Have I decided to follow Jesus?
Well, that was certainly a happy Gospel lesson. When I read this, I said to myself, Well, that’s jolly; maybe I’ll preach about the Epistle.
In the Gospel, Jesus is not talking about peace and love, He talks about fire and Baptism symbolic of judgment and purification. He’s talking about the cross, He’s talking about a time when families will be split and fight with one another.
IN the context of his time he is talking about the fact that Jewish families would be severely torn apart as some members accepted Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfillment of the Law and others thought that belief in Jesus as the Christ was a total repudiation of traditional covenantal Judaism and the ultimate heresy. They were still waiting for the Messiah. It was going to be an earthquake of conflicting belief.
In those days, among the Jews the most potentially fractious admission to one’s family was to say, in the words of the song, “I have decided to follow Jesus”. As Jesus predicted families did become divided, father against son, mother against daughter and so forth, and presumably friend against friend.
Today, within families and amongst friends and in the media we hear strident voices trying to tell us what we should believe and do, and how to vote, if we are to be what they consider to be “Christian”.
I have been witnessing some of the most un-Jesus like behaviors put forth as somehow being consistent with Christianity. I’m not sure what Bible some of these folks are reading and if their Bible contains the New Testament.
His mention of predicting the weather may suggest that we must discern signs of the times and identify what elements of our lives hinder our service to the God of the lowly and powerless.
When we look at our Baptismal Covenant, and we should from time to time, I think we get a picture of what Christians do and how we are to act if we are proclaiming that we “have decided to follow Jesus”. The next line in that hymn is “no turning back, no turning back”. No turning back on working for freedom justice and peace, no turning back from respecting the dignity of every human person. Additional verses of the hymn say “Though no one join me, still I will follow” and “The world behind me, the cross before me, no turning back, no turning back.
The implications of those simple phrases are immense.
Turning to the Epistle we are introduced to the idea of faith as the courage to endure; that our charge is to ‘run with perseverance the race that is set before us,’ looking to Jesus as
the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
Jesus goes before us, supports us from behind, walks beside us, holds us up and never lets go, as we struggle to live into what it means to truly follow him—with no turning back.
This is no small order. We live in a world where people calling themselves Christians are denying even the earliest scripture that says “And God created everything and said that it was GOOD”.
In Animal Farm George Orwell has the line “All pigs are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” That certainly seems to be a prevailing attitude these days in the rhetoric of modern society.
I read on Facebook years ago “We cannot pray in love and live in hate and think that we are worshipping God”
May we each in our own lives figure out in concrete ways each day, what it is we are to do, how we are to act if we make that simple statement: I have decided to follow Jesus. May we look into our hearts, look at our Baptismal Covenant and ask the question “how does my life reflect the teachings of Jesus.”
What would someone think about Christianity from what they are hearing and seeing some of what is being done today in the name of Christianity. What would they think if they looked at US as examples of what Christianity is all about? Would they see our Baptismal Covenant working in us?
When we leave here today, let’s not thinking of it as leaving church but as going out in courage and in joy to follow Jesus. Have we truly decided to follow Jesus, in all that that implies?