The good news is that soon there will be an Associate Rector here at Christ Church. The bad news is that she won’t arrive in time to preach this Sunday’s really difficult Gospel lesson. I should have looked at the Lectionary more closely while negotiating her start date. Yesterday, I was able to use our Vacation Bible School curriculum to deftly avoid the whole “Go nowhere among the Gentiles” and everybody’s Father’s Day favorite “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.” It seems that this Sunday, I’m stuck preaching the hard stuff.
I suppose you can’t blame me, though, for looking for some wiggle room in Jesus’ continued difficult teaching to the disciples turned Apostles who are preparing for their first missionary journey. To be fair, Jesus is doing exactly what any good leader should be doing. He is preparing his disciples for the hardship they are going to experience. Certainly, they have seen the mixed reaction to Jesus during their time with him. Only a fool would think that taking his message out would mean being welcomed with open arms and joyful acceptance. Still, rather than sending them out with false hope, Jesus offers a clear warning that the message of the Kingdom of God is going to be unpopular with some; and that difficultly might start in one’s own family.
Like a college student selling Cutco knives, the disciples would logically begin their evangelistic tour with family members. It would make sense that one’s family, those who have seen what a difference Jesus made in their life, would be open to the Good News of God’s saving love in Christ. However, like the Cutco knife example, there are likely just as many hard feelings and a begrudging sense of obligation. These disciples had dropped everything to follow Jesus. Imagine being Peter’s wife’s family. Sure, Jesus had healed their matriarch, but what about the wife (and children?) left behind that they had to take care of. Or, what about the other son’s of Zebedee? Losing two members of the family fishing crew couldn’t have been an easy thing to overcome. Even Matthew, the “author” of this Gospel, must have worried about how he might go home to a family that was no longer able to live comfortably off his tax collections.
It is no wonder that Jesus spent so much of this time dealing with family dynamics. Surely, he knew how difficult it would be for the twelve to share with family the story of God’s Kingdom when it seemed like it had left them all behind. Now, how does this preach in 21st century America when the more likely version of this story is the children of devout church members who will never darken the door of a church again? I’m still working that out. Like I said, I’m looking for some wiggle room this week. Unfortunately, I’ve not found it yet.