Burying The Dead


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 98; 146, 1 Samuel 16:1-13a, Ephesians 3:14-21, Matthew 8:18-27

One day, when Jesus was preaching on the shore, the crowds grew so large he told them to move to the other side of the lake. One of the disciples wanted to first bury his father. Jesus replied:

“Follow me, and let the dead bury the dead.”

There are different opinions on the context and meaning of this odd phrase. One is that the man’s father was not yet dead, so the time until his burial was uncertain. Another is that “burying” him would have included acting as executor for his father’s affairs. The common theme across these theories is that to follow Christ is to pursue life, and that postponing our discipleship for the affairs of the world and tarrying among others doing the same is to wallow in death. When Christ calls we are to follow. Period.

If we are honest with ourselves, can we admit that deep down (or maybe not so deep) we know our lives will never be completely in order? Yet we use that reasoning as an excuse for putting off all kinds of things: starting families, launching new careers, jettisoning bad habits, getting in shape, going back to school, pursuing dreams, etc. We pretend there is a noble purpose of order behind our stalling tactic because it’s easier than admitting to laziness or fear. All too often the end result of our self-delusion is that we never get around to what we’d rather be doing, and our lives are still not orderly.

Your life will always be messy. There almost certainly will never be a “right time” – or even a better time – to walk away from the trappings of death and follow life. Voices – both internal and external – will tell you not to shirk your worldly responsibilities; these are the moans of ghosts who can’t move on and don’t want to be left behind and alone. Our true responsibilities are to the priorities Christ has taught us, and it is following him that makes us feel truly alive.

Christ does not cruelly demand we abandon our lives; he graciously invites us to find them.

Comfort: Christ has given you permission to let go of the things that keep you from true life.

Challenge: Egyptians pharaohs were buried with household goods, pets, servants, and even family members. They could not imagine life that didn’t look like what was actually holding them back. Pick one thing in your life that you could put down to lighten your load when following Christ. If it feels good, pick another…

Prayer: God of freedom, I will follow wherever you lead me. Amen.

Discussion: What do you need to put down before you can follow Christ unhindered? What’s stopping you?

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