Sunday after Pentecost ≅
Saint Paul's Episcopal Church
June 26, 2005
The Imitation of Christ
for the Day
I greet you in the name of God our
Creator, Christ our Brother, and the Holy
Spirit who sustains us and empowers us to love and
serve them both.
Let's briefly revisit a portion of today's
"Do not think that I have come to bring
peace to the earth; I have
to bring peace but a sword.
For I have come to set a
against his father,
and a daughter against her mother, and a
daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one's foes will be members of one's own household.
loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of
me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is
not worthy of me
. . . "
10:34 - 37 (NRSV)
When I first read this passage, I was
tempted to back out of being with you here today.
This does not sound like the Jesus we
are most-used-to -- the Jesus of loaves and fishes,
the Jesus of wine-into-water, the winsome Christ who (in
Don's language from last week's sermon) seduces us and
draws us toward Him and inexorably into the gravitational
field of God's consuming love.
What in the world is going on here?
And what can we learn from this
passage about our own life in Christ?
It will help us to understand what today's
passage means if we locate it in Matthew's overall
The early chapters of Matthew deal
with Jesus' genealogy, birth and baptism. In the fourth
chapter of the Gospel, Matthew tells us of Jesus'
temptation and the call of the first disciples.
One commentator [Reginald Fuller; Virginia
Theological Seminary] notes that Chapters five through
ten deal with Christ as the "Messiah of Word and
Deed" The words appear in chapters five through
seven -- we know them as the Sermon on the Mount. The
deeds are found in chapters eight and nine -- a
collection of miracle stories that includes the stilling
of the storm and the healing of the centurion's servant.
All of which sets the
stage for today's lesson . . .
In chapter ten of Matthew, the
Christ-of-deed summons the twelve disciples, commissions
them for ministry, and instructs them on what to say as
they go out in mission to the lost sheep of the house of
Israel. Christ tells them what to take with them and how
to behave as they go forth, and then He warns them of the
prospect of persecution.
And finally -- in the verses appointed for
today -- Christ speaks of discipleship and the rewards
for disciples who are faithful. It is in this
context that Christ says:
"whoever loves father or mother more than
me is not worthy of me . . .
Let me be clear:
Christ is not asking us to stop loving our mothers and
fathers and the members of our own household -- not at
all. Rather, Christ enjoins us to love Him most of
all. And to let the living of our lives issue
forth from -- and reflect -- our love for Christ.
I once heard someone say:
"Show me that thing that you love above all
else, and I will show you your God."
Christ is asking us to make Him the thing
-- the person -- that we love above all else. To
acknowledge him as the Lord of our lives. To let the
loving of our mothers and fathers and the members of our
household issue forth from -- and be grounded in -- our
preeminent love for Him.
This is not some saccharine, smarmy love
either. Hear what follows:
" . . . and whoever does not take up the
cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find
their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for
my sake will find it."
10:38, 39 (NRSV)
So what? If I did want to
love Christ is this way -- to love Christ above all
else -- what would I do?
How would I live?
Somehow, I am reminded here of a story I
once heard. I don't remember the whole story -- it
doesn't much matter. What I do remember is
the punch line:
"It's better to be an imitator than no
'tater a' tall"
Perhaps -- if we did want to love
Christ above all else -- we would live our
lives in imitation of Christ. This living in imitation
of Christ is not a new idea. In fact, a fifteenth century
monk named Thomas a Kempis wrote a wonderful series of
instructions for monastic novices that were gathered
together into a book called The Imitation of Christ
-- I recommend it with great enthusiasm.
So -- how might it look if we did live in
"imitation of Christ"? How might Christ become the model
for a faithful and obedient life? What did Christ do --
what might we imitate?
Consider the gospel record -- what do we
see Christ doing?
consistently befriends and comforts those who are on the
margins of society
-- the sick, the imprisoned, the poor. In fact, He goes
to great lengths to seek them out -- sometimes to the
consternation of his disciples.
How might you love those on the margins? Is God calling
you to the Summer Enrichment Program, The Augustine
Project, or the Jail and Prison Ministry?
Is God calling you to Stephen Ministry, to be a Lay
Eucharistic Visitor, to study for membership in the
Order of Saint Luke?
What are your gifts? What is your call?
How can you imitate Christ in service?
stays connected to His Source.
Christ continually makes time in his life and his heart
to withdraw from the fray of life and reconnect with
How might you nurture your own spiritual life? Is God
calling you to EFM or Alpha? Have you participated in
these and loved them? Perhaps God is calling you to
serve as a leader?
What are you doing for your soul?
How can you imitate Christ in seeking to
be present to God?
values money and "stuff" appropriately.
Unlike many in his time and place, Christ did not see
matter or the physical world as profane and the
spiritual world as sacred. Christ celebrated that all
was of God -- no dualism for him!
On the other hand, as Satan found out early in his
temptation of Christ, Jesus was not enslaved to the
material world. Christ knew -- as some of us discover
late -- that no 'thing' (and nothing) could fill the
hole in the heart made only for God.
How does our giving reflect our values? What is it we
own that matters more to us than God? How can we clear
our lives of so much stuff and leave more room for God?
How can we live in
imitation of Christ as we relate to our money, the
things we own, our stuff?
The call in today's Gospel is not to fear
loving our mothers or our fathers or even ourselves.
The call is to love God in Christ above all else --
and to let all other love issue forth from our love for
God in Christ.
Saint Anselm of Canterbury is reported to
that -- beyond which -- there is no other."
May our love for Christ be love beyond
which there is no other as well.
Top of Page