Scripture for this Sunday:
2 Kings 2.1-2,6-14; Psalm 77.11-20; Galatians 5.1,13-25; Luke 9.51-62
People who undertake some kind of hiking or walking activity, especially for any kind of distance, are dependent upon some kind of guide, or map. However, it is not possible to walk along with one’s head in a book: it is important to look around at the surroundings and the environment. And having a sense of priority really matters. The same is true of following in faith – a theme that runs through today’s scriptures.
Those who are committed to follow Christ have his words and example – and his wish that we place following him above all else. But still, we have to pay attention to where we are, who is with us, and what our priorities are. There are often times when God’s plan seems mysterious to us, and only becomes clear over time. The writer of Psalm 77 understood this, and wrote about being inspired by looking back at God’s deeds.
There are times when suffering seems so overpowering that we question or wonder about God’s purpose. Why should a father and his little girl drown in a river when trying to escape to a better life? Yet maybe consciences will be stirred by such an image and things will change. God doesn’t will suffering, yet there are times when it takes a tragedy for action to occur. Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died a couple of years ago because a Pret A Manger baguette failed to disclose the presence of sesame seeds. She suffered a severe allergic reaction and died. This week, a law was enacted to ensure accurate listing of ingredients – Natasha’s law.
Turning tragedy into legacy is one way that we can follow Christ in faith, taking one small step at a time to ensure that the tragedy of his suffering and death should not be in vain. If we follow in faith, we take what happens in life, we trust God to take care of the big picture, and we listen to the still, small voice of the spirit that consoles us when we need consoling and nudges us onwards when we need to be nudged.
But it only really works if we are willing to make following in faith our first priority. And here’s a thought: if more of us actually made following Christ our first priority, looking around us to see how we ought to do that in the context of today’s world and its need, then there might be fewer tragedies from which to glean a silver lining. We might see more of those fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Sadly, even when we possess the willingness to follow in faith, we are all too susceptible to the temptation to let other things take priority. So we dawdle, procrastinate and generally get lost in our following. Fortunately for us, Christ knows this. As we wander along on our poorly-prioritised journeys of life, getting left behind, Christ pops up along the way and gives us another chance to follow.
Given Christ’s willingness to give us fresh chances, it would be a really good idea for us to look at the guide and map that we can discover in the words and ministry of Jesus. And look around at where we are, paying attention to our surroundings. And then listen to God’s still, small voice guiding us, and let that arrange our priorities so that we give ourselves a decent chance of following him in faith.