We Mean Well… (01.21.2017)

Scripture Readings

Today’s Gospel is one of the shorter readings upon which we reflect.  It is a mere two verses.  Though these two verses contain a fascinating scene.  Jesus’ relatives deem him insane and seek to seize him.  Whoa, what is going on here?  I think it is a case of meaning well but having no idea.

Seizing a family member that you have collectively diagnosed as unstable might not sound like the definition of ‘meaning well’ but we should consider the circumstances.  Jesus is a Jew in Roman occupied Palestine.  He is contending with the Sadducees.  He is parrying the Pharisees.  And from the Roman’s perspective, He is amassing large followings with all of His “kingdom” talk.  He hasn’t gone out of his way to ensure that He has a stamp of approval from the establishment.  Then He shows up near home and His crowd is so massive that the people in the house can’t even eat.  To His relatives this might look like the work of a man who is trying to get Himself killed.  In turn, seizing Him might just be a way to keep Him safe.

However, I don’t think they get it.  They don’t get that He is doing ministry with the cross in mind.  He is radically available and so attractive to those in need because He is coming to them with one eye on His own hour of abject need.  All of His ministry is done under the shadow of the cross.  Not in the sense that His ministry has some defeatist attitude to it.  Rather, it is done in the freedom of His complete self-emptying.

The catch for us, the difficult catch, is that He calls us to that as well.  He calls us to live from the cross.  St. Paul in his letter to the Romans reminds us that in our baptism we were baptized into His death.  That we may rise with Him, yes, but we are already dead.  Jesus calls us to something similar with His words, “Whoever saves His life will lose it and whoever loses His life will save it.”  Christ has called us all to live under the freedom that flows from His cross.  The freedom that “cleanse[s] our consciences from dead works to worship the living God” as the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us.

However sometimes we don’t get it.  Sometimes, we think Jesus might be going just a little too far.  And we seize Him and put Him away for a little while.  I think we mean well.  It’s just what He is suggesting sounds ludicrous.  He must be insane, right?

Today, be open to letting go of Jesus in an area of your life where you thought He was just a little too insane for what you were ready for.  Don’t seize Him.  Instead, let Him seize you.


Litany of Discipleship

Son of David…                                                                         Have mercy on us
Son of Mary…                                                                          Have mercy on us
Son of Man…                                                                           Have mercy on us

Father of Mercies…                                                               Draw us to your Son
Lover of the poor…                                                                Draw us to your Son
Our Father…                                                                            Draw us to your Son
Who art in Heaven…                                                             Draw us to your Son
Whose kingdom comes…                                                    Draw us to your Son
Whose will is done…                                                             Draw us to your Son

Jesus, I believe…                                                                      Help my unbelief
That you are the Messiah and the Lord…                        Help my unbelief
That you are the Son of God…                                             Help my unbelief
That you are the Face of the Father’s mercy…               Help my unbelief
That you sit with tax collectors and sinners…               Help my unbelief
That you sit with Pharisees and hypocrites…                Help my unbelief
That you call me to be a disciple…                                    Help my unbelief

The grace to be poor in spirit and to mourn…               Grant it, O Jesus.
The grace to be meek and to hunger and thirst for righteousness…
 t                                                                                                   Grant it, O Jesus.
The grace to be merciful and clean of heart…               Grant it, O Jesus.
The grace to be peacemakers…                                          Grant it, O Jesus.
That if we are persecuted, it is for the sake of righteousness…
t                                                                                                    Grant it, O Jesus.
That if we are slandered, it is falsely because of you…
 t                                                                                                    Grant it, O Jesus.
To be the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World…
t                                                                                                  Grant it, O Jesus.
The desire to reconcile with our brothers and sisters…
.                                                                                                      Grant it, O Jesus.
The grace to avoid lust and other sins of the heart…  Grant it, O Jesus.
The courage to let go of what draws us into sin…        Grant it, O Jesus.
The strength to never break covenants…                       Grant it, O Jesus.
The integrity for our yes to mean yes and our no, no…
.                                                                                                      Grant it, O Jesus.
The trust in the Lord and gentleness to turn from vengeance…
.                                                                                                      Grant it, O Jesus.
The mercy to love our enemies…                                       Grant it, O Jesus.
The conviction to pray for and bless our foes…            Grant it, O Jesus.
The honesty to be a disciple in private as well as in public…
.                                                                                                      Grant it, O Jesus.
The piety to pray from our heart, not merely our lips…
.                                                                                                     Grant it, O Jesus.
The grace to rely on the Lord for our Daily Bread…     Grant it, O Jesus.
The grace to forgive others…                                              Grant it, O Jesus.
Deliverance from temptation…                                         Grant it, O Jesus.
Deliverance from the Adversary and his work…          Grant it, O Jesus.
The grace to fast with joy…                                                 Grant it, O Jesus.
The wisdom to recognize true worth…                            Grant it, O Jesus.
The grace to serve God and not mammon…                  Grant it, O Jesus.
The Faith, Hope, and Love to always seek first the Kingdom of God
  .                                                                                                    Grant it, O Jesus.
The humility to not judge as God…                                    Grant it, O Jesus.
The grace to do unto others what we would have them do to us…
.                                                                                                    Grant it, O Jesus.
The perseverance to enter through the narrow gate…Grant it, O Jesus.
The eyes to discern good and bad fruit…                           Grant it, O Jesus.
The gift of knowing you when we come to the Kingdom of heaven…
.                                                                                                     Grant it, O Jesus.
The ears to hear your words and act upon them…          Grant it, O Jesus.
The wisdom to build our foundation on Solid Rock…    Grant it, O Jesus.
That we may never cease to be astonished by you…      Grant it, O Jesus.
That we may take up our cross and follow you…             Grant it, O Jesus.

Holy Spirit, Ruah of God…                                                     Send us.
Our Advocate and Consoler…                                               Send us.
Soul of the Church…                                                                Send us.
Fire of Pentecost…                                                                    Send us.
Spirit of rebirth…                                                                      Send us.
Spirit of Peace…                                                                         Send us.

Mary, model of disciples…                                                     Pray for us
St. Simeon and St. Anna, expectant disciples…             Pray for us
St. John the Baptist, herald of the Master…                    Pray for us
Sts. Peter, James, and John…                                                Pray for us
All the Apostles…                                                                     Pray for us
St. Mary Magdalene…                                                             Pray for us
All you disciples and saints who have gone to rest…    Pray for us

© Spencer Hargadon, 02.19.2016

Temptations of a Heady Christian – Stalkership

As a heady Christian, I know what discipleship is.  I know that discipleship is essential to living the Christian life.  I know that I want to be a disciple.  But….  my headiness tempts me to be more stalker or biographer than a disciple.

Us heady Christians, we like to know things.  Things are simple.  We like to think that if I know things about someone, it is like knowing them.  So we know all about the Christological doctrines, we know lots of things that Christ said, miracles he performed, and scandals he caused.

We are like the teen that thinks they love someone because they know everything about them.  The problem is, that doesn’t mean they know them or are known by them.

The temptation of the heady Christian is to follow Christ around instead of actually following him as a disciple.  It is to learn about him, instead of learning from him.  It is to believe that knowledge of is equal to intimacy with.  It is to put the cart before the horse.  All of the things the heady Christian wants, knowledge, lessons, comprehension of doctrines, good theology, etc. are good!!!  But they can be obtained without intimacy or develop with intimacy.  However, intimacy can never be generated by having a stalker’s knowledge of someone.

To capture this heady Christian temptation, I want to rephrase a passage from the Gospels.  It is Matthew 7:21-23.  Here is its correct rendering:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.’

Here is how I want to adjust it a little:

Not everyone who knows to call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who lived with me as Lord.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, I know everything about you.  I’m your biggest fan.  I can tell you how all your apostles died, and even the alternate theories.  And your mom, I can tell you so much about your mom.  If you want I can recite the creed.  Or I can tell you what you said in the sermon on the mount.  Did I not memorize all the most important proof texts?  Did I not quote all the suffering verses when someone came to me seeking compassion?  Did I not learn how to define hypostatic union? Did you know I can prove your existence to you without even using the Bible?’ Then I will look at them sideways and say, ‘Dude, I’ve never met you before… you’re kind of creeping me out here.’

Obviously, I’m not saying we heady Christians aren’t actually Christians.  But I am saying, sometimes we are better at telling someone else the myriad of ways they can encounter Christ than we are at actually encountering Him, because we like to keep Him under our microscope.

Get Off the Boat

14-interesting-facts-about-harry-potter-and-the-chamber-of-secrets-906403The Lord tells us in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who mourn.”  It is a weird one I know.  We expect peacemakers and the pure of heart, but does Jesus seriously want us to be Moaning Myrtle over here?  Not according to Bishop Robert Barron.  Bishop Barron offers this interpretation, “How blessed you are if you are not addicted to good feelings and pleasant sensations.”  This addiction is obvious in the reckless pursuit of good feelings through so many methods.  However, this addiction is in the Church as well.  It is in our ministries, retreats, and youth conferences.

See, we go to our Encoutners and Steubenvilles; our NCYCs and Mission Trips and we encounter the Lord in a way that astonishes us.  It floors us and blows us away.  And we, rightfully so, mourn our sinfulness as we come face to face with the Living God.  This moment of conversion, this moment of metanoia is powerful and hugely emotional and that can be so good!  But grace is first a spiritual reality, not an emotional response.  We might know this intellectually, but the temptation to doubt grace when emotion is absent is real.

In my own life, I’ve wondered what’s wrong when adoration doesn’t bring me to tears.  I have had countless conversations with teens who want to know, “What if I don’t feel anything?”  This is why Christ tells us blessed are those who mourn, so that we don’t confuse Him with a feeling.

Notice the parallel in this gospel passage:

[Jesus] said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”  Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”  When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.  They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking.  When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him (Luke 5:3-9).

The Apostles experienced this radical, world-changing man.  It is more than the experience, though.  What they did next is so significant:

Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him (Luke 5:10b-11).

They got off the boat.

We cannot be disciples if we remain addicted to the sensation of being saved.  Certainly, we need the experience of being saved, but it needs to flow into us living from that salvation.  When we become addicted to the sensation we never get off the boat.  We stay there waiting for Christ to show up again and send us crashing to our knees.  He doesn’t want us to stay on our knees, but wants to raise us to our feet so we can follow him.  Please, partake in youth conferences, retreats, and mission trips, but do not forget to follow the Lord off the boat.

QotD – Cheap or Costly Grace – 2.16.2016

“The world finds a cheap covering for its sin; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin.  Cheap Grace therefore amounts to … a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God. … Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. … [Cheap grace is] the grace that we bestow ourselves … [Costly grace is] the treasure hidden in the field … the pearl of great price … the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knockSuch grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. … Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son … and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.  Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The Cost of Discipleship. 46-48).


Scripture Readings for January 23, 2016

Today’s gospel passage captures one third of something called Lewis’ Trilemma.  Here is how Lewis describes it:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. … Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.  (Mere Christianity 56)

This is commonly represented as “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord.”  The goal today is not to discuss all of the flaws or merits of his argument, but to draw from it the startling connection in Mark today.  Continue reading “Radical”

Discipleship: All-in or Fold?

Jesus confuses me sometimes.  At times in the Gospels He tells us to love our enemies and then here in today’s Gospel he tells us to hate our loved ones and even ourselves (which doesn’t seem to bode well for love your neighbor as yourself).  What’s the deal, Jesus?

The deal is two things: how do we define hate and the larger picture is what Jesus is saying about discipleship.

Concerning hate, we should be careful reading it as we commonly use it.  There are certainly times hate means loathe, abhor, etc, but those are instances like “God hates sin.”  However, in today’s Gospel Christ implicitly sets hate in contrast with love for Him.  This distinction is common in Scripture.  When Scripture presents  hate and love in a compare and contrast relationship we should hear preference and priority, not revilement.  Thus, Jesus is not commanding us to despise our family, but to love Jesus the most.

We should not assume that this clarification in language somehow lessens the force of this passage.  This is still a heavy passage on discipleship. Christ clearly tells us that discipleship is an all or nothing affair.  We need to be all-in or we will be a laughing stock or worse a defeated King whose loss impacted countless others because we became a discredit to the Gospel.  With discipleship, when it comes time to ante, you have two calls, all-in or fold.

Practically what does this mean?  Among others, I think Christ is trying to tell us that the response to discipleship requires discernment and a penetrating prayer life that can reveal to us our attachments that are going to threaten our discipleship.  Without seeing them we become the ill-equipped builder or the outnumbered king, but when we know them and recognize them, they  become a part of the cross we bear.  A cross that we share with the Lord.  This is healthy for Ignatius and Hosanna were God’s children before they were mine and Bess’ truest lover is always Christ before me.  To love Christ before all else prevents me from usurping his place in the lives of those I love.