Traveling Companions of the Cross
Lesson IV – What Can You Bring on the Journey
† Iesou, Huios, Soter †
May the God our Father, the God of peace make you hoy in everyway, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again!
What can I bring?
It is expected.
You may be bringing the side dish, or the desert.
Or if you are going to Dr. Chris’s you may bring a box of wine.
But we are trained to bring something with us when we go to someone else’s house.
If we are going on a long trip, we may offer to pay for the gas, or grab the snacks and drinks for the trip.
We might call it having good manners, or being raised and trained well.
Certainly the man in the parable was like us, he wanted to journey with Jesus, to be guaranteed that eternal life with God.
But he didn’t expect, and he couldn’t handle Jesus telling him he couldn’t do his fair share.
He couldn’t accept that when he asked Jesus what he could bring on the journey, Jesus’ answer was,
Nothing! Matter of fact, “go, sell everything you have, give the proceeds to the poor, and without bringing anything, “come follow me.”
We, like the man in the gospel struggle when Jesus invites us to come follow Him, and adds, leave everything behind… and I mean everything!
The problem of what we cling to… our idols
For the man, a man by all accounts righteous, what he wanted to bring along the way was his possessions. That was what he clung to, actually it was what clung to him. He wouldn’t let go, and walk with Jesus.
I hope we will….
You see, some will make this passage about the money, that we should use our money well for the kingdom. That it proves that we are responsible to use our money and all we possess to praise God. It could be our golf clubs, our sewing machines, our guitars or homes. Sell it all, give it to God. NO!
Actually God didn’t want it. Use it to help those without, set it aside. Come with me!
There is a bigger issue here. The way things control us, the way count on things to identify who we are. It might be something we possess, or it might be a talent, or our intellect. Jesus isn’t just asking the man to leave stuff behind.
Think about what Jesus asks people to leave behind in scripture.
Their jobs, and Matthew and Zaccheus left their tax tables
Their families, and Andrew, Peter, James and John left their families as they left their boats
Their nations, as Abraham, Moses, Jonah, and Paul would leave those behind
Their “rights”? a disciple follows His master… abandoning all for the honor.
And amazingly, their guilt and shame, as both David and Peter took on leadership roles they didn’t think they were qualified for,
Often how we define ourselves shows us what our idols, our false gods are. What we cling to, what we think defines us. What we cling to, what defines us in the darkness of a night…..
Hear how Luther put it
What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God?
Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
Where does your confidence lie, when all else is falling around you?
It might even be negative – that you deserve to suffer, because your are no good.
Or it might be the idea that you are a victim. That life is the way it is because you’ve been crushed by others, or attacked, or mocked.
**Whatever it is, what we define ourselves as, hints at what our gods and idols are.
They are the things that get in the way of walking with Jesus, what get in the way of our following him.
And like the man, if we are to be Christ’s, then we have to let go of that other stuff….
and walk with Christ, letting Him provide everything we are to be, to need. Letting Him show us what gets in the way of our relationship with Him, and letting him destroy those false idols, those false gods.
Come Follow Me!
That’s what we see as Jesus responds to the man,
21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Catch that first line –
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him.
Jesus didn’t see the man as too proud, too conceited. He saw a man that he loved, that Jesus came to die for, to make the man’s idyllic dream of heaven and eternity true.
In His love for the man, he saw what would stop him. The things he possessed that meant more to him, at the moment.
Jesus loved him… Jesus wanted this man to join Him. Just like Jesus wants us to join Him, to accompany Him to the Father’s side.
And Jesus would die, to show this man, and each of us, how much God treasures us. To give him a glimpse of the treasure a life lived with God is. To show him the treasure that Jesus would bring him to know.
The treasure promised in the cross, given to all who would be joined to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, that incredible mystery we proclaim in the Memorial Acclimation, that we proclaim every time we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
We don’t have to bring anything, as what we have, what we put our trust in what we depend upon doesn’t define us.
The fact that God loves us does. The fact that He loves us enough to do what it took, the cross and the grave, to make us His children.
That love defines us.
The love that says come with me. Accompany me through life unto eternity.
I love the quote that shows how we are defined, found in Paul’s words to the crowd in Athens,
as someone has said, ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ It is as some of your poets have said, ‘We too are his children.’ Acts 17:28 (TEV)
And so we understand what the man couldn’t, what the writer of Hebrews wrote so clearly,
So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (TEV)
That’s the point of selling the stuff, getting rid of the stuff that gets in the way, whether it is good or bad.
So because of His genuine love for us, come, let us follow Jesus, our Lord, our Savior, the One who loves us more than life. I tell you this, we won’t even remember what we’ve left behind!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backwards. He is our faith father. Romans 4:16 (MSG)
What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. (1)
We live in a world full of stress, full of anxiety, full of brokenness.
There is a blessing from this, well sort of, in a round about way.
The blessing is that it is often quite easy to realize when we have set up false idols, when we have set God aside
You see, the more stress we deal with, the more anxiety snares us, the more we deal with brokenness, the more false gods, and the idols we create are revealed.
it may be that are false gods are the the demons of distraction. The distraction helps us escape or even ignore the problems, they create the illusion of refuge. For some, this is drugs or alcohol; for others, it seems less dangerous – television or computers or listening to music or even books. We run to them and hide in them, they become our refuge, our place away from the world and its trauma. With the exception of the drugs, these things can be nice hobbies, but when we find ourselves spending to much time with them, and that is only the times when we are stressed, there may be an issue
It maybe that our idols, are false gods are a poor imitation of Christianity, the kind of thing where we control God, and we put our hope in cliche’s, not in the actual promises of God.
It maybe our false idols are our political and economic system, or in nationalism/patriotism. That everything will be okay because we are Americans, or Canadians, or (insert country name here) and God is always going to take our side. This is often more subtle, but it also overlooks the sins of a nation that allows for abortion, that in many ways would redefine life and family, and which would rather see vengence than reconciliation or mercy. This while insisting we are always in the right, well, except for our politicians.
Simply put, idols today aren’t crafted of wood or stone or precious emeralds or ivory. But they are idols none the less. We turn to them and try to find hope, or relief from them.
There are other idols, especially the one that is a simple plaint capital letter: I. We try to fix life ourselves, we ponder what can be done, we rely first and primarily on ourselves, as our culture teaches us. We go to the altar of self for refuge, for sanctuary, and we reveal that we only trust in ourselves, and we even know that is probably going to fail.
Luther is right on when he describes what “makes” a god or idol in our lives. It is where we go to in those times where we should trust in God’s promises, that He is in charge, that He will work it out, and it will turn into a blessing. We fail to hear what Mary did at the annunciation, that we are filled with grace, that the Lord is with us.
That He who is our God becomes OUR God when we trust Him, when we embrace and hold on to Him for dear life, because His promises will make us whole. When we realize that it is, and has been all along to be our God, for us to be His people, His children, the one He pledges to take care of and love. When the idols of our life fade away, as we realize the promises God has made to us in our baptism. When God becomes our refuge our strength, to whom we turn when life is broken and stressed.
When He is our first option, our first action is to turn to Him, not any other idol, not any other false god.
It’s tough – but it is also why God starts in the first commandment, not with us, but with Him. You see it starts with this….
“I, the LORD (actually His Name – YWHW) am your God, who brought you out of slavery……”
There is our hope at work, His action…. trust Him my friends, and know you can pray for the Spirit to help you when you are too weak too…
(1) The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.