Editor's note: We usually get the Sunday sermon posted on Sunday evening. As it was Father's Day on Sunday, Deacon Kevin had family priorities. We're happy to publish his sermons anytime, though...!
By the Reverend Kevin McGrane
There are so many things going on in today’s gospel that speak to our times that I was not sure where to begin today’s message. I did manage, though.
Think about it for a second. Jesus first addresses our essential equality as disciples and Jesus followers. There is no master/slave relationship among us. We are all, equally, loved and hated for being his disciples.
This speaks directly to the racism in our society and in our church. We are all supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ, and there is to be no caste system in our church or in our society.
Then Jesus says that the once hidden things among us will be revealed in the light of day, even in the light of faith, which speaks directly to the history of racism and violence that we have hidden for generations. And now it’s finally being revealed.
As the hidden becomes revealed, I can’t remember a time when so many statues of Confederate generals were pulled down in anger and disgust. It reminds me of the time when the Soviet Union collapsed and people pulled down giant statues of Stalin.
Jesus says we are to speak openly about many other things that are hidden, like the gospel itself, and shout it from the rooftops. Both our Presiding Bishop and our new Bishop encourage us to engage in evangelism. So, today, we shout in the streets, or the church steps, or in the halls of power today, much like shouting from the rooftops.
Jesus says he does not bring quietism or passivity to the Beloved Community, but rather conflict over who loves Jesus and who does not; who really follow Jesus and who does not.
He speaks about how this will come to divide us. Social media is full of the debates with what is authentic Christianity and what is not.
Lastly, Jesus sets out some markers of fidelity for his disciples. He says we must love him more than we love our own parents. Imagine what that must’ve sounded like to a first century people whose fourth commandment was “Honor your father and mother.”
Jesus went further and said that we should love him more than we love our own children. As a father myself, I hear this and I’m ready to close the book and set it back on the shelf. Love someone more than my own children? Wow. Happy Father’s Day.
Jesus says we are to join him on the cross, in our own way, by picking it up and carrying it every day. We are to sacrifice our very life for him.
All of these things are very difficult to hear. One person I know said it’s the stuff of a modern day cult leader. “Come follow me and drink the Kool-Aid.”
Yet, I’m going to pose something to you. I’m going to ask you to flip things around and see this as the gracious good news of Jesus Christ for all of us.
You see, the idea that anyone would surrender themselves to God, to be held accountable to God, or held accountable to God‘s beloved community, or held accountable to God holy Scriptures, is a foreign concept in current society.
It’s more important than any social position. It’s more important than any family relationship. It’s more important than our guilt or shame. It’s more important than our fears. It’s more important than our peace.
There is no ambiguity here. What we are about in our life as Jesus followers is the very reason for life itself. No half measures here. Jesus is telling us the unvarnished, in-the-raw reality of being his disciple, in an age where seldom anyone speaks with such honesty or asks this much of us. We are to love him without reserve.
As it says in the catechism of the book of common prayer, page 851. “Question: what is the new commandment? Answer: ...the new commandment is that we love one another as Christ loved us.”
“...as Christ loved us.” Christ, who loved us all the way to the cross.
I like how Eugene Peterson paraphrased the last part of today’s gospel in his book The Message. He wrote and paraphrase Jesus' statement this way: “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If you first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”
We must first love God. That is our overarching “why” about all the things we do and believe. When we place the love of God first, then we can truly love one another, and eventually love and serve the neighborhood in which we live.
Loving God first and foremost is today’s good news. A call to love God without reserve. If you want to know where the grace is in today’s Gospel passage, there it is. Amen.
The Reverend Kevin McGrane serves as a deacon in the Diocese of Missouri, and serves at St. John's.
Various members of the St. John's congregation contribute to this blog. For editorial suggestions, contact Jeff McIntire-Strasburg at firstname.lastname@example.org