Grace and Peace from the Mystery in whom we live and move and have our being. Take up your cross.
Those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”Matthew 10:24-39
Last week, Jesus told us to “go to the lost.” This week he tells us to ‘get lost.’
Sorry, but I’m a little confused. A little lost.
Today’s passage follows on the heels of last week’s passage, where Jesus sends his disciples out into the world… to go to the lost. Now, in the verses between what we read last week and this week, Jesus begins to tell the disciples what will happen to them when they reach out to the lost. They will be brought before church councils and flogged in houses of worship. They will be brought before governors and kings and dragged into court.
His words for this week are a continuation of that. And he pushes it further. Not only will religious authorities and political authorities turn against us, but family as well.
Apparently, following Jesus is offensive… and can get you in hot water.
Who knew? I mean, yeah, the foundational symbol of our faith is a cross, but I always thought when people in the first century Roman Empire saw crosses on the side of the road… I always thought they said to themselves, “What a beautiful symbol of joy and peace!”
And that’s why we made it the central symbol of our faith.
Sunshine and lollipops?
But that obviously isn’t the case, and so when Jesus talks about taking up the cross in this passage, he isn’t talking about a journey of sunshine and lollipops.
Yet, even in the midst of the pain and suffering, Jesus us tells us to not be afraid.
“Do not fear those who can kill the body… but fear the one who can destroy body and soul.”
Now at first glance, it might appear that Jesus is replacing one fear with another. In other words, “Don’t fear the little guy. Fear the big guy.”
But his words immediately following this are, “Not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs on your heads are all counted. So be not afraid…”
Let me repeat that. “Fear is not the driving element in our relationship with God.”
But how many of us were brought up with that? You know, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.” “Believe or go to Hell.”
The driving element in our relationship with God
But as John’s letters tell us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.” … “And God is love.”
So, simply put, fear cannot be the foundational grounding for a relationship with the Mystery. And this is what concerns the religious, political, and tribal authorities the most – people who do not fear. What power do religious authorities have, if not fear of hell, or punishment, or ex-communication? What power do politicians have, if we don’t fear losing control to ‘the opposition’? What power do our families, our tribes have, if we cannot fear and demonize ‘those people’?
Now it can be frightful to not find one’s identity in one’s religion, one’s politics, one’s family or tribe. Who am I if I don’t find my identity in them? I can feel lost. Alone. On my own. And yet, it is exactly this ‘lostness’ that Jesus is encouraging. This cutting the cord from these earthly connections that claim ultimate authority.
Free will vs. freed will
And let me tell you, someone with a FREED will is much more dangerous than someone with a free will.
If I meet someone with a free will, I can manipulate, influence, and pressure their decision. I can hold things out for them that I know they will be attracted to. Or I can threaten them with things that I know they will fear.
But someone whose will is FREED – now that’s a different story. Freed from fear. Freed from attachments. Freed from the bondage of choice. These people are freed to go to the lost, the outcast, the god-forsaken. These people are a danger, for they attack the religious bondage of purity. They attack the political bondage of power. They attack the tribal bondage of exclusive community.
Once one is freed from the addiction to be right – which is the addiction of religious doctrine and practice…
Once one is freed from the addiction to be enough, good enough to be accepted – which is the addiction of the tribe and family…
Once one is freed from the addiction to be in control – which is the addiction of the political…
Once one is freed from these…
One will be summoned and punished by all of them.
I mean, Jesus was convicted and executed as a common criminal. Peter and John were jailed. So was Paul. Not to mention Stephen and many early Christians who were stoned to death. And Martin Luther had a death warrant placed on him.
Is following Jesus offensive?
Let’s face it. From the world’s perspective…
CHRISTIANITY IS A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE!!!
So following Jesus is offensive. It is offensive to all the structures who claim power and authority to divide us. It is offensive to all the powers and authorities that seek to control us. It is offensive and does not bring peace… but a sword. A sword brought by the authorities, to “straighten up or else.”
You see, the authorities will tell you that you are lost without them. But Jesus tells you that you are finally found when you cut or sever your identity from them.
Jesus calls us to go to the lost and find our identity with the lost. “Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
And that is not what the ‘powers that be’ want. They want us to find our identity in them. “Are you democrat or republican? Capitalist or socialist? Are you Lutheran or Baptist? We HOLD your true identity. We GIVE you your true identity. We ARE your true identity.”
It is this identification to which Jesus brings a sword. And when we try to find our identity in those things, Jesus says we will be lost. We will ultimately lose ourselves.
The parable of the lost sheep
“Whoever tries to find their life [in those things] will lose it…
“But whoever loses their life [from those things] … will find it.”
And now the parable of the lost sheep takes on a different and interesting perspective… where maybe we are called to leave our folds and pens of religious, political, and tribal divisions, and lose ourselves in the world of the lost, the forsaken, the forgotten. And it is there that we will be found.
It is there that the Good Shepherd will find us, in our lostness.
Maybe the one who wanders off from the security of the fold is the one who will walk right into the arms of the Good Shepherd.
Found in our lostness. What a frightening and freeing prospect.
So, maybe I should have a bumper sticker that says “I lost it,” rather than “I found it.”
And yet, it is exactly this ‘lostness’ that Jesus is calling me to lean into, to walk into, to embrace. And to embrace not only my ‘lostness,’ but embrace all the others who society has deemed ‘lost’ and ‘irredeemable.’
This is where we are promised to find ourselves. In the lostness of the world. In the embracing and walking with those who are lost.
And it is not just ourselves that we find. But we find the Christ present as well.
“I was hungry and you fed me. Thirsty and gave me drink. In prison and you visited me … Whenever you did it to the least of these, you did it TO ME!”
take up your cross
So maybe it’s time for us to stop being afraid of being offensive. Maybe it’s time to take up the cross, which is not a symbol of peace and joy, but a symbol of entering into the suffering of the world… becoming one with the lost and forsaken.
Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about being offensive to the powers that be…
And so let me conclude with this quote from Howard Zinn:
Now, I know what some of you might be thinking…
“GET LOST, Jim!”
And my only response is, “Thank you. I think I will.”
For whoever loses their life for my sake, will find it.”Matthew 16:25
Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint by Spirit in the Desert faith mentor, Rev. “Bro. Jim” Hanson.
Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud