Lectionary Text for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost:
Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 1; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33
Deuteronomy 30:15-20: “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
Luke 14:25-33: “Now large crowds were travelling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost Comment: In both texts we are presented with what I want to call the “Passionate Extremes.” They are life and death, blessings and cursings, prosperity and adversity. The audiences to whom these texts were addressed lived in desert conditions and learned how to survive the extreme heat of the day and the freezing temperatures at night. The farmer chose for obvious reasons, to plant during the season of plentiful rain, knowing a time of drought would come. Priorities were set based upon extremes.
In both texts, the culture and its language that produced these “Passionate Extremes” are called Oriental/Semitic. John Calvin comments, The orientals use strong language where cooler spirits would speak of preference or indifference.” (Christian Classics Ethereal Library) I think Calvin would call us, in our post-modern world and non-Christian country “cooler spirits.” We find comfort in relative terms like preference as it reflects many choices. Look at our supermarkets. We also like the word indifference, as if a choice made from this perspective has no consequence. However, I have heard people say, “The doctor warned me that if I drank one more drink or didn’t stop smoking immediately, I would die.” I heard this when these individuals were in the terminal stages of their diseases. We also like words like perhaps or maybe, which I think diminish passion and urgency.
In Deuteronomy 30, Moses is preparing a people to cross the Jordan River into Canaan, the land God promised to give them. It was the end of a forty year journey for a generation who did not experience the Exodus. However, during those years they came to understand the physical “Passionate Extremes.”
Moses is now giving them a philosophy of life of “Passionate Extremes.” It based on a theology of God who is the creator of the world and promise keeper, the God of their ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “Choose life and prosperity,” says Moses and it comes when you follow God’s laws. Study and learn and incorporate God’s laws into every aspect of your life and you will live. Conversely, Moses says, death is the alternative.
What Moses didn’t know was that in a “few” millennia later a man by the name of Ignatius of Layola would give names to the emotions of choosing life and death. He taught that when we choose life we would feel consolation and when we chose death, we would feel desolation.
Love and hate is the emotional language of the “Passionate Extremes” that Jesus uses in Luke 14. We are not called to “hate” our families, but we are called to understand the cost of discipleship. Following God’s law fulfilled in Jesus Christ sometimes presents us with choices that go against opinions of family and friends. Discipleship is a life-long commitment. It begins with the attitude that accepts the reality of tension and struggle between “Passionate Extremes.” This attitude, which teaches us to choose life is created and nurtured in intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Because Jesus understood the cost of discipleship, he made this promise, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
Called to Extraordinary Discipleship even in Ordinary Times,
©August 22, 2010
Return from Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost to Inspirational Devotions.Return from Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost to Journey-through-Grief homepage