I was driving around this afternoon and caught a segment from BBC World News on the radio. It was a story about how the peace talks between Israel and Palestine are being percieved in Israel itself. One of the men being interviewed said very adamantly – I want peace, but I don’t want to surrender.
I kept listening to him say those words and found myself so frustrated by this attitude that says the only peace that is acceptable is the one that comes on my terms.
This week, our gospel lesson from Luke in the lectionary teaches us that we can’t have it both ways. We can’t hang on to our own desires and hopes and dreams and things and also follow Christ. We can’t have the peace that passes all understanding unless we are willing to surrender it all.
The truth is, most of the time, we think we don’t have what it takes. Our families are too important to us. Our jobs and that sense of security is too important. We aren’t willing to put it all on the line and so, the irony is that we do surrender – but to the wrong things. We surrender to the idea that we will fail. We surrender to the pressure of family values. We surrender to patriotism and nationalism and consumerism. We surrender thinking that we will keep our lives… but in the end, we will do nothing but lose it all.
Christ turns our whole lives upside down. To save your life, you must lose it. To be exaulted, you must be humbled. To be first, you must be last.
No where in the gospel does it say that if you go to church on Sundays and the rest of the week work really hard at your job and raise a good family then someday after you die you’ll go to this happy and wonderful place called Heaven. I wish it did, but it simply doesn’t.
No, the gospel tells us that we must hate our parents and our spouses and children and put it all on the line and bear our crosses – and then we will be his disciples.
I have to admit, I’ve never been a person to think too intently about what waits us after this life. I’m not the type of Christian who has her heart set on heaven. I don’t care that much about blissful and peaceful eternity. What I want is for the sick to be healed. I want the poor to be lifted up. I want the oppressed to go free. I want to experience Emmanuel – God-with-us – to be in the presence of God and to know that all things are well.
Those are the words and the promises that I find in scripture. I believe in the God that will set all things right… and that includes my sorry-ass. And I think if I got to experience that for even a moment – that would be enough. I have to trust that if God says – turn it all over to me and I will make something beautiful of your life – that God means what she says. Lay it all on the line…
Maybe the tricky part is that line. You see, we draw our lines in very different places than Jesus would draw lines. We draw lines around our family and say – I’m not willing to sacrifice this. Or we draw lines around our jobs – and will sacrifice it all for the next paycheck. We draw lines in the sand and say that this particular issue – whether it’s abortion or animal rights or Islamic religious centers or the creation of a Palestinian state – is the most important thing and that we will never give up until we have gotten our way and if you stand outside of that line then you are the enemy. We refuse to surrender. We refuse to give in. And in the end, I think we loose it all.
Because you know what – Christ draws a line. He doesn’t draw it around our houses or cars or children or institutions or issues – but he draws it right down the center of our lives. And Jesus says, leave it all, come and follow me.
So I’m turning my life over. I’m surrendering all of those things that I think I want and that this world tells me are so important. Here it is, Lord. Here I am, Lord. Use me to feed the hungry. Use me to heal the sick. Use me to lift up the brokenhearted. Use me to speak the truth in love to those who preach lies. Use me to stand with the oppressed. Use me to say “no” to a world obsessed with more. And if by chance the world turns against me – so be it.