In the Gospel lesson for today, we hear Jesus’ call to discipleship, and its cost; his words are stern but they also describe God’s particular care for us. This hymn explores both aspects: the cross, an instrument of torture and execution, has become a symbol of strength and love. So there is encouragement in the challenge to “take up your cross,” for we know that by so doing we join with Christ and share in his victory.
--Donna Wessel Walker
"Take up your cross," the Saviour said,
"If you would my disciple be;
Forsake the past, and come this day,
And humbly follow after me."
Take up your cross; let not its weight
Pervade your soul with vain alarm;
His strength shall bear your spirit up,
Sustain your heart, and nerve your arm.
Take up your cross, nor heed the shame,
Nor let your foolish heart rebel;
For you the Lord endured the cross
To save your soul from death and hell.
Take up your cross and follow Christ,
Nor think till death to lay it down;
For only those who bear the cross
May hope to wear a golden crown.
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your lovingkindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.
God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
1 Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me, *
for I am poor and in misery.
2 Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful; *
save your servant who puts his trust in you.
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God; *
I call upon you all the day long.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant, *
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, *
and great is your love toward all who call upon you.
6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer, *
and attend to the voice of my supplications.
7 In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, *
for you will answer me.
8 Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord, *
nor anything like your works.
9 All nations you have made will come and worship you, O Lord, *
and glorify your Name.
10 For you are great;
you do wondrous things; *
and you alone are God.
16 Turn to me and have mercy upon me; *
give your strength to your servant;
and save the child of your handmaid.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; *
because you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Jesus said to the twelve disciples, “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.
The Collects, Psalms and Canticles are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.
From The Lectionary Page: http://lectionarypage.net
Jesus has more than one hard-to-hear saying in this passage. We are reminded that his life was not an easy one, and since we are following him ours may not be, either. Check these out!
“I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
“For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
And our response to this text is most certainly “Is he nuts?” We read scripture and come to church primarily to find and hear the things which will make us better people and sharper Christians. These hard sayings seem bent on making us anything but that.
We certainly strain at trying to see and grasp how these words are in anyway good news for us and for anyone else for that matter. What they most resemble are birth pangs of the new creation God is promising to bring to fruition. They are a revelation of something new that God is bringing about. They are a heads up as well to all who will seek to follow after Jesus that the journey will be potentially hard and dangerous. But they are more than just that.
Just as Paul speaks of being joined to Christs death in Baptism so too does he speak of being joined to his resurrection as well. “If we are joined into his death by Baptism so too are we joined into his resurrection by Baptism.” By these readings we are called to see an important truth of the work we are called to do with Jesus. Did you notice it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with our common perception of the purpose Christianity as a means of creating better people. These teachings of Jesus do not address the question of “What is God doing to make my life better, more whole, more spiritual, etc.” Rather what we need to understand is this question: “What am I doing to involve myself in the work and will of God in the world today?”
Where one question seeks to know what’s in it for me the other question admits that this not about us at all, but rather it is about what God desires and what Jesus is making happen. It’s about God and God’s love for the entire world, the whole creation. From the hairs of each of our heads and the life of sparrows to the fate of the earth and the future of the human race, it’s all about God and God’s will and God’s way and our place in that grand movement into God’s promised tomorrow. We are called to be a part of the new heaven and the new earth God is actively creating now.
The Good News and the comfort found in the text is this, the new creation will involve difficult, dangerous and terribly uncomfortable things. It will involve death; all this was true for Jesus. It will be true for us as well as we follow Jesus. But know this: after death is resurrection.