This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings. Apologies to readers for intermittent service-all will be back to usual on Monday 17th October
34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37Whoever 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; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
40 ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’
These words reflect the situation of disciples both in the time of Jesus and in the early Christian communities: discipleship often involved a breach with family members. They also reflect the radicalism of Jesus-a radicalism that in the UK today would be the object of surveillance by the security services.
The words must have uncomfortable overtones for those parents whose children have become involved in a “cult” which has “brainwashed” them into uncritical allegiance. The first thing to note about Jesus’ words is that they are the reverse of brainwashing: they are a warning about the cost of discipleship and are designed to deter superficial allegiance.They remain however, shocking, and are routinely avoided by most Christian churches.
Slavoj Zizek, the philosopher, has recently noted that this separation from “normal” life and readiness for sacrifice is Christianity’s equivalent of revolutionary terror. The new world of God’s kingdom does not simply grow out of the old: a crisis has arrived which is reinforced by the practice of Jesus’ disciples.
This dimension of Jesus’ teaching deserves further exploration.