Matthew 7:14

Jesus does not sugarcoat his words in today’s Gospel. He tells us that the road we have to walk is hard. There is no way around it. Life will not always be easy. Such brutal honesty from Jesus may seem jarring, but he is preparing his disciples for the long journey ahead of them in which they certainly face hard times.

When I was a senior in college, I went to bed one night with a slight pain in my left leg. I thought I was just sore from exercising. I woke up the next morning and my leg had swollen to the point that I could barely walk. Soon after I started sweating and shivering uncontrollably.

The first doctor I saw in the hospital walked into my room holding the biggest syringe I had ever seen. The syringe looked like a water bottle with a comically oversized needle on one end and a plunger on the other. He explained that he had to drain my leg immediately and there was no time for anesthesia. Then he looked me in the eye and told me that this was going to be painful.

My memories of that week in the hospital are a blur now, but I still remember the tone of voice the doctor used as he lovingly did not sugarcoat telling me what pain I was about to feel. Jesus has the same love for us disciples when he tells us that the road we will walk in his name will be hard. The straight and narrow path will never be pain free.

All too often I consider pain to be a sign of failure. A failure of not having planned correctly, a failure of having the wrong attitude, or even a failure of those around me. Jesus tells us and shows us that pain is not a sign of failure. Pain is an essential and unavoidable leg of the journey in our formation. The presence of pain does not mean something has gone wrong, the presence of pain means we are in this world and struggling to be the best Disciples of Christ we can be.

Consider our stained glass saints that overlook us day after day. Think about all the pain they endured on their road from birth to death. Was not their pain worth it? Do you think anyone of them would look back at their lives and say the joys of walking the road of discipleship were not worth the pain? Every night of confusion, every dawn of depression, every afternoon of apathy… they are all worth it, they are not signs of failure.

Jesus and the communion of saints is right here with us in our pain, suffering and sweating alongside us. We are never alone in our pain – even when we want to be. We do not fight alone. We are hip to hip in this battle, rustling down the straight and narrow path.

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4 Comments

  1. Bryan Thompson on December 29, 2020 at 23:33

    When I was battling cancer and in-particular, leukemia-where large needles were constantly being placed in my spine and a procedure known as an intrathecal chemotherapy serum injection, knew I was not alone and for that I am eternally grateful. Patients do not get pain medication or anesthesia for the procedure, you just must grin and bear it, each injection, usually wrong 7-10 directly into the vertebrae. It’s one of those things that often the public doesn’t know occurs in certain leukemia treatments. Loved this sermon, and you for “focusing” me this night. Please pray for my continued healing.

  2. Elizabeth Hardy on December 26, 2020 at 20:06

    Br Jack: Thank you for that perspective. Pain manifests itself in so many different ways, in so many different aspects of our lives and we fear and try to avoid it. Your sermon will help me embrace it and partner with it in my discipleship. Elizabeth Hardy+

  3. John G. on December 26, 2020 at 11:16

    Brother Jack, I’m a bit of a chicken. I don’t like needles, and I particularly dislike IV’s that go in my arm or hand and stay there anchoring me to a hospital bed. I tend to avoid discomfort and cling to creature comforts; warm home, warm bed, warm clothes, good food, the companionship of a loving wife. And yet, part of me knows that at the age of 80 with an early colon cancer diagnosis, I will have separation from home and family and the pain that chemo therapy imposes on me.
    The good times are not forever; times of separation and pain will come. Maybe not now but eventually. Where is the grace in this? Giving credit to my care givers, they have understanding of my suffering and encourage me to be brave. Giving greater credit to Christ, he suffered for our redemption, and the disciple is not greater than his teacher. When we serve Jesus, we serve his greater vision for humanity.

  4. Alan Rollins on June 27, 2020 at 11:22

    Thank you, Brother Jack, for your sermon, and your thoughts. For a variety of reasons, my physical pain has often been brought on by my own behavior and stubborness. But my faith in the Trinity is true, and therefore my continued hope for the love, and patience (!) of God to lead me through this given life keeps me headed in the right direction, “for the Love of God”.

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