Every team knows that success breeds success. That a “cup-run” increases attendances. Creates more “column inches”. Provides a feel-good factor. Uplifts and invigorates.
The football team I “support” from a distance had their glory days decades ago. Nowadays they stretch all but the die-hard’s passion as they lurch from promise to disappointment to frustration to despondency! I look at those who follow a football team that actually delivers and think how things could be – if only …
“Now large crowds were travelling with him; and he turned and said to them … “
Thank you? Well done? Let’s all get something to eat? Here’s what we will do tomorrow? The disciples and I are really proud of you – you inspire us to inspire you?
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Well really God Soft Hands Jesus! That’s a motivator if ever I heard one! Thanks a lot “God”!
And from these humble beginnings the flagellation industry was (re)born. The “Oh woe is me” Christian. The put-upon-make-great-sacrifice-weary-but-never-complaining(!)-Christian – because “God says so” …
This morning I saw “unconditional love” described in a truly weird way: “disinterested love” was the phrase used. And I thought, what is wrong with Unconditional Love? Isn’t it “obvious” enough?
“Disinterested love is love that has no regard for oneself. Is it possible to love others without seeking to be loved in return? Yes, but only when one knows at the very core of his or her being, that he or she is already loved by God.”
And I am left with this thought.
When we are so infused with “me me me”. When we are so infused with “what about me”. When we expect so much, when we are promised so much, when we live with the knowledge that we are ”worth it” … Then unconditional love … disinterested love … hate your father and mother … are all just “alternatives” intended to allow each of us to glimpse a different reality. One in which I am not the centre of the universe – in which we all are sacred – not just me. One in which there is a cost – because it’s not all always all about me. One in which others are as unique and deserving as me (even if they don’t appear to be so). A reality in which me having “loadsa stuff” will always be at the expense of someone else (usually myself and my own integrity). A reality we prefer not to examine. A reality in which we shrug our shoulders and ask “What can I do – I am just little old me?” as we carry doing what we have always done.
Because if this God stuff WAS universally attractive … where are the crowds today … this Sunday … where are the crowds travelling with Him today … ?
Washing their cars … travelling the local shopping temples … reading the voluminous Sunday papers … doing all those jobs there is no time for the rest of the week … gone fishing … still sleeping … (writing a blog post!)
And I am not talking about “church”. I am talking about following. About living. About loving unconditionally or disinterestedly … with your mum and dad NOT being the reason for behaving/excusing yourself/blaming them/using them for how they brought me up/ for being who I am because of them (I had no choice).
I am talking about love being a living breathing overwhelming no cost counted impossible to switch off inclusive of all and everywhere all the time way of living and being and just “is” … that kind of following.
The “following” because any alternative is so unappealing. The following wherein sacrifice is irrelevant because what else would I be if I was not this. The one wherein hate is NOT hate. It is simply not expecting a reward for being nice, for behaving well, for scrubbing up and fitting in. One wherein providing for mum and dad is a joy not a burden. A privilege not an obligation. Wherein there is not burden and sacrifice. Where the reality IS we are “all one of one in one”
And where I really live what it says on the tin.
Jesus did not walk among us to offer a life of frown lines. He walked among us to free us of frown lines. All that stuff we hold as important – that we strive for – all that “smoke and mirrors” stuff. The stuff we are in bondage to – imprisoned by – in servitude to “stuff”.
The stuff we think is freedom and which “is not” stuff.
Why are the crowds not following today? Why is this stuff not so obvious that we all want a piece of the action? Maybe church is one reason …
The place where we come out of the closet. Where we can dress up and be our real Christian selves. The selves we cannot be in the real world. Just for an hour or two each week. Before we hide all that away again and return to the expected cultural norms – the safe “norms” – the hard-working, striving, making good, looking after my own, getting ahead, providing for those I love, having a nice house, nice things, a nice life, being scared someone will take it from me, having to protect what is mine in this evil dog-eat-dog world … Maybe that is one reason.
BTW is it just me – or does that sound a lot like “the closet” we force others to live within because of our religious culture and biblically evidential rulings … Might that be another reason?
And maybe we love our frown lines. The “good Christian” frown lines. The ones we wear as proudly as the Pharisees wore their huge phylacteries … Could that be another reason?
Could “church” really be a reason?
Because I see the offering plate and the prayers offered over it: “We give You our money (a little – just enough – what I can afford – what I think I should) and ask that You use it to further Your kingdom in bringing the Good News to those yet to hear it” (or variants on that theme).
Usually soon after we have all listened to – nodded in agreement – looked righteous and content – as we hear these words: “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”
For me is it never how much.
It is the “I give You a piece of what is mine reality” – week after week. In the very place we gather to worship and praise – to be forgiven and washed clean – to be in HIS presence – to be saved – to live out our “freedom”!
Freedom from all the stuff we are in bondage to – imprisoned by – in servitude to “stuff” (as we give Him a little of what is ours).
Figuring out why the crowds aren’t following as they should … ?
It’s all so complicated!