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Photo by Víctor Nuño at Flickr.com
June 22, 2013
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sts. Clare & Francis
Zec 12:10-11; 13:1
Galatians 3:26-29
LK 9:18-24
Homily by Frank Krebs

The Real Deal
There is an episode in the old TV series  West Wing where two young political assistants are talking.  One is trying to convince the other that the Martin Sheen character is worth getting behind in his presidential candidacy.   The one persuading says, “He’s the real deal.”  Working with him is a real chance to do some good.  And it will mean a lot of work.

In a related way Luke is telling the gospel story this evening so that we will see Jesus as “the real deal,” the one worth following if we want to change the world.  So Luke’s story has a kind of mini-climax here where we see the true nature of Jesus (that is, this is God’s chosen, see Luke 9:20) and we see what is asked of those who are attracted to him.  The key to getting this is that the two are related (the nature of Jesus and the price the followers will pay).  Let’s think about this.

Full of Myself?
Whom are we attracted to as a good person?  Someone who is “full of himself/herself”?  Not really.  We are attracted to someone who has a generous spirit, who listens well to others, who acknowledges the dignity of those around him or her, who works to alleviate the suffering of others—that is a good person, right?  When we think of a “good person,” we don’t think of big egos. 

Now it is interesting that there is a strange strain of thought in Christianity that identifies God as All Powerful, All Knowing, Deserving of All Praise, etc.  If God actually thought that about God’s own Self in that fashion that would be, well to be truthful, kind of creepy.  That’s an image of an ego looking in the mirror.[i]  God is not “full of herself.”  In fact God is the great emptier of self.  Paul says in Philippians 2:

6 [Christ Jesus] who was in the form of God,
   did not regard equality with God
   as something to be exploited, 
7 but emptied himself,
   taking the form of a slave,
   being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, 
8   he humbled himself
   and became obedient to the point of death—
   even death on a cross. 

James Finley[ii] says that God is such a perfect lover that she has become hidden.  We only experience God in her gifts, in the love and hope and trust that work their way within us to enable us to also live a life outside of ego.  To acknowledge Jesus, to be mysteriously drawn to this figure (so far from being full of himself) is to find ourselves wanting to similarly empty ourselves and go “ego-less.”   

A Daily Practice
It’s clear from this gospel and all the gospels that the life of discipleship may well lead to a literal cross.  It has happened many times in the course of history and will no doubt happen again.  But Luke in this passage wants to focus on the daily nature of this call. 

23Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves [their egos] and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Since Luke is suggesting that we make this a daily practice, we might want to employ a traditional Christian practice called the “daily examination of conscience.” All it means is a kind of review of my day.  The point is not to feel guilty about things we may have done or not done.  The point is to increase our awareness of opportunities for selflessness.  May I suggest a few questions?

Were there opportunities for generosity, that is, for letting go of what was freely given to me?

Were there opportunities for listening to another’s story rather than focusing on my own?

Were there opportunities for honoring, noticing, or acknowledging someone who is not typically recognized?

Were there opportunities to be an ally for the oppressed, that is, to work to end someone else’s suffering?

Meditation is a great way to witness the ego disappearing.  Rearing children, I’m told, is a way of having the ego torn from us in some ways.  But questions like those above at the end of the day might open us up to opportunities to walk more consistently behind the “real deal.”  Amen?


[i] To be sure in worship we might use phrases like, “awesome,” “you are my everything,” “you know everything,” “I can’t praise you enough,” etc .  But this, as Marcus Borg pointed out at a lecture at Eden Seminary a couple of years ago, is the language of love.  This is not meant to be philosophical language about God. 

[ii] In his book Christian Meditation

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