RCL Year C Proper 18
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 1, Philemon 1-21, Saint Luke 14:25-33
We reach a tough point, a difficult place, in the Gospel today. We should have seen it coming. To proclaim and to worship an all-powerful God brings us swiftly to the place where we face God’s power and see that it is so much greater than our own. We cannot reach it. We cannot match it. We can only regard it with awe and fear.
We have reached that difficult place by facing the collection of sayings that focus our attention on the total dedication necessary to be a disciple of Jesus. No attachment to family, no love for our possessions, can stand in the way of the total commitment being a disciple requires. The requirements are beyond our reach. But they are not beyond the reach of Jesus. Jesus says in the Gospel today that what he is able to do we must be able to do too.
We have reached the point in Jesus’ ministry when he is nearing the end of his journey to Jerusalem. Large crowds have amassed as his followers. He has predicted his own suffering, his rejection, his crucifixion, and his resurrection, and they are about to take place. And in his passion, the total dedication he requires of disciples he himself will perform. He will be what he demands that we be.
The Gospel today brings us to that place where Jesus meek and mild has become the one who sets aside meekness and mildness to endure the worst treatment and torture human beings can devise. We are on the edge of being shown how to do what we are unable to do.
That begins to describe the tough point, the difficult place, this Gospel prepares for us. How can we be and how can we do what Jesus commands us to be and to do when it is beyond our ability and surpassing our strength? I have found but one answer to this question. We have to be and to do the following. We have to be the people who choose to allow Jesus to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We have to accept with heartfelt gratitude Jesus’ self-offering for our benefit.
What do you think is the point of a requirement that we cannot do? I think it is this. A requirement that we cannot do for ourselves is a requirement that makes inescapable what God has done for us. A requirement that we cannot do for ourselves is a requirement that makes inescapable how much God loves us. Of all things we may forget, we cannot forget this: “The Lord himself is God; * he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.”