Sunday, June 26, 2016

ARE JESUS' STANDARDS TOO HIGH?


Homily for June 27th, Matthew 8:18-22.

          Jesus has spent a whole day healing. He is drained: physically, but also spiritually. Immediately before the start of today’s gospel reading Matthew writes: “Seeing the people crowd around him, Jesus gave orders to cross to the other shore.” Before he can get into the boat with his friends, however, there are two other petitioners he must deal with. The first is a Jewish scribe who tells Jesus he wants to join him: “Teacher, wherever you go, I will come after you.” Jesus tells him that discipleship has a price. “The foxes have lairs, the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Matthew does not tell us whether the scribe was put off by this or not.

Another man, already a disciple of Jesus, says: “Lord, let me go and bury my father first.” To which Jesus replies, no less sternly: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” Burying the dead was a sacred duty for Jews. For Christians it is one of the so-called seven corporal works of mercy. Yet Jesus does not hesitate to say that the call to follow him as precedence over every other call.

            Jesus’ standards are high, no doubt about it. For unaided human nature they are too high. That is why he offers the help of his Holy Spirit to those who ask for it. When the tasks that Jesus sets before us seem impossible, we need to pray for that help. Here are some verses of an evangelical hymn that do just that. They go like this:

         Precious Lord, take my hand

         lead me on, let me stand,

         I am tired, I am weak, I am worn

         Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light,

         Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.