Freedom Riders


Luke 14

Stained glass window at the 16th Street Baptis...

Stained glass window at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, erected in memoriam following the 1963 bombing of the church, using funds donated by the people of Wales (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

If we have made it past the saying about hating family, and survived the call to hate even our own “life” (or, perhaps, “soul” since the word means more than our physical existence), and coped with the saying about taking up the cross (the Roman instrument of torture for those who would challenge the status quo), and not shirked from the challenge to count the cost, then we have another hard word waiting for us at the end of this passage: “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

Jesus is trying to make it hard for us.  He’s also being realistic.

What we receive in Christ is nothing less than the life of the garden.  What we receive is life in communion with God.  We receive a relationship restored, a trust recreated, a perfect peace, a harmony with the source and goal of all life.  We receive the life of the age to come, the life when the lion lies down with the lamb and the veil of tears is forever lifted.

In Christ all heaven is granted to us.  We are reconciled to God.  Our rebellion has been forgiven.  Our true allegiance restored.  Our spirits healed.  Our lives made whole.  In Christ we possess already that life that is eternal, imperishable, indestructible.  We are given the Spirit of God.  We are born from above. We are washed in the water, clothed in Christ’s righteousness and fed the bread of heaven at God’s holy table.

All of which matters for all eternity, but matters not one wit to Rome or any other power that governs our daily existence.  It doesn’t stop the use of poison gas in Syria or a violent response from outside.  It doesn’t persuade Assad to have mercy on the two million refugee children or the people whose homes are being shelled.  It doesn’t stop the exploitation of workers, political corruption, or the power of the wealthy.  Life goes on.  Rome rules – and woe to those who stand in the way of empire.

Which is why the white robed martyrs are pictured beneath the altar in heaven.  Those clothed in Christ face the cross of Rome, even as Moses faced pharaoh as he called for Egypt’s repentance from slaveholding, or Jeremiah faced the wrath of the king for preaching against the royal policy of rebellion from Babylon, or John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod for opposing his incestuous marriage.

Taking up the cross is not gracefully enduring the sorrow of life’s misfortunes; it is the courage to face in love Bull Connor and his dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham.  It is the courage to protect the weak and defend the innocent.  It is the courage to welcome the stranger and feed the hungry.  It is the courage to challenge falsehood and idolatries.  It is the strength to love.

All heaven is given to us.  And all our life is asked of us.  Even our possessions.

33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

It is not possible to be attached to Jesus if you are still attached to your stuff.  Allegiance to power and privilege prevents allegiance to God’s holy and life-giving Spirit.  It’s just the way things are.  It is not possible to serve God and mammon.