” business has me off kilter. I barely knew that yesterday was Tuesday, let alone that today would be April 1. I hope you all aren't as muddled as I'm tending to be ...
1) Prayer: Take a deep breath and be still for a moment; then pray,
Lord Jesus, please be present with me now as I read your word. In these moments, please encourage me and give me fresh confidence in you and your love. Help me be open to whatever you want to teach me. Help me be ready to respond to you with trust and obedience. Amen.
2) Read Luke 9:57-62 (below)
Skim the passage. Pause and notice what stands out to you.
Read it again, and again pause and notice what stands out to you.
Read the verses again, slowly, out loud. If your attention drifts, or if you are particularly struck by a particular word or phrase, read it again, still slowly and out loud.
57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”60But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
3) For Reflection:
“The irony of man's condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.” ― Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death
I read Jesus’ words and remember that F. F. Bruce includes this passage in his book, The Hard Sayings of Jesus. Calling these words, “Hard,” is an understatement. True disciples will emulate Jesus in having no place to rest, in being perpetual exiles? "Hard," doesn't cover it. This runs exactly contrary to what we are taught to think of as the good life. This runs contrary to life itself, or at least to many of the unconsidered assumptions we hold about life. Jesus says, “Let the dead bury the dead,” which is harsh but which also implies that those who follow Jesus are not dead.
We are face to face with the paradox we Christians try to avoid.
On the one hand, there are words of Jesus that we can’t escape, though we try. We can’t escape them because we know them too well: “Those who want to save their lives will lose them; those who lose their lives will save them; “To all who say they want to follow me, I say, “Deny yourselves, pick up your cross, and follow me.”
On the other hand, we don’t want to shrink from being fully alive. We believe that real life, abundant life is found in Christ. The end of John 6 is an exact enactment of our conundrum:
“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life?” (v. 53-54). In response, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (v. 60); 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
We are days away from Palm Sunday. We are days away from re-embracing the Great Risk. We will enter Jerusalem with Jesus, follow him to the cross, give ourselves away, “for the sake of the joy set before us.” Let us not identify with Jesus blithely, in an unconsidered way. There is too much at stake.
4) Question What is your honest response to today’s scripture? What is your answer to this question: “Why in the world would you want to do something so radical, so extreme, so irrational?” I encourage you to sit with this question, turn it over in your mind and heart. Try not to shy away from it. Try not to move past it prematurely. Try not to let someone else’s answer substitute you articulating and owning your own answer.
Father, I abandon myself into your hands Do with me what You will, whatever You do, and I will thank You, I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only Your will be done in me, as in all your creatures, and I’ll ask nothing else, my Lord
Into Your hands I commend my spirit; I give it all to You with all the love of my heart For I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into Your hands with a trust beyond all measure, because you are my Father. - Charles de Foucauld
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