by Pat Lee
(Based on Luke 14:25-33; Deut 30:15-20)
Bruce Gilberd in his book One Thought for Today, on the subject of ‘Questions’, writes, “It is worth noting a question indicates we are on a quest – a journey into knowledge, into achievement, info, self-realisation, into awareness of God. Jesus asked a lot of questions. And, yes, he also made pivotal statements.”
Today’s readings involve a lot of those things. But first, I want to ask you some questions. What brought you to Tairua? Why did you come here and not somewhere else? Have any of you always lived here?
God has brought each of us here for a reason.
Michael and I came to Tairua for four days at the end of 1989, through New Year, and then back to Auckland. We had passed through several years before, on a very stormy Anzac weekend, on our way to Hahei. I don’t remember Tairua even registering because of the thundery weather at the time. However, we came back for those four days, to Enid Bennett’s bach, and fell in love with the place and decided we wanted to retire here.
After looking carefully into our finances, we bought a section in Hornsea Road and started building our house in 1992, but only the top part because that was all we could afford then. We came over here quite a lot, while we were living in Christchurch, before Michael died. When that happened, I had to decide what I was going to do. This is the place I came to, because it was where my still unfinished house was, and the only placed I owned (because we lived in a vicarage).
So what is the connection between this passage and Luke’s. It took me a while to see it, but then I read a piece written by Thomas Conley1. He says, “Both of these passages are talking about finishing the job.”
I thought that it was my decision to come here, but through the 23 years of living here, I have discovered that it was where God wanted me to come and serve him. We are all here because God wants and needs us to be here. God has a task for each of us in this place.
Moses was in the exact place God needed him to be. Today’s Deuteronomy reading has Moses telling the Israelites that they need to obey God’s commands, keep his laws, and persevere as they are about to enter the Promised Land. It’s taken them forty years to get to this promised land, because of their constant grumbling, moaning and disobedience.
Moses is quite blunt because he knows that God does not break his promises; but they need to obey because there will be consequences if they don’t. “But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray and bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.”
Moses was encouraging the Israelites to persevere and obey God’s commands to finish the job as they enter the Promised Land, and possess it. There were going to be many difficulties to face but as long as they persevere and obey God’s commands, they would be all right. Many of them, sadly, didn’t.
Conley says, “Jesus is saying the same thing. Taking the cross, being a disciple, counting the cost, finishing the tower or, in the case of the king, having enough soldiers to complete the battle plans, are all related to Moses’s final instructions to his people.”
As we come before the table by which we are reminded symbolically of Jesus’s dedication in completing the job he started, what comes to the fore? Is it the matter of perseverance?
Moses says, “Persevere in the principles (laws) that have brought you to the lip of the Promised Land.” And Jesus says, “Persevere in toting the cross and finishing the ‘tower’ you have begun. Both of them say, “Work hard at what you have started and persevere to complete the task.”
My first task here in Tairua was to finish my house. I enlisted Ray who was a retired builder with whom I had become friends, to give me the help I needed, as I had no idea even where to begin. We married in 2002, but even before that, God had given me a second task which was to help Ray, because, as our friendship grew, it became obvious to me that he needed help and support. He had quite a few health issues. As time went on, his health deteriorated, but you seldom heard him complain. Since his death late in 2015, God has given me other things to do, like writing reflections.
But let’s go back to the Luke reading for a moment. Does God really want us to hate our families, as verses 25 -27 state?
I don’t think so. I think these verses are telling us that within our own families there will be misunderstandings and conflicts because, as Christians, we need to follow Christ and obey his teachings.
Many of our family members do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. This causes them to live very different lifestyles to us. Some of them may even think that those of us who go to church are wasting our time when we could be out doing all kinds of other things on a Sunday morning. I know many in my family think it’s all about the must not do’s or must do’s, and cannot see that there is freedom in following God’s laws, and do not understand how much Jesus did for me, and all of us.
I see this as one of the costs I have to pay for following Christ. I love my family. But I know Jesus’s way is the better way and that is my choice.
How about you? Are you doing what God brought you here to do, or are you still just going about doing the things you like and enjoy? Have you been willing to pay the cost of giving up things that you like doing to follow what God really wants you to do instead, and persevering with it until the job is finished?
1Thomas H Conley – The Ministers Manual, 1987 Edition, edited by James Cox