Nine years ago this week, the men captured the planes, destroyed the buildings, and committed vast evil against our country.
Since then, w/ 8,000 dead at home and in Asia, w/ trillions of dollars in damages and rebuilding and fighting: we’ve been at war.
Nine years of war, and an economic meltdown, numerous mega-disasters, and extreme weather patterns, and it sure seems like times are tough.
It’s no wonder the current president and his predecessor aren’t too popular.
But, this is -- nothing new. Is it?
The troubles we face in this country didn’t begin on 9/11. Or the 2000 election. Or with Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter or Nixon. Or the deaths of King and Kennedy.
Or Viet Nam, Korea, Two World Wars, or the War Between the States.
No, the troubles we know all to well, are old. They are original troubles. They go all the way back, to just a few moments after the beginning.
In the Garden of Eden.
The issues that plague us -- greed, ego, sloth, profligacy, corpulence, materialism -- and that’s just at Wal-Mart -- are not new issues. They are just old fashioned sin. And that’s what’s wrong.
Disaster, tragedy, scarcity, and war -- the bane of peace, harmony, plenty and all is well -- they are the teeth of sin.
But, welcome to real life.
Real life. It’s a mixed bag. There’s much to love and there’s much to endure. There’s much to fight, and much to flee.
Real life as we know it, began the day humanity learned to disobey God.
The poetic vision of Genesis says we learned to disobey God the day we ate that darn apple, from that darn tree, and our eyes to truly see and hearts to truly love were distorted. Bent. Blurred.
God gave us eyes to see the glorious infinity of all things, and hearts to love with the pure, unconditional love of God.
But, then, in Eden, with that apple, and the infection of sin, our eyes started to see in a new way. Not to glorious infinity, but partial sight. Dim sight. Sight that catches only reflections of the truth, and those bent in such a way that all things look like what we want, or fear, or desire, or hate.
In Eden, when infected by sin, our hearts started to love in a new kind of way. Not with joy, and hope, and unconditional concern for others, but rather with self-interest. Infected by sin, our hearts learned to love not God and neighbor as self; but self, and neighbor when it benefits self.
And from the infection of sin, the distortion of our eyes to color the world as we desire or fear, and the distortion of our hearts to put our selves first, and those allied with our selves, enmity, strife and sorrow have grown and grown.
That’s what Jesus is getting at in his very HARD words this morning.
So, what could Jesus possibly mean when he says, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple...”???
Such surprising words from the King of Love, no?
Well. To be sure, we must know that Jesus is setting up a very serious teaching here -- and thus uses extreme language to set the tone and stage.
As well, as a first century rabbi, Jesus speaks out of a context in which Masters required total obedience from Disciples. Rabbis were given undivided loyalty by their pupils. That was the culture of Judaism.
So, partly, when Jesus says, “hate ... family, etc.”, he’s saying “Discipleship requires total obedience, and all other priorities are second.”
Jesus as Master, as Lord, as Teacher of Disciples is thus talking about putting that relationship with him first and foremost.
Also, going deeper, Jesus is talking about the deep corruption of the world by sin, though, and how we must learn to hate its fallenness.
We must learn from God to do away, to shed, to crucify, all those distortions of sin’s infection.
We must shed our selfish sight and selfish loves -- not to become hateful, of course -- but to learn how to truly see and love.
The challenge of today’s Gospel is a real as ever. Do you, do we, really truly see the truth and know how to love?
Examine your loves -- do we love our family -- for their sake? Or for ours.
Do we love our partners and children and siblings for their sake -- or for ours?
Are we truly loving?
Jesus says, the only way to truly love, to truly see, is to begin by opening our hearts to the Lordship of God. By giving our hearts, our eyes, our lives to the Lordship, the Mastery, the Ownership of God.
The promise is that by doing so, our eyes and hearts will be restored to the way they were when God made them. We will begin to see what God sees in all people, and we will begin to truly love God, neighbor and self.
The Gospel says this is the only cure for what ails the world.