Friday, July 5, 2013

Doing the Impossible

For some reason, this whole keeping-up-with-my-blog thing is not going too well this month. So in the interest of keeping some kind of pulse, I'm going to share a post I wrote for our church this past week. It's a little different than the style I usually write for this blog, but it still fits the overall theme of "what Jesus has to do with everything":

Having grown up in an age of democracy, it always surprises me that Jesus did not try to convince people to follow Him. In fact, Sunday's gospel reading shows us that His approach was almost the opposite: when people expressed their desire to follow Him, Jesus said things like, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.” It is as if He wanted to be very clear about what they were signing up for, and how difficult it would be. Our pastor summarized it well by saying, “The only way to enter the Kingdom of God is without conditions.” Jesus makes no “campaign promises;” we can’t follow Him in order to get ____________ (fill in the blank) or as long as ____________ (fill in the blank). He does not offer a formula, only Himself.  

The gospel is clear: Jesus is not a means to an end. We are called to follow Him for His own sake, not because of what we think He will give us. And we are called to follow Him without “looking back.” St. Augustine realized this, which is why he prayed, “Lord make me holy, just not yet.” There’s something right about this prayer—following Christ means choosing Him above all other loves!—and yet, the beauty of the Christian life is that we are not left to muster up the strength to do it on our own.

Think of the story of Lazarus. After being dead for days, Jesus approached his grave and told him to arise. He literally commanded the impossible. And yet, “nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) Against all odds, Lazarus obeyed: he walked out of his own tomb! But the strength to do so did not come from Lazarus-- he didn’t simply will himself to become alive again. On the contrary: with the command of God also came the power of God.

Jesus is in the business of commanding the impossible. In the gospel, He commands us to follow Him, no matter what. If we’re honest, that is about as crazy as telling someone to “come forth” out of their own tomb.  However, with the command of God comes the power of God. So if you hear Jesus’ call to follow Him without “looking back”— to enter His Kingdom with no conditions—and you feel that you’re not quite able, don’t despair. There is help for you. The power that accompanies the command is strong enough to overcome any addiction, fear, idolatry, ambivalence; strong enough to overcome death itself.

When you think about following Jesus, what conditions are you tempted to make? "As long as ________, or in order to ________." What about following Him feels impossible to you right now?

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