In his sermon for Trinity Sunday, my Rector, TKT, rattled off a pretty good list of things that are mind boggling about the Christian faith. Chief among them, of course, was the Doctrine of the Trinity, but TKT must have been looking ahead a week as another example of the mind boggling nature of discipleship is losing one’s life to save it while saving one’s live only to lose it. At the very end of this Sunday’s Gospel lesson, after lots of difficult examples of the cost of discipleship, Jesus makes this famous declaration.
“Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus really is making a mind boggling claim here. He invites his followers not just to sign on to a doctrinal statement or to make vows to God and bishop, but to hand over everything. Every. Single. Thing. To be a disciple of Jesus means that you no longer possess even your own life.
Given his audience, Jesus is probably speaking both literally and metaphorically. Most of the Twelve will find themselves martyrs for the Kingdom; giving up their actual lives because of their commitment to the Good News of Jesus Christ. Clearly, Jesus has this eventuality in mind as he’s speaking, but we can’t ignore that fact that Matthew chose to keep these words from Jesus for his own community that was still developing a generation after Jesus’ own death. For the people of Matthew’s Church, the possibility of death for the Kingdom was still quite real, but there was also the realization that this Christianity thing might last a while.
It certainly wasn’t comfortable to be a Christian in the world of Matthew’s Church, but they were beginning to realize that Jesus’ call to discipleship wasn’t just a call to martyrdom. Instead, Jesus’ call is for his followers to hand over the fullness of their being for the sake of the Kingdom. Too often, this call to give up one’s life is couched in clericalism, “I gave up everything and became a priest,” but the reality is that each of us has the opportunity to live our lives for the Kingdom of God. What does it mean to be a lawyer for the sake of the Kingdom? What does it mean to be a truck driver for the sake of the Kingdom? What does it mean to be a mom for the sake of the Kingdom? A student? A doctor? A cashier? A grandfather? A lifeguard?
Giving up your life for the sake of the Kingdom isn’t easy, but the reward – having abundant life handed back to you – is so very worth it. It is so good, it boggles the mind.