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When Jesus Gave an Escape Hatch

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  • Do you remember when you got your first smartphone?
    • For me, it was all the way back in 2007. It was a Motorola Q, and it was amazing
    • For the first time, I was able to receive and send emails to colleagues. I felt more connected to the world, and felt like could do more.
    • And, I'm sure, like lots of you, at this point I can't imagine being without a smart phone.
      • There is so little I can't do on this little device.
      • And I'm sure there are some of you that have been able to connect to service on Sunday just by nature of having an available device. That is really, really good
      • But, of course, that connectedness has its downsides
        • There is a constant feeling of needing to be connected.
        • For many of us, our first and last connections of the day involve our phones.
        • How many of us have lost track of time scrolling through apps like Reddit or TikTok, playing games.
        • Many apps are built around taking advantage of the ways our brains work to release dopamine and make us feel good.
      • After awhile, I find myself hating my cell phone. I regret how it takes away from time from Lindsey and the kids, or from other friends.
      • And the truth is, these connected devices have their limits. We learned in during the height of COVID that while we can get closer when we are apart, eventually we miss real connection. That if we left our phones aside for awhile and "touched some grass," we'd be better off.
      • This doesn't mean I'm apt to throw my phone against a wall, or rail against phone makers... but it does leave me with a choice.
        • Do I abandon something so familiar, change my life in order to participate in something that might be better, richer over time?
        • Or do I keep that dream at an arms length to feel good about what's to come and tweet about how much I hate my phone?
        • At least at this point, I've chosen the latter.
  • I wonder if smart phones had existed back in Jesus' time if he would have said you have to hate your cell phones to follow me.
    • There might be all sorts of replacements and analogues that would update Jesus' exhortation to the throng of followers around him at this moment.
    • You have to hate your phones and follow me
    • You have to hate your hard earned status in life and follow me
    • You have to hate your political affiliations and follow me
  • Jesus here is not so much saying you have to have a loathing towards good things, but instead ask seriously about your priorities if you think discipleship is for you.
    • He's done some pretty spectacular things in his ministry so far - he's a captivating teacher and miracle-maker.
    • No doubt, it's caused people to just be curious - to want to know what's really happening and wanting to be a part of it.
    • Jesus obviously must have felt the growth of his crowds, and so he provides a bit of a gut-check to those who follow: if you're for real about this, you're going to want to take a moment and think about its implications.
      • This helps make the last part of the passage make a little more sense
        • No one setting out to build a new building is going to just start throwing things into their cart at Home Depot. Well, you can, but you won't get far.
        • No one setting out to begin a battle won't at least discern the enemy to know what their capacity is. Well, you can, but you're likely to lose.
        • Success, then - the goal desired - rests in large part in the discernment ahead of time.
      • Think about it this way: what if, before you got your first smartphone, some explained to you the costs and the benefits. Would it have changed your decision making in your purchase? Would you have been more intentional about what you selected, or the apps you used?
  • What is this like in our walk of faith, then?
    • I think for some of us, like the Rich Young Ruler, or the person spitefully using their cell phone, we might take the present over the promise of the future and walk away.
      • Sure, everything Jesus is doing and promising sound great.
      • Even more so, we're apt to hold the promises of Jesus as quaint visions upon the horizon, never truly to be taken seriously, but always hoped for if only our condition could change.
      • But, more graciously, it's an insight that we often don't want to say out loud within the confines of the church - it requires a whole lot of trust.
        • Trust in Jesus, first - that all these things we only read about and have a hard time seeing could be real and not antiquated stories.
        • But then trust in each other - that this extension of Christ here can truly live into its promises that it commits to.
    • So let's have a thought exercise: let's say one of you this year says yes, you'll give literally everything you have to Christ and discipleship.
      • Your pledge card indicates that you are giving everything - every last penny - to SJPC.
      • What would happen?
        • Well, the hope would be that in return, the church would immediately be thinking about your needs. Everything you have to have would be supplied.
        • It would also mean that there would be tremendous responsibility upon each of us - the pastor, the Session, each member.
    • Of course, this will likely not happen with our finances, but I do believe that it already happens with our hearts and souls.
      • This passage reminds us that what we offer here is priceless.
      • While it might sound esoteric, we offer a part of ourselves that is priceless. We give our hopes, dreams, beliefs, stories, fears, anxieties, all for the promise of the spectacular and miracle making Christ in our midst.
        • If we give it too flippantly, we find half-build spiritual homes and ill-waged spiritual battles. We leave wounded and deconstructed.
        • If we don't give at all, we relent to the immanent and aspirational with little belief in something else but our screens and our fleeting riches.
        • So we have to discern well the invaluable parts of ourselves for what Jesus is offering.
      • In return, it demands a discerning dedicated response.
        • It demands a special discernment amongst those who a called to be leaders.
        • But it also demands a commitment of each of us - that the riches of our very selves should be treated as such.
        • What we owe to each other, then, is a heart for a heart, a Spirit for a Spirit, a soul for a soul.
        • This becomes a gambit of the highest order with the largest consequence - which helps us understand more why Jesus gut-checks.
  • But... it does happen. It is happening, and it will happen.
    • Our precious, priceless, fragile hearts are responded to when we reach out.
    • Our deep, resonant, serious responsibilities are performed in the reaching.
    • And, for a moment, we sense the miracles in our midst - we touch the grass beyond our cell phones.
  • Our question and our task, then, as a church, is to consider how we create a church that supports and caretakes what Jesus' demands are.
    • That's an ongoing task with new means but an ever consistent end, and a never changing heart - there is a spectacular world on the other side.
    • There are things that we will have to "hate," so to speak, in order to follow Christ.
    • This is only done through the Spirit's help.
    • But as you reflect at the table and beyond, I ask you to think about that both in giving and receiving: how do we continue to create a space for the extravagant, priceless, holy hearts and spirits amongst the saints here at to come?
    • I imagine if we commit to that, we'll witness miracles anew.

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