Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Today’s Gospel passage comes from Matthew, Chapter 10: verses 24–39

In today’s gospel, Jesus instructs his apostles about the cost of discipleship. Christianity is just not an easy life, he seems to say. In fact, you may be handed over to councils who will flog you, dragged before governors and kings, betrayed by your family, and hated by all because of the very name of Jesus. Who wants that, we wonder? Seriously, what kind of Sunday message is it to hear ‘children will rise against parents and have them put to death’? Now that Jesus has their attention—and ours—he goes on to say some things that have more comfort value. Do not fear death, for the forces of evil may kill the mortal body but they cannot kill the soul. And that beautiful, poetic image: the sparrow, worth half a cent, is cared for and loved by God. Every sparrow. And every hair on your head. In this bizarrely contrasting narrative, Jesus lays out two fundamental principles of Christianity: First, we are not spared from suffering, and, second, when we suffer God suffers along with us. Suffering for us might be different. We may not be flogged before governors or hated by everyone—but we do struggle, right? We contract diseases, grieve the death of loved ones, lose jobs, and undergo a myriad of nasty experiences—some trivial, and some catastrophic. And part of what Jesus seems to be saying in this passage is that we will most probably continue to suffer. The Christian life is not a magic fix for the woes of this mortal life. So how are we to live in this world where hate and violence are so rampant? We need the help of God. And that’s the second point: our God is with us. ‘He shall be called Emmanuel, God with us’—remember that from Christmas? The promise made by Jesus is that we are not alone in our struggles. God is here, to comfort us, to help us through the difficult times, to show us the way when we don’t know where to turn, to help us when we cannot help ourselves. Are we ready to accept the cost that goes with this?

Blessings, Fr Jonathan