Introduction to the readings for Father’s Day, June 19, 2016

Bruce Herzer

If this morning’s readings sound familiar, its because very similar words appear in all four of the canonical gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.   

This morning though we are privileged to hear the words coming to us from the gospel according to Luke. 

Picture yourself, gathered then, with the faithful disciples in a set apart time and place.  Maybe it’s a place of much needed retreat after all the all the movement around the region, a time of rest in the midst of the growing momentum based on hope.  Maybe it’s a chance to pause and regroup after finding yourself being immersed in the thronging crowds seeking access to Jesus and his ministries of teaching, healing, prophecy, and hospitality.

Here, sandwiched between the stories of the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountaintop, we encounter Jesus and his disciples in deep and meaningful conversation. 

The focus of their conversation?  Awareness and recognition of Jesus’ identity and the inherent costs in saying ‘yes’ to all of it.

As I approached the reading this week, through the lens of it also being Father's Day, I was struck by the weight of Jesus' message to his disciples, and how this mirrors the many difficult moments parents face in helping their children come to learn profound and uncomfortable truths about life.  In my own family, my little one has already asked me about why people do bad things, and why everyone is dies. 

Hearing the answers are tough, paradigm-shaking moments of irrecoverable loss of innocence in our lives, some of which live seared into our memories forever.  I tried to imagine how the disciples would have experienced this.  They were in the middle of a truly surreal experience, probably feeling giddy wonder at what they were part of.  They had witnessed miracles, and were at the forefront of the emergence of an earth shaking political and social movement.  Their messiah had come -- what amazing new wonders were ahead? 

And then a straightforward, honest, numbing message from Jesus:

Things are not going to be as you expect.  We are not there yet. The path ahead for you and me is not glamorous. It will be filled with suffering, rejection and death. 

This is the sort of truth that when you hear it drains the smile from your face and sends your heart to the pit of your stomach.

But it was a truth he had to tell them.  It can't have been easy for any of them, maybe he was secretly dreading the day he'd have to tell them.  How did he approach it?  By engaging them with a question.  Asking them to first reflect on their views and the views of others.

Listen with care to your own thoughts and feelings as they emerge in response to these stories from scripture. 

Consider how God’s word in Luke’s gospel might be shifting or moving something in your own awareness of Jesus and your own call and commitment to the costs of discipleship here and now.

Reading from the New Standard Revised version of the gospel according to Luke, Chapter 8, verses 18-24, we begin with ‘Peter’s Confession’

“Once, when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”

They answered: “John, the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” 

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered: “The Messiah of God”.

He sternly ordered them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Moving on, we hear how Jesus describes ‘The Nature of Discipleship’:

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

For the word of God in scripture, for the word of God among us, for the word of God within us, thanks be to God!