Our texts begin with the magnificence of the gifts of God –
2b) Happy are those who fear the Lord,
3) Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
4) They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.
None of them, it seems, is poor. They are quite successful.
Our readings end with a call to discipleship – to hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even life itself. The passage precedes Luke 15, with the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost brother.
So there is active seeking to retrieve the lost in the immediate context of Luke.
In Luke, Jesus also commands us to love our enemies and do them good (Luke 6:35), so hating our families cannot mean actively trying to do them harm. But putting obedience and devotion to Jesus ahead of any family commitment may look like hate to the family and to the rest of the world. ,
But how do we get to Hate your family and carry your cross
wealth and riches, mighty in the land?
I think that if we look at these texts together more than once, we get a different picture.
Wealth and riches are in the houses of those who fear the Lord.
I reed about these riches and I note that they seem to be primarily material, but the followers of the Lord “rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.”
I think the bigger picture from the narrative gives us hope.
The followers of Jesus carry their cross.
Jesus says, Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
One of the challenges for congregational leaders is the role of pop culture.
Anything can become a slogan. You may recall that one of the popular images at football games, both officially professional and at college, is someone holding up a banner with John 3:16. Some see this as a type of evangelism. I have heard that one of the faculty might even hold up a banner at the Polity Bowl this Saturday. I will not tell you her name, but her initials are Jane Patterson.
The cross is a popular image. It is often jewelry, especially a neckace. It is available in Gold, silver, platinum, plastic, wood and steel. Popular images in cultures take the degradation of the cross and make it comfortable.
It is difficult to communicate the horrific emotional kick the cross had to first century Christians. But I think Clarence Jordan (whose name sounds as though it is spelled Jerden) has done it well.
In his CottonPatch gospels, Jordan transposes the first century Jesus to mid 20th century Georgia. Jerusalem is Atlanta, other cities include Valdosta, Nashville, and Washington.
He translates Luke 14:27 as, “Anyone who does not accept his own lynching and fall in behind me cannot be my disciple.”
I caution you that to a congregation, talk of lynching may be unsettling. But I think it has the right emotional kick. Lynching was all too common in the South.
So Jesus calls us to follow him. And we are still not sure how we get here from the blessings of the righteous.
I think the answer is in the broader narrative of Luke-Acts.
In the next few chapters of Luke’s gospel, in Luke 18:28, Peter says to Jesus, “We have followed you, abandoning our own families and vocations. And early disciples – some of them did leave father mother, families and vocation. Other early disciples would have heard this in the smaller groups that met in to talk about this Jesus. Some would have heard this message in the public proclamation of the Gospel. Disciples who followed Jesus abandoned him at the cross, but followed him after the resurrection as part of community. And at the end of the book of Acts, In Acts 20:35 there is the saying of Jesus that is not in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, nor in the letters of Paul.
It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Here is the meaning of the gifts of God. Here is one part of following Jesus. Those who take up their cross become part of community.
For those with ears to hear, listen to the needs of your neighbor.
Then the Psalm is describing you
They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.
God’s blessing are not for me to keep. They are for me to steward. For me to administer.
They are my responsibility, not mine to keep.
Go and follow Jesus.
And love one another.