The travel narrative in Luke, what the lectionary has been taking us through this summer, is about discipleship. It is Luke’s collections of teachings and events that the disciples learned from Jesus on His was to the cross, as He prepared them for their cross. The lesson this week was one of those “cool it down” moments. We’ve all gotten caught up in something in the past, and that new thing takes over your entire life. The younger you are the more open you are to that type of infatuation. Everything comes up roses.
The life of the disciple in this world is not roses. The grace of forgiveness and new life is heady, but there are some thorns. The biggest is probably the half completed nature of salvation. That is not the half completed nature of salvation to eyes with faith, but if you look at the cross without faith, it looks like a king who didn’t have enough troops. And that cross is the pattern of discipleship. Here, we follow the crucified one. We feel like we have 10,000 troops going against 20,000.
Maybe it is just my phlematic german coming out, but I’ve never understood shiny-happy American Christianity. Sanctuaries that hid the cross, preachers that talked about wealth and prosperity, seven biblical secrets to a great life. I really throw any form of progressive-ism in the same boat. We’ve had 100 years of amazing progress in medicine and technology and what are the stats: higher rates of suicide, huge numbers on anti-depressants, shameful rates of incarceration and long-term unemployment. I’m not against “progress”. I liked being able to get my gall-bladder taken out and my youngest having surgery without great worry. These are blessings, but hold them in their place. The reality is life under the cross. Orthodoxy speaks reality better than anything I’ve heard. The cross does not preclude joy. For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross (Heb 12:2). But the joy comes through the cross, not around it. Everything else seeks to avoid the cross, or deny it, or minimize it. The disciple embraces it. Not without understanding – count the costs – with understanding the disciple embraces the cross and the only solid foundation, even if it looks half built to those perishing.