Last Sunday, Marie Gagnepain celebrated 100 years of life. Last night, I attended a 50th Wedding Anniversary– 100 years of marriage between the two of them. Both events shaped my reflection on the gospel this week. How did they do it so well and so faithfully for 100 years? All three of them have done something right. I want to know what and how! As an outsider I would say: “Each of them made a commitment of mind and heart and will to love God and each other ALL THE DAYS OF OUR LIFE.” And it is that ‘resolve’, empowered by God’s gift and grace that has seen them through.
These last few weeks, Luke’s gospel has been alternating between the demands of the gospel and the experience of God’s consolation. One week, we hear about the cost/demands of being a follower and the next we hear about what can you expect from being one. Today is about the “resolve part”. But you have to know the context to understand what Jesus is saying and the words he is using to say it. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem where he knows he will die. So he turns to those following – perhaps the curious, those swept up by emotion, those following hoping for personal gain and bids them to look at what it will cost them to be his follower. Are you willing to let go of those primary and foundational relationships – family, friends, relationships, even your life – so that you can take up your cross? And the word he uses is “HATE”. You cannot follow me unless you HATE father and mother, brother and sister. “That’s a little extreme, Jesus!” “Can’t you tone it down just a bit?” In fact it is so easy to get lost in that word that we lose what he is teaching us.
Using that ‘all or nothing’ kind of idiom that was popular in Jewish society – Jesus paints the choice in such an extreme way that you realize: YOU DO HAVE TO MAKE A CHOICE. You can’t slide into this kind of commitment. The ‘yes’ that will stay willing, that will stay committed for 100 years of life and 100 years of marriage, is the one that will brook no compromise. Jesus will be my savior and Jesus will be at the heart of my marriage and my life because I put him there, or it will not last. The winds will come and the troubles appear, and anything less than that will fail you. Are you resolved to treasure friendship with Jesus above anything else? – that’s what matters. That’s the gospel invitation.
I know about those kinds of yeses. In my own life, I delayed ordination to the priesthood for 1 ½ years. My gut told me – I was not making that kind of yes yet. And it wasn’t until someone changed how the questions were rolling around in my head that I came to my moment of freedom. “What do you want to BE with your life?” Easy. Close to God. Close to his people. A place where people knew forgiveness. A person who studies and preaches the Word of God. And a bridge to help people love the church that is God’s gift to us. Hmm. Looks an awful lot like priesthood. But now I knew I could say that and wanted to say that. And that has made all the difference in the difficult moments.
And when it gets difficult – what do you do? What keeps you resolved?
- Jesus tells us one strategy – calculate what you need for the day/week. Like someone about to go to war or building a structure, ask: “What do I need for this particular event or this particular day? This week for me it involved lawyers and a face to face conversation with a couple. Next week it will involve some courage to have a difficult conversation and some support from a few trusted friends. People who stay resolved are always calculating – what do I need to do to stay alive, happy, healthy and growing in this commitment?
- Go back to the place where it became clear when and how you were to lay down your life? (even if only in your memory) Take out the wedding album. Visit the church of marriage. Enter into that memory – draw strength from the yes.
- Remember the moments of great grace and triumph. And then ask – if God has been so faithful, is he going to let me down now? Draw upon that strenght…
- Surround yourself (like Mims) – with people who love you and will nuture you and ACCEPT NOTHING BUT THE BEST FROM YOU.
- Finally, do what Jesus did at his moment when his resolve was fading. Pray and specifically, pray: Not my will, but yours be done. And then surrender to what God will do with that prayer…
Good news – the Journey can be lived faithfully. We know folks who’ve done it for a century. At this altar might we ask for and receive what we need on our journey of discipleship…