For me the question this week is: Are we loving radically enough? In this time when many of our society are being left behind by the economic policies of our government as it concentrates on a particular type of economic theory and fail to balance that with the importance of people and our call from God to love all, have compassion, to care and support those in need and struggling and not allow greed and abuse to control our society and its interactions.
Loving the unlovable in our society can indeed be radical and controversial. For those who choose the way of Jesus being agents of healing, of reconciliation, of light (especially to those in power) might also stir the pot and thus be rather dangerous. What if for a season of our life together as congregations we measured our effectiveness in kingdom work by how much harassment we suffered, how much trouble we got into, how much life we lost?
This week in our readings there is an invitation to take seriously the call of Jesus to love God and neighbour with abandon, to recognise that our call to discipleship is not a call to being a majority, a call to power and control, a call to privilege and arrogance, but a call to denial, a call to love radically even unto death, a call to allow our coming alongside the least to become our resurrection.
Romans 6: 1-11 reminds us again that discipleship is about death. This time, though, it is reframed in a way that places the emphasis on Christ. Here we have an opportunity to reframe the conversation with our congregations from an emphasis on individual sacrifice to our communal work as the body of Christ. If we are to die to sin, we must remind one another of the story of Jesus, we must call one another to accountability, and we must claim again and again our new life in Christ Jesus. In fact, here in Romans we are reminded that death is the only way to new life. In a culture that is death averse, this love, connection, and restoration for us, our neighbours, and all of creation.
No matter what happens in our lives, God remembers us! The story of Hagar and Ishmael reminds us that it is easy for us to find ourselves drowning in our difficult circumstances. Shame, guilt, and disorientation keep us from seeing beyond where we are. If we pay attention, we might just hear God’s voice reminding us of the promise that we are not forgotten, that life is before us. Recognizing God’s voice changes our perception and we begin to see possibility, potential, and new life where death once lived.
This week’s texts also remind us that we Christians don’t have a neat and tidy little religion that is up market-respectable in all ways at all times. Sometimes life, even a life of faith, can go horribly wrong. But we are clearly reminded that the story doesn’t end there. The story goes on. Isaac goes on to live a life of faith, and he becomes the father of Israel. There is always the possibility of redemption. Even in a thicket on top of a hill. With a knife in the air over the wide-eyed stare of a child. Even there.