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November 14, 2017 - Following Jesus Is a Hard Thing

Tuesday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

In the six verses that precede the reading from Luke for today, Jesus gives instructions to his disciples about how to follow him. The first takes the form of a warning: do not become an obstacle or stumbling block to someone else’s faith. In other words, don’t do anything that might encourage someone else to turn away from God. If I give someone else reason to doubt God or I encourage them in some way to sin and, thus, be in wrong relationship to God, I am a stumbling block to their faith. The second is a call to hold accountable the brother or sister who sins and, even more, to forgive them no matter how many times they sin so long as they repent each time. That could mean enduring a whole lot of someone else’s sinning and offering up a whole lot of forgiveness to boot!

In response to these instructions, the apostles understandably plead to Jesus: “Increase our faith!” Indeed!  I am with them. Like them, I am going to need a whole lot of faith to live up to those two expectations. Jesus responds to their plea by reminding them of the power of true faith which they (and I) apparently do not have. If we had it, we’d be able to follow these two instructions with ease and so much more.

Never cause another to stumble in their faith. Forgive, forgive, and forgive some more. And be yourself a person of true faith. That is a tall order. But this is what Jesus expected of the apostles and, therefore, likely expects of us. And if we could do that/be that, wouldn’t that be something? Wouldn’t we be amazing Christians!

And then Jesus turns to the parable for today of “the worthless servant.” In that parable, the servant does all that the master commands. They work all day out in the field and then, having done so, come in and make dinner for the master. All along the way, they never ask for anything or expect anything. Jesus says that they have merely done what they ought to have done.

Wow. It is not enough for me to never be a stumbling block to another’s faith AND to forgive as often as is required AND to have true faith. I must be humble too?

Yes.

And I can’t help but notice that it is the instruction against self-righteousness that comes last. Is that for emphasis perhaps?

Jesus calls us to be really good human beings in the face of other human beings and to be of true faith. All that is going to take a lot of work on our part. And just in case we think being good will earn us God’s favor, Jesus wants to remind us that God’s grace is pure gift. And that means we can make no claim on it or on behalf of ourselves.

May we be good human beings out of faith in the grace that is beyond measure and owed to no one. May we be good to others and never think ourselves better than others. Following Jesus is a hard thing. And we are called to it. Amen.

- Sue Trollinger