The ‘too hard’ basket?

Signpost Sunday 8 Sept 23rd Sunday Ordinary time: Jer 18:1-11; Ps 139: 1-6 & 13-18; Philemon: 1-21; Luke 14: 25-33.

What do you do about the difficult bits in the Bible? Are your difficult bits my difficult bits? Would they have seemed as difficult 2,500 or more years ago as they seem today?

Luke 14: 26 seems a very harsh to me. Years ago I was so newly in love with my young bride that I thought Jesus was being completely unreasonable. I am still in love with her and as a 21st century person I still don’t like it. But since then I have found a couple of different ways of looking at that verse. One, surprisingly, came my way as a result of my work in advertising.

In 1913 Ernest Shackleton is said to have run this ad in the Times of London: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”

That ad has been called one the best ads ever written. That’s because its direct honesty does two things. First it makes sure no wimps or glory seekers turn up. Second it asks people to follow a straight talking, courageous leader on a dangerous journey to the South Pole.

So maybe Luke 14:26 is not telling you and me to abandon or hate our loved ones. Maybe it’s Jesus asking people to follow him on a terrible but magnificent journey. Tom Wright in ‘Luke for Everyone’ thinks so. He could be right, in fact as well as in name.

Then again, every first century Jew knew Deut. 6:5 of by heart and Jesus told the Pharisees how important it was (Matt 22: 36-37); as if they didn’t know. Now, I bet there were a few Pharisees and Sadducees amongst that big crowd in Luke 14:25. So maybe Luke 14:26 is Jesus saying to them especially, “Do you really know what the first and greatest commandment entails? It sure as heck isn’t about ritual washing.”

Paul

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