Reflections for the Week of July 31, 2016 Eleventh after Pentecost

Gospel: Luke 12.13-21. This text begins with a man asking Jesus to intervene for him in a property dispute with his brother. Then Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool, a farmer who had so much grain that he was thinking about tearing down his barns and building bigger ones, and he said to himself that he was so well-off that he could relax, eat, drink, and be merry. But God called him a fool and said that he would die that evening. The unsaid punch line is: “Then what?”.

It seems that this teaching is all about property, wealth, possessions, and their role in one’s life. But in another sense perhaps the text is raising the question ‘what do we want?’ or ‘what is our goal in life?’ Common goals are success, happiness, security, comfort, wealth (like the rich fool in the parable), fame, power, or pleasure. Scripture and Jesus, I believe, are all about having a loving relationship with God and our neighbor. Man was created in Paradise with God and then fell or was thrown out into a world of thorns and thistles not knowing why he was put there or what he was supposed to do. This is our predicament. It is the human condition. So what are we supposed to do? What should  our goal be? Scripture is all about God’s work to restore us to our relationship with Him. That’s why He called on Abram (Gen 12, 15, 17, 21 and passim), chose Israel, gave the Law, sent the prophets, and finally sent His Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. Jesus, God Incarnate, reveals God the Father to us, died to take away our sins so that faith in Him would justify us, atone for us, reconcile us to God, and send the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. But that is just the beginning! Jesus said the summary of the Law is to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourself. We learn to love God by availing ourselves of the means of grace: church, Scripture, prayer, Christian fellowship, the sacraments. But Jesus did something else in His work to restore people to God: He made disciples and discipled them for about three years. People are created to be in relationship with God and with one another. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone”. But many have poor relationships with spouses, family, colleagues, and people in general. Many are isolated, lonely, and don’t have good relationships with other people. Discipleship groups can fulfill a vital function in our Christian lives by giving a small group (three or four people of the same gender) the opportunity to meet together weekly and share their lives in a Christian setting devoted to following Christ. This is what church is meant to be about. Relationship with God and with others is a basic human need that we all have. Loving relationship is the goal of life; the purpose for which we were put here in the first place. A small spiritual community of disciples, committed to sharing with one another their journey to Christ fulfills a basic human need for fellowship, relationship, community, companionship, loving others, and coming to find a safe place where one can be intimate with others in safety, honesty, and love. It is a place to learn to trust others, to listen, to grow, to forgive, to die to self, and to support one another in their walk with the Lord. The Holy Spirit will be present and will transform the disciples as they share their lives in Christ. Such groups are not an option but a necessity for those who are serious about their Christian walk. Jesus said He is the Way, and He modeled this by having disciples. He wants us to follow Him in this path. Is this kind of spiritual community easy? No, but it is worth the trouble. Discipleship is learning to follow Jesus with others. This is the goal.

Memory Verse: Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Mt 16.24,25).