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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, June 20, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Matthew 10:24–39

“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.” (NRSV)

OK, so what does this passage not cover? It is very hard to believe that Jesus would have gone into a stream of consciousness like this in such short order. There is so much here—the teacher and disciple; name calling of the master and householders; the call to disturb the peace fearlessly by proclaiming the oft-hidden truths; and the absolute claim of Jesus that we are known to our core, each hair on our head, by God. Then without a breath, Jesus sets everyone on edge by his proclamation of disruption—not peace but a sword, setting daughter against mother, son against father, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. And then the boom is lowered fully: finding our lives means we will lose them and losing our lives for Christ’s sake we find them.

Whew! So sweet little Jesus boy comes full bore into his adulthood as the tough-talking man who minces no words—straight out there, giving his followers a talking to. So what got him going? Even more to the point, what gets us going when we simply can’t stop ourselves with the passion and purpose of the gospel?

As a kid growing up Baptist there were lots of revival services in my home church. My church would bring in an itinerant preacher whose work was to revive congregations’ ministry by a powerful message. My memory of these services was centered around the pitch of the preaching. Too young to track with the message, I would sit and wonder why that man (and it was all men) was yelling. What was it that had him so angry, face turned red, me wondering if he might keel over? I would inch close to my mother at those services, wanting her solace. But listening to these words from Jesus, I think I now get what the passion, the fervor, the unrelenting voice was about.

There is something nonnegotiable about the authority and power of the gospel. There is something that cuts to the chase and that lifts us to absolute clarity. And the stirring, stimulating, even startling power of the gospel brings us face-to-face with Jesus, who catches the sparrow on its way down; who holds our eye and our heart with ferocious love; whose love just won’t let us go, no matter what might come or has come or is about to come.

In the thick of our lives and in the pit of our stomach we know, O God, that you are there. You ask us to trust you with an unwavering trust, and you are worthy, completely worth of our trust. No matter what the cost, not matter how uncertain we are, you ask that we give our lives to you so you can turn us around to find you. Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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