As we begin this Season of Creation[i], we join the Church worldwide to pray and act in caring for all of creation. The 80th General Convention of the Episcopal Church recognized climate change as “an all-encompassing social crisis and moral emergency that impacts and interconnects every aspect of pastoral concern including health, poverty, employment, racism, social justice, and family life and that can only be addressed by a Great Work involving every sector of society, including the Church.”[ii]
The earth is groaning, heating, burning, flooding, and dying. You have and read the stories. This week Pakistan cries out, one-third of the country underwater from flooding. The cost is great for the earth. To be a disciple costs everything, Jesus says. Give up all your possessions. Hate father and mother, wife and children, even life itself. Following Jesus reorients all our relationships, all that we have. It is not easy or ordinary. It is to carry a cross, to suffer with the One who suffered for us.
Everything is a gift. We tend to possess, to cling, to hold, horde or grasp, claiming as our own. As humans we tend toward entitlement, and God invites us into blessing. Despite all the good we receive and give in family, we tend to distance, exclude or oppress others. To follow Jesus means relating differently. Respect the dignity of every human being as a child of God. Keep changing and learning to live that out such that all may live, all may eat, all may have shelter, all may have water unlike as in Mississippi where Jackson does not have running water while surrounding cities do.
When I read gospel lessons like the one we’ve read today, I sometimes wonder what the disciples thought when Jesus spoke difficult words like these. I’m sure they were keenly interested in the success of Jesus’ mission and were delighted to see the large crowds that flocked to him. Being in the inner circle of a popular public figure like Jesus must have been very gratifying. As more and more people came to Jesus, it must have felt like confirmation of their own choice to leave everything to follow him. But I think they must have shaken their heads with confusion and disbelief when Jesus addressed those same crowds with words like these – words which could only have been off-putting for those who heard them: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (v.26). “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (v.27). “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions” (v.33).