In this week’s Gospel, three enthusiastic people approach Jesus on the road to Jerusalem each expressing desire to become part of his movement. He surprises them…and us…with some rather unwelcoming language. To the first, Jesus tells him that life as a follower will be difficult as Jesus has no place to call home. To the second, Jesus says I won’t wait for you if you’d rather go to a funeral then go with me. To the third, Jesus expresses impatience with the man’s desire to bid farewell to his family.
These are hard teachings, and they don’t seem conducive to building a community devoted to the Kingdom of God. Still, to understand the totality of life under the Gospel, Jesus teaches us about commitment and single-mindedness as a way to faith.
In his most famous book, “Discipleship”, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a lot about what he termed “cheap grace” and “costly grace”. For Bonhoeffer, Jesus call to discipleship demanded something from his followers, and that was what Bonhoeffer called single-minded obedience to Jesus. The call to follow Jesus was both an unconditional offer of love and forgiveness, and a command to loyalty at the same time. These are not contingent components, nor are they somehow sequential realities. Bonhoeffer’s interpretation of Jesus’ teachings was this; that the grace of God which grants us forgiveness is also the grace of God that humbles us into obedience to Jesus Christ. When we separate the grace that grants forgiveness and deny its call to obedience, this cheapens God’s grace. Similarly, when obedience to Christ overwhelms Christ’s call to forgive, grace is also cheapened
So, Jesus’ call to forgive and to obey are both acts which together show God’s love for us. Even though the call to discipleship can seem hard at times, because it is bound together with the call of forgiveness, it is never a heavy burden. Because the call to discipleship is bound to the call to love each other, it builds faith through the formation and reconciliation of relationships. Because the call to discipleship is one that asks for single-minded devotion to the Way of Jesus Christ, it promises freedom and it promises everlasting life.
So, when we hear the apparent sarcasm of Jesus in saying “Let the dead bury the dead”, let us also hear the clear promise in the corollary “Let the living love the living”; the promise that life and love, and not death, mark the path on the Way of Jesus Christ.
Devotions for Week of June 26, 2016
Welcome to The Soul Cafe, a place for gathering, for learning and for conversation.
We invite you to join us as we study and discuss how God reveals himself to us in the Bible and in our lives.
Please read our blog, share our devotions and join the conversation.
About this website
Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.