“A disciple is not above the teacher nor a slave above the master;it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
Whom to Fear
“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered and nothing secret that will not become known.What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.And even the hairs of your head are all counted.So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
“Everyone, therefore, who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven,but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
Not Peace, but a Sword
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law,and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
When I was in seminary I took a 3 week class called the Civil Rights Pilgrimage. It was led by Pr Robert Graetz, author of the book A White Preacher’s Memoir, who has now passed away. His first call out of seminary was to Montgomery, AL about a year before the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He marched with Dr King several times and he played cards with Dr. King in the courthouse when he was brought before the courts.
The class went with Pr Graetz to the opening of the Rosa Parks Civil Rights Museum in Montgomery, AL where we had the opportunity to meet Ms. Parks herself before she passed away.
It was incredible and powerful trip from Ebenezer Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL to walking the bridge in Selma, AL to the Tuskegee Institute in MS to the place Dr King was assassinated in Memphis, TN. One stop after another Pr Bob was our guide in this walk through of history as we learned from a man who was there through it all.
Along the way he told us story after story of the way Dr. King was his guide, and many other people’s guide, about what to expect and how to respond.
Having a guide to help you know what you’re getting into, particularly when something that is new or strange, is profoundly important. In this week’s lectionary lessons, we have examples of undertaking a difficult new task with and without a seasoned guide to explain the process.
In Jeremiah, we have the cry of a young spiritual leader who faced all the issues that typically cause pastors and deacons to burn out. Jeremiah felt a loss of purpose, as if he was being persuaded against his will into a call that he didn’t choose. When his unpopular message got a poor reception, he became isolated. Jeremiah faced such social disgrace that he became a laughingstock and target of taunting and derision. Even Jeremiah’s friends waited for him to fail and plotted against him. He was alone, discouraged and persecuted for speaking the word that God had given to him.
I wish I could say there was an abrupt turnaround and Jeremiah found happiness in ministry. This week’s reading does end on an assurance of salvation and praise for God. But then the next verse after the lectionary texts has Jeremiah cursing the day he was born. Jeremiah faced all kinds of difficulty during his ministry, including being thrown into prison, kidnapped and smuggled to Egypt, where he died. The prophet was faithful until the end, but he was also lonely and seemingly frequently confused by what was happening to him. Jeremiah didn’t have a human guide to accompany him.
In the Gospel lesson, Jesus doesn’t want his disciples to be confused or unaware about what happens to folks who speak for God. In the long speech to his disciples, as he prepares to send them off to let people know about the Kingdom of God, he points out that they might receive a warm welcome in some towns but there will also be situations in which they would face persecution. They shouldn’t be surprised at all. If people were going to say bad things about Jesus, what would they say about his disciples?
Jesus insists that nothing can or should be hidden because God knows, loves and protects them. At the same time, he mentions the very real threat of physical persecution that they would all face. Do you know how many of the 12 disciples escaped a violent death? 1, 1 of the 12!
After warning his disciples and telling them what they were up against, Jesus lays out the choice they will face in their difficult ministries. It is good and beautiful to confess Jesus, and painfully sad to deny him.
So Jesus being the disciples guide reminded me of the Civil Rights trip. As Pr Bob was telling us what Dr. King had trained him and others, he was guiding us in how we can make decisions in our life too. When we tried to tell him racism was behind us, he began to tell us about systemic racism from bus routes being redesigned to building interstates to separating black communities because they were getting too big (and that was just in Columbus.)
Then Pr Bob made it little more personal when talking about his son who was gay and the difficulties of people in the LGBTQIA+ community. He talked about how his guidance from Dr. King helped him guide his son with his attitude and actions in Pride Marches and other events.
Fast forward about two decades. My sister, brother-in-law and niece had gone and marched in a Pride parade. So they have their pride clothes on and go into a restaurant, that was not busy, where they waited 45 mins before leaving the restaurant because no one had waited on them yet. This was like 20 yrs after Pr Bob told us about the issues his son was facing and this kind of discrimination was still happening.
As this month has been Pride month, I have thought a lot about my privilege as a white, heterosexual male and all that affords me in my life. I think about all the LGBTQIA+ people who, like Jeremiah, don’t have guides through all their trials and tribulations in life. Even the people who have guides in their lives, like the disciples had with Jesus, they still live an up hill battle because of who they love. Another part of society that is being discriminated against in 2023, that most of us don’t realize because it doesn’t affect us personally.
I have said before whenever any part of our community is being discriminated against, then our world is not complete the way God intends. Well this week isn’t any different.
It is frequently difficult to know the right thing to do. This is true even when we sense God’s call but don’t have clarity for where that call might be leading. Jesus is a good and faithful guide. Following Jesus is anything but safe and easy. But Jesus is trustworthy to show us the true path forward.