let your face shine,
that we may be saved.
They are poised to cross over the Jordan into the land promised by them. Compare this crossing with the one that took them from captivity in Egypt into their long testing in the wilderness (Exodus 14).
As Pharaoh's army had drawn near, the people had been afraid. The Lord instructed Moses what to do. The Lord sent a strong wind to make a path through the sea so the Israelites could cross over on dry ground.
Now, forty years later, Moses has died, and Joshua is their appointed leader. He also receives instructions from the Lord. Once again the waters are divided, and the people can cross.
What is different is that on this crossing, the priests and the ark of the covenant are part of the story. Also different is that this time is that they are not just one group; they are twelve tribes.
The priests go first with the ark. As their feet enter the river, the waters begin to separate.
Imagine being one of the priests and stepping into the rushing water. When the people saw the water piling up, they then stepped into the path. Imagine being able to trust that the danger would wait for you to make your way across.
They had the ark to hold. What are we holding to remind us of God's commands and help?
How many poor people did you invite to share a meal with you at your church? Could a crippled person easily get into your building? Could a blind person find the sanctuary, the Sunday School room, the bathroom?
As we answer these questions, let us remember what else Jesus said that day: You will be blessed because they cannot repay you.
Those of us who are used to thinking of the term "Family Values" to be synonymous with Christian Values may have struggled with this particular passage. Is Jesus really telling us that we have to hate our families and to leave them behind if we want to join the church? Not a message I see being lived out by the churches I am familiar with.
Just about as troubling is the requirement to halt needed work like foundation building or to begin projects without considering what resources are necessary.
So, once again I am grateful to Ronald Allen & Clark Williamson who wrote a lectionary commentary called Preaching the Gospel without Blaming the Jews.
Early Christians would have found these commands difficult as well since rabbinic Judaism has no instructions to hate family. To help us to interpret what Jesus is saying to us, Allen & Williamson suggest we need to put the passage in context. Jesus had just told a parable about a man who invited a lot of people to dinner and they were too busy with their own lives to show up.
The banquet is the kingdom. The excuses represent the kinds of ties that people have--to real estate, to work, and to family--ties that keep us from giving our ultimate commitment to the work of God in the world. .... Jesus' teaching about hating our loved ones is not recommending that we feel hatred for them....It is about choices, decisions.
More from Allen & Williamson:
The language is hyperbolic. We are to have a relative love for the relative and an ultimate love ... for God and God's kingdom.... We are to assess critically whether we can finish what we start, whether we can stay the course of discipleship. Can we make the commitment to peace, justice, economic sufficiency for all, and respect for the well-being of the stranger that commitment to the kingdom and following Jesus entail?Psalm 80:1-19
Prayer for Today: Lord, forgive us for those times that we have not followed you, those times that we have forgotten what we are capable of doing for you, those times that we were distracted from your will. Amen.