|Rev. Charles L. Wildman|
by Rev. Charles L. Wildman
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Jesus' disciples are thrilled with the knowledge that their master, in Peter's words, is "the Christ, the Son of the living God." Three cheers! Our teacher is the greatest! Go team!
But the cheering is short-lived. When the disciples hear the rest of the story, their mood changes dramatically. "The Son of Man must suffer... be rejected." "...Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me."
For whoever would save his life will lose it; whoever loses his life for my
sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a person to gain
the whole world and forfeit his life?
It turns out that to live a life as God's person is hard work, full time, for a lifetime. Rewards of peace, joy, and fulfillment will come, but usually not before high-cost investing of our time, talent, and treasure.
Not everyone rushes to make such a commitment. It is in our nature to seek maximum returns for minimum investment. A friend in his late 30's still searches for a job that will give him great personal satisfaction, has a socially redeeming purpose, pays well enough to support a comfortable lifestyle, and requires no more than a forty-hour week; no weekends! Every job possibility he finds requires more than he wants to give: more time, education, study, hours, administrative pressures, invasion of his personal life. So, he lives in place: a low-paying, low challenge job without meaning; relationships without personal investment or longevity.
I pray that one day, my friend will realize that nothing that is truly worthwhile comes without sacrifice, struggle, hard work, faith, and perseverance. There are no shortcuts to finding vocation, love, and meaning. The disciples learned this the hard way, as we all must.
At a church summer camp for middle schoolers, a favorite counselor wrote in the cover of my Bible this wisdom from Ghandi:
He who would seek for pearls must dive to the bottom of the sea,
risking his very existence.
Loving God, you rendered the ultimate sacrifice so that we might have life. Please give us the courage and faith to honor that gift with our whole lives. Amen.
The Rev. Charles L. Wildman is Interim Conference Minister of the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
This reflection was originally published in the weekly Spirit Calendar on September 10, 2012. Subscribe to the Spirit Calendar here.