This is an important Sunday for our parish is some ways: 1) we are making our worship time start a half an hour later than it has been in the past few years, 2) we are facing some major building and finance issues around roofs and other things, 3) we need to fill some key leadership roles, in particular the treasurer and the Secretary for Church Committee, and 4) this is the start of the third year of my four year term as Rector and Dean. So I think it is important that we start this third year together with this prayer, this collect:
Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people,
that richly bearing the fruit of good works,
we may by you be richly rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
As I reflect on the words of this collect and consider the words of Jesus in the Gospel for Sunday (Luke 14:25-33) to those with him on the journey to the City of Jerusalem, there are some things in our lives that we need to relinquish and some things we had better do. First of all, we had better relinquish the things that are going to keep us from following Jesus as his disciples. What needs to be given up, will vary from person to person. For some it is going to be financial things, for others it is going to be relationships of one kind or another. For some it will mean letting go of advancements at work while others will have to deal with failing health. We are all going to have problems, issues, threats, challenges, and hurdles which are going to have to be overcome. We are going to need to make Christ and his kingdom, the centre, the top priority and the focus of our lives.
And as the costly, crossly way of life becomes more of a reality in us, as we follow Christ and seemingly move further and further away from what family and friends, neighbours and communities think we should be doing, they are going to think that we “hate” them. We won’t look like them, sound like them or act like them. Our goals, our plans and what makes us happy won’t match up. Our priorities, our objectives and our way of living is going to make us stand up and stand out and not necessarily in a positive or pleasant way. Our families will think that we have abandoned them, though nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus calls us: Ibis ad crucem! (to the cross you go!) in plain thinking and speaking we are asked to make the kingdom, seeing it grow and mature in our lives and in the lives of others the top priority of the work of our congregation and diocese. We are called to come and accept then go and bear the crosses given to each of us for the sake of all. We are called to be imitators of Christ. We are called to be there in the mess that is this life and to faithfully live the dyings and risings of the Lord Jesus that must be lived out in everyday life. And we are going to need support in doing that which is what makes me happy about the first line of the collect for Sunday: “Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people...” God will come to those whom Christ has called will renew, revive and refresh those who are working to see the kingdom of God come in the earthly community. It is not all on us. We are undergirded by the presence of God himself. God is already there in each moment. God has already foreknown would needs to happen and what needs to be done. And we need to come and participate in these things – bear our good works, that in the doing, we would be a blessing and then in turn be mightily blessed... not because we are gifted, creative, successful or even great or nice but because we are being faithful to God and focusing on the Kingdom.
We need to be aware that we are going to be called upon in moments of crisis. We are going to be set upon by circumstance. We are going to be troubled by lack of resources. But we are not asked by God to be nothing more than faithful to Jesus in towing our crosses up the hill after him.
What do we first as individuals, and then as a faith community, need to renounce and relinquish this week that we might chase Jesus up the hill? What will it takes for us to have hearts that want Jesus and the kingdom more than anything or anyone else?