All readings for the Week
Genesis 21:8-21 with Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 or
Jeremiah 20:7-13 with Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18
1. What is your greatest loyalty?
2. Did the martyrs and heroes of the early church have a different call from ours?
3. Does discipleship have to be costly? Why or why not?
4. What do we Christians mean by the phrase, “the cross,” today?
5. How do you experience God’s love as tenderly watchful, even in the face of hardship, deprivation, uncertainty and division?
This long passage from Matthew brings together a number of sayings of Jesus to create a set of instructions for “the twelve,” his apostles, before he sends them out on a mission that carries some risks. Matthew writes for a community that claims a kinship with these apostles, who gave up everything to follow Jesus. These early Christians listen for how God is also sending them, a generation or so later, and they’re undoubtedly wrestling with how much they may have to give up, and what risks they will run. Perhaps they’ve already paid a price for being disciples of this Jesus, especially if their family ties are strained or broken by their new faith commitment. Family ties were even more important in that time and culture than they are today, if we can imagine such a thing. And broken relationships meant more than hard feelings and spoiled family functions and fights over inheritances: they could be a matter of life and death in a culture where family identity and connections protect you from the many dangers in life.
And yet, then and now, that “costly thing,” discipleship, is just what is needed most by a world broken and desperately in need of good news. We accept the idea that there were early Christian martyrs who gave up their lives–literally–for the gospel. But there were also those lesser-known Christians, the everyday, ordinary ones like most of us, who suffered loss of family, place, security, “respectability,” because they embraced a faith that challenged social structures, including even the stability of the family itself. I’m reminded of the 1990 film, “The Long Walk Home,” about the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, Bus Boycott and the struggles, even divisions, within families, churches, and communities when some people were willing to go all the way for the sake of what was right and just, and others were not. Not just unwilling, but unable to see the difference–and still able to think of themselves as “good Christians” in either case. Still, we know that God hears what we say, sees what we do, and knows what’s in our hearts–and God cares about it all. It all matters to God, this decision about what “sort” of Christians we’re going to be. (Reflection by Kate Huey)
Read more at: http://www.ucc.org/feed-your-spirit/weekly-seeds/god-hears-god-cares.html