Monday, September 06, 2010

Ephesians 2: 14-18
Luke 14: 25-33

Something seems to be going on with the University of Tulsa NPR station, so fortunately, I’ve been getting a stronger signal from the OSU station than usual. And a program that that station carries that I’d not heard before is called “The Takeaway.”

I’m happy to say, I did indeed take away one story that I heard—and I did so because it fused with this scripture passage that we have in the lectionary today.

Men's Doubles - 3rd Round

Rohan Bopanna(IND)[16] /

Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi(PAK)[16]

Taking up tennis raquets, taking up a cross.

Shouldering the hatred and enmity between those two countries, and offering up an alternative.

Counting the costs—they could be assassinated, they could be mocked or scorned by their own people—but instead they make plain their friendship, and even become teammates.

“must hate their own mother and father, brother and sister.” Jesus asks us to expand our notion of family. We are to be aware of a larger family that we all belong to. We are to love the stranger and the enemy as brothers and sisters.

Then Jesus goes into this extended metaphor, most likely poking fun of Herod, who had a penchant for building things to prove his illustriousness to a society that disliked their king. He takes the metaphor of a person building something, but first making sure they have the supplies, or the funds for the supplies, for the whole project before they begin.

This is how the tennis players have approached their game. They have taken the gifts that they have, and they have shouldered the chance of danger or simply embarrassment and ostracizing that they may receive on account of their partnership. Then they lift up a higher ideal to the world.

The two tennis players say that though you might expect that they would be the recipients of hate mail or threats, they have never even heard a cross word from their countrymen for their public friendship. Instead, the two countries are rallying around them, and some are pinning their hopes for lasting peace between these two rival cultures on the atmosphere of colleauguiality and sportsmanship surrounding these two players. They received an at-large bid to participate in the US open, and have won their first round, in part because of the possibilities that exist with this team.

The two are even planning a match between them to take place on the border of India and Pakistan, with the net of the tennis court going right down the border between those two countries.

This is the kind of thing we can do to “Lift high the cross” in our own lives. Lifting high the cross is sometimes a heroic statement to the world that gets lots of recognition. But the cross was a symbol of embarrassment in the Roman world. It was a punishment for common people who got in the way of Rome.

When Jesus was about 10 years old, hundreds of his countrymen were crucified on the same day for participating in a rebellion under a man named Judas. On other occasions, Rome lined the roads that they had built all over the world with the crosses of insurrectionists every 50 or so feet.

The scripture says that Jesus himself was crucified with 2 common thieves. Sometimes lifting up your cross can be through something that we might think of as mundane. Can two tennis players teaming up to be a doubles team be an example of taking up their cross? It can if it is done to promote peace and harmony between two warring cultures.

How can you promote peace and understanding and love of neighbor in your working environment? What are the costs for you by doing so? Social capital, embarrassment? Count the cost of following Jesus, and then put your relationship with Jesus into action in your life. Jesus said, it isn’t enough just to call out “Lord, Lord.” It also matters what you do with that connection to the Lord.

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