Beloved through Discipleship

Today’s reading is the same as yesterday due to the leap year: Exodus 11–12:21; Luke 14; Job 29; 1 Corinthians 15

As today is leap day I’ve been invited to “freestyle” in my scripture reflection for Bible Journal. Last week there were so many rich reflections on Passover and the surrounding scripture in Exodus. I’m tempted to write more about the ancient tradition of Passover and it’s representation now in our modern lives. In Exodus 12 the Lord commands Moses and Aaron that the Israelites must slaughter one lamb per household. This lamb must be without blemish, male and be one year old. As I considered this sacrifice and the cost to each Israelite family, I challenged myself to ask: what is our modern lamb? What is it that God is asking of us as individuals? What is he asking our modern households to contribute, in order to be counted among His chosen ones?

As I read and re-read the scripture readings for yesterday my heart has continually come back to the idea of discipleship. In Luke 14 beginning in verse 25 Jesus talks about the cost of discipleship:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14: 26-28

 Ultimately, wasn’t God asking the Israelites to cast off the securities of their world; their best lamb in exchange for discipleship with Him? And they, living by the very definition of faith (what cannot be seen or heard) made this corporeal sacrifice without hesitation. Are WE able to do this? Are we as Christians making daily decisions that lead us to discipleship? I often find myself living in dichotomy, my Sunday morning convictions fading into Tuesday and Wednesday’s trials. I am quick to look to my husband, my parents, my friends and my colleagues for discipleship. I imagine that what Jesus is asking of us is to discipline ourselves in discipleship with him. In verse 27 he speaks of “bearing his own cross” which isn’t really related to carrying our own burdens but actually a reference to the Romans forcing a convicted criminal to carry his own cross to his execution. Jesus wanted his followers to understand that committing to a life with him and in him means total submission.

As people we want to feel connected, we fear isolation and loneliness. We stumble through daily life searching for that lasting connection. I find myself looking for it in my marriage relationship, my family relationships and with friends. I also, if I’m being honest, seek it in relationships with things like food, electronics and trendy clothes. Jesus is speaking to us through Luke’s words, reminding us that when we seek oneness with Him then we will finally experience what it means to be beloved.

I’m currently reading a wonderful book by a Catholic priest entitled, “Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World” by Henri Nouwen. In the first chapter he defines the meaning of being beloved.

“Aren’t you, like me, hoping that some person, thing or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well being you desire? Don’t you often hope: “May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country, or relationship fulfill my deepest desire.” But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burn-out. This is the way to spiritual death. Well, you and I don’t have to kill ourselves. We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, spouses, teachers, children and friends loved or wounded us. That is the truth of our lives and the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, “You are my Beloved” ~Henri J.M. Nouwen

 We hear this word so many times in different contexts but to me it is spoken most directly to us in Romans 9

“…even us whom he has called, not only from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea: “Those who were not my people, I will call ‘my people’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved’” Romans 9:24-25

 WE are his people. He is inviting us to bring our modern lambs to slaughter. He asks us to search ourselves and then discipline ourselves into discipleship with Him. Not in the spirit of penance and punishment but in the seeking of that ultimate joy and relief of being His Beloved. As we live these “Passover days” I like to imagine our heavenly Father sweeping his gaze over our roofs, looking for signs of obedience and genuine desire to be in communion with Him. I imagine what that looks like to Him in terms of surrender of my worldly security for His everlasting love. As we wait patiently for the resurrection, it’s maybe not the cold, dark and grey days suggesting deprivation we are meant to soak in. Perhaps, it’s an invitation to seek an inner attentiveness to His voice.

“Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1