Summertime is “ordinary time” in the church calendar, but ordinary doesn’t mean boring. Instead, the summer lectionary readings focus on growing in our spiritual maturity, and they are frequently challenging. Our Gospel this week seems a bit like the first hard midterm in a pre-med class… Jesus turns to the large crowds that are following him, and starts issuing challenging & (hopefully) hyperbolic statements including:
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…Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…
So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
But in our Psalm for this Sunday, we also read:
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
Maybe the message [of these readings] is about sticking it out even when it is tough and we don't understand... Fruit in due season implies that we are not meant to be fruitful all the time, but we are grounded in God's Word all the time. Even when we feel dry and our leaves aren't so green, we are still planted by that life sustaining stream. Meditating on the law day and night... even out of season... even when it's hard. Following even when we are being pulled in a thousand different directions, and the demands on our time, money and attention leave us spinning - but being disciplined and consistent, grounded in the knowledge that our God is ultimately and supremely good beyond our ability to comprehend. And who loves us and created us for a purpose, even if we are too worn out to feel it. Being a disciple is not easy. It isn't meant to be. We cannot bear fruit if we don't first go through the growth required to be strong enough to bear fruit... and sometimes it is time to not bear fruit and just be a tree planted by the water preparing for the next season... To be prepared for hard challenges, but know that we don't face them alone... and to be grounded in God's Word so we make wise decisions knowing the season for bearing fruit will come again... To focus on God's Kingdom even when we live in this one…
-- Rev Cindy Stansbury with help from Ginny Barry