Thursday, September 2, 2010

Leaving it all behind

The Rev. Will Willimon, chaplain at Duke University, once told how he and never received a phone call saying "Help! My son is on drugs" or "I'm concerned about my daughter's grades" However, Willimon said that hardly a year goes by that he didn't hear complaints like this: “Chaplain, can you help? My daughter has become a religious fanatic and wants to go off to Haiti to work for some literacy program. This isn't something we taught her!" Is such a student "hating father and mother"? No, it's a matter of choosing a loyalty higher than family and self. And we need to be aware that we might be selling both our young people and ourselves short by teaching them a weak form of Christianity.

I can remember going to a youth conference in my teenage years where we were challenged by the speaker to be more faithful to living out our faith. “Who wants to go to China and tell people about Jesus?” There was great roar of yes from the gathered. “Who wants to go to South East Asia to preach the Gospel?” was met with great enthusiasm. Then the speaker asked another question, “Who wants to go home and clean up there room and do as their parents tell them too?” The question was met with virtual silence. It was rather telling. Everyone at that conference would go somewhere else and do what was asked of them, making great sacrifices and look the hero but they would not go home and do the same. We need to recognize in the life of the Church that Christ is asking the same of us – to go home and be the person he has called us to be at home. It is easy to make the grand gesture because only so many will actually go and do it.

At home we become the community of the little bits. We commit with a little bit of prayer. We pledge a little bit of trust and dedication. We might offer little bits of love. But that is not the way of the cross, the way of the Master. We often try to sell our “churchianity” as a low risk, low cost venture. And for some reason we think that we have to compete with everything else that is out there and then fail to even do that because we cannot offer what the rest of the world can. Are we not advertising and involving ourselves in a weaker type of the Christian faith? We are challenged by Jesus to make sure that we have counted the costs of becoming one of his followers. If we will not let go; if we put our hands to the plow but keep looking back; if we won’t pick up our crosses and follow in the same way where does that leave us? Do you have a plan will you see it through to the end? Here is where the rubber meets the road. Either you will trust Christ to lead you or not.

As Bonheoffer might point out cheap grace makes puny Christians and puny Christians produce scrawny churches which frame a fragile, feeble kingdom. And there is nothing cheap, puny nor fragile about the grace and kingdom of God! Does this mean that we should be willing to die for our faith? Maybe we should be ready to live for it first before we consider being ready to die for it. Martyrdom is a gift you can use only once and it is usually right at the end of one’s life. We need to live and be the people and the community for which Christ surrender himself before we worry about what we have to give up. And in the process we will learn to be living sacrifices instead of dead ones.

Giving up what we perceive as our security in favour of following Jesus is a large and scary choice. We need to be aware of what it is going to cost us so that we can be prepared to follow and live We sing of the cross and decisions we've made but when do we allow our faith to actually move us? Have you got a plan that is going to make you secure and see you through to the end that does not involve putting your trust in God? Do you love God enough that you are going to leave it all behind?

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