Not really," said the sheep. "Your name is written inside the cover."
What a silly story! I love it. And I think it was so enjoyable to me because I had been reading all this kind of angry language in today's Gospel and trying to make sense of it. I didn't stop with the joke, however.
I read a few articles about the "hate father and mother, wife and children" language of the Gospel and I felt better. One said that Jesus was speaking in hyperbole to get people's attention. Hyperbole is defined as "extravagant exaggeration." Another article said that the use of hate is not an accurate interpretation of the original Aramaic. It said in fact the more fitting language would suggest a person who did not prefer or prioritize Jesus over family, father, mother, wife and children could not follow Jesus completely.
A third article reported that the parallel story from the Gospel of Matthew can be considered as follows:
"The language of this particular saying, however, raises concern for many. Does Jesus really call us to hate our biological families and our very lives? ...Jesus is using hyperbolic language here as he does frequently in his teachings (e.g., Matthew 18:8-9). This becomes clear when we compare this saying in Luke with its parallel in Matthew (10:37): "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Matthew, drawing on the same Jesus tradition as Luke, seems to have interpreted the more stark language of "hate" to refer to primary allegiance. For Matthew, this saying indicates that our primary allegiance must be to Jesus rather than to family.
Exchanging "primary allegiance" for "hate" is both a big step and a big relief.
Another article I read said that this particular portion of the Luke reading, about hating one's family, is held up by those who distrust Christianity for being hypocritical. It's my opinion that a lot of people find it easier to reject religion, especially Christianity, rather than engage and take the time to find out what it's really about."
You may remember that I am a somewhat rabid newshound. I follow the news mostly on line and in print. Last week, even before I saw it online, our son asked me about my reaction to a column in The New York Times by Tim Egan, one of their regular contributors. The title was "Why people hate religion."
Now there's a conversation starter in church, don't you think?
Let's go back to the word hyperbole, the term used to describe extravagant exaggeration. It would appear some hyperbole crept into the headline, wouldn't you say?
But we all have to acknowledge that religion does get met with distrust, suspicion, apprehension, even fear by some folks. I think the clear point of the column I read is that there are good reasons for people to manifest some kind of caution when they encounter religion or even people who are religious.
For example, I have noted in the fifteen years I have been wearing clerical clothing that some people steer clear of me. Friends ask odd questions as though I have changed so radically they can't imagine what I must be like now. I accept that because I do know people who have made changes in their life that have essentially changed them.
But I think what people are most aware of, concerning Christians, is that what Jesus taught--setting aside today's hyperbolic language-- is not how all Christians behave. And that leads a lot of people to reconsider their understanding of Christianity and, perhaps, religion as a whole.
It leads Tim Egan to write, "What you hear about is the phonies, the charlatans who wave Bibles, the theatrically pious, and they are legion. Vice President Mike Pence wears his faith like a fluorescent orange vest. But when he visited the border this summer and saw human beings crammed like cordwood in the Texas heat, that faith was invisible."
The column goes on to remind us of the President's messianic ponderings a couple of weeks ago in which he described himself as "the second coming of God." The article details the absurdity of such an analogy. It goes on at some length to examine instances of religious hypocrisy in the current administration.
The author notes that Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu observes, "we are prisoners of hope."
For Christians it is our hope that the good deeds and good lives of faithful Christians will draw others to the faith not because we need the numbers, though they would help. But rather because people's lives are better for them if they have faith in Jesus, who told us to love God and love our neighbor.
Putting Jesus first and letting his priorities of loving God and our neighbor first, makes it possible to live better lives in general and specifically with our families, our neighbors and with strangers. It makes it easier to live in confusing times when the religious right gets all the attention and not in a good way. It makes it okay to love God and love our neighbor and leave it at that.
The column in The New York Times closed with this insightful summary: "Faith is not that complicated. Religion always is."
o quibble endlessly, but I would like to say religion can be complicated, especially if one does not follow the basic rule: we should love God and our neighbor. Amen
A sermon preached on the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, Sept. 8, 2019, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church,
Poughkeepsie NY, by The Rev. Tyler Jones, Rector