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?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people.

That Lived-In Feeling


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 108; 150; Jeremiah 44:15-30; Acts 18:24-19:7; Luke 10:25-37

What if cleanliness really isn’t next to Godliness?

Jesus once told a parable about an unclean spirit which had departed from a person and wandered aimlessly for a while, only to return and find its old abode as accommodating as  an empty house, all swept and orderly. Of course it moved back in, and brought friends with it so that the home – the person – was worse off than before.

Maybe the word we’re looking FOR isn’t cleanliness so much as … tidiness.

This parable can be read on different levels. One is the danger of believing that once we’ve solved a spiritual problem, we are out of danger. Relapses – addictive, behavioral, or otherwise – occur when we stop being vigilant. When we’ve created chaos in the life of ourselves or someone else, regaining order is an important step, but it’s the beginning, not the end. Order not put to a purpose is like an uninhabited house; it will fill up with something, so we better pay attention to what that something is or we end up with unwelcome guests. Think of the “dry drunk” home, where the shelves have been cleared of liquor bottles, but dysfunctions both new and ongoing fill the space.

On another level, it is about the hollowness of order in the institutional church. The religious leaders kept the house of the Lord tidy by enforcing the letter of the law, but neglected the spirit. Demons of apathy took up residence. A church that deals with our sinful nature by prioritizing orderliness above wholeness may glitter like a gem, yet it’s not welcoming to those who need it most but can’t meet its superficial standards. Its rituals and sacrifices are like a stench before the Lord, who asks us to take in the unwashed beggar, the wailing widow, and the unruly orphan – and that’s going to be untidy no matter how much plastic is on the furniture. Our kitchens will fill with dirty dishes. Shoes will pile up in the doorway. They are not the disruption, but the mission. Together we learn to find a home for all of it in God’s house.

A house is designed to be inhabited, otherwise it’s just a shrine to a life that was. Shrines contain history; we worship a God who is present and living.

Comfort: Some of that messiness in your life is actually holy.

Challenge: If you are prone to clutter, create a little more order. If you have a place for everything and everything in its place, commit those things to a purpose.

Prayer: For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

Discussion: What distinguishes a holy mess from mere clutter? Which are you prone to?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!