Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 22, 2018

As a part of a lesson on the American Revolution, a fourth grade teacher was showing her students a copy of the Declaration of Independence.  The document passed from desk to desk, each kid looking at it and passing it on. It finally came to the desk of a boy who was a first generation American – his parents had recently immigrated to the United States from another country.  The teacher noticed this boy studying the document intently, almost reverently. And then, before passing it on to the next student, he took out his pen and with all seriousness added his own signature. He got it.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence knew that by putting their name on the line, so to speak, it would require of them great sacrifice.  It would mean more than calling themselves patriotic or waving a flag. It would take sacrifice, perhaps even their very lives, to ensure a country of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for themselves and for the generations to come.

What about us?  Do we “get it”? I’m not talking about the Declaration of Independence.  I’m talking about what it means to be baptized and be declared a child of God.  Or what it means to receive the Body and the Blood of Christ from this Table of Grace.  Do we really “get it” when, in a few minutes, we will stand up in union with everyone else and declare that “I believe in God”?  I’m talking about the privilege of marking ourselves with the Sign of the Cross and to pray in God’s name and what it means to be a Christian.  Do we really “get” the sacrifice that is demanded of us when dare call ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ? Because by doing these things, things we sometimes take so for granted and that come so easily, we commit ourselves to something profound, second to no other commitment of life.  It is a declaration, not of independence, but absolute dependence on Jesus Christ.

Deeply imbedded in our faith story is the story of the suffering servant, a story most often noted in the words of the Prophet Isaiah such as those we heard today.  It is a story that was proclaimed for generation upon generation, a story that foretold the very message of the Incarnate God, Jesus the Christ. It was the story was lived out in the earliest church and still today by countless martyrs.  Their story, if we are to be authentic followers, must become our story.

Sacrifice is not a natural inclination; at least it’s not for me.  We prefer comfort, easy, reward. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that inclination; those things bring great joy to our lives.  But there is something more that we must embrace, something that must separate us from those who do not believe - sacrifice, the willful suffering for the sake of others.  

It is the willingness to take second place so that someone else might stand in first.  To do without so that someone else might do what they could not otherwise do. To step back so that another might step up.  To give away what we treasure so that another might know the same treasure. To remain silent so that another might speak. To open a door or a border so that others might share in what we already have.  And to do it all, not because we have to, not because it makes political sense, not for any reward, not because it feels good - but so that Christ might be glorified.

Because when we put our name “on the line” for Christ, that should mean something.



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