Monday, September 27, 2010
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"
This is the Gospel passage for October 3rd that will be read in most, if not all, Episcopal Churches.
So, when asked by the "sent ones" (AKA apostles) to increase their faith, Jesus talks about faith the size of a mustard seed that allows such... a person of faith to uproot and send mulberry trees flying into the sea. But then, just as you may start to think of faith as a form of power over the physical universe, Jesus talks about slaves doing slave work and not expecting their master to cook them dinner at the end of their long day of hard labor.
Rather, the master tells the slaves to get his dinner ready and then serve him with aprons on.
The kicker is that Jesus says to his apostles that once they finish the work they have been ordered to do, they should say to themselves: "We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done."
So now I invite your reflection and response to this text. I am guessing that it will bring up some interesting, disturbing, confusing, and maybe even some brilliant flashes of insight. Stay with it. Let it speak to you.
A Few Days Have Passed since posting these initial comments.
On further consideration….
Perhaps Jesus is addressing our understanding of our relationship with God as being one of rule giver and rule followers. Following rules is very different that trusting someone, even the law giver, to direct your steps. When I was a public school administrator in California, my role and the rules for running a public high school were set out in several volumes of Education Codes. It was a permissive code in that I could only do what it allowed me to do. Rather than having a set of "Don'ts", I had a set of "Dos."
At the end of each day, it was clear to me that I had not done all of the "Dos" of my job, but had ended up focusing my limited time, talent, and space to fulfilling those "Dos" that resulted in building a community of teachers, staff, teens, and their parents that was respectful, focused on caring about the kids and their futures, and providing the best educational opportunities we could create together.
On any given day, I could easily have been fired for not doing a particular "Do" of my job. I knew that I was not doing all that the laws and codes required of me and of my school and so I did not tend to bet too full of myself.
Perhaps Jesus is addressing those who are bound to a set of laws, the fulfillment of which gave them a sense of being of greater value, goodness, or holiness than anyone else. It is this hubris, this pride that Jesus' story of slaves who expect to be served by their master at the end of their day of work seems to expose.
Those of us who are bound to the law as a way of being good rather than settling for God's love and grace have defined our relationship with God and others in a way that can only lead to disaster.
I appreciated having the California Education Code to help me do my job in accordance with the public will, but I never went home feeling that my work as a principal was limited to simply following the rules. I felt like those slaves who at the end of the day understood that by any measurement of the Education Code, I was a miserable failure and pretty much worthless.
So, here is the good news. When I saw kids being graduated from our little continuation high school who had been written off as failures and sometimes as impossible cases, I knew what grace was all about, not just for them, but for those of us who are slaves to rules.
Grace gives the rules we follow a context that moves us from slaves to a code book to slaves to a grace where we are utterly dependent upon the love of God. Jesus liberated the law as a source of self-congratulatory bragging and returned it to what the psalmist called a light along the path way. Notice that it is not the path way, only a light to help us see the path way.
Where does the path lead? I have found that the path of grace is where we meet other pilgrims and where love, grace, beauty, and remembering who we are and whose we are, is a place called home.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Dead and yet alive,
Bread and wine offered and shared.
Broken and gathered,
Outside our gate,
Seen and known
Around the rail,
the Throne of God,
RWC+ (September 2010)
Jesus said, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.
Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house-- for I have five brothers-- that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' He said, `No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
So often we fail to see things and people around us. By seeing, I guess I really mean knowing something deep down inside of our core. One way of coming to know someone, to really see them, is to love them against all odds.
This is not romantic love that comes and goes, but an abiding reverence for and faithfulness to someone who might be invisible to others. The Gospel for this Sunday presents two characters. The rich man and the poor man (Lazarus by name) live in the same world, yet the rich man never really comes to know, see, or love Lazarus.
Lazarus is invisible to the rich man. Lazarus was no more real to the rich man than Jesus was to those who either ignored him or accused him and sentenced him to death.
Sunday after Sunday and every time we come together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper we reenact this story of Lazarus and the rich man. When we hear the stories of scripture; pray for those in need; confess our sins; and identify Jesus as the one who allows himself to be rejected, unseen, and on the edge of death and obscurity, we are seeing the poor and rejected of our world, Lazarus by name.
In the story that Jesus tells about Lazarus, the rich man begs Father Abraham to send the now dead Lazarus back to his family to warn them that their future after death is determined by whether they can respond differently to the poor in their world.
Abraham says that if the rich man’s family did not believe in the law of Moses that called upon them to care for the poor then they would also not believe even if that poor man rose from the dead.
So, are the rich man’s family always destined to live without hope of seeing and knowing Lazarus in their midst? Jesus death and resurrection makes it harder and harder for the rich of the world to ignore the poor. He makes them visible to us and invites us to know them and to care about them.
As we worship God in Christ, we come around the Table of grace where Jesus is made visible and known to us in bread and wine, his body and blood. We see Lazarus, raised from the dead, not condemning the rich, but coming to us to offer us an opportunity to see and to know all of God’s children who sit outside the gates of our world.
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
1 Timothy 2:1-7
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Paul encourages those who follow the way of God as shown to us by Jesus to pray without prejudice and despite our personal negative feelings and opinions about others. Paul believes that praying for others will help us lead lives that are quiet, at peace with God and others, and filled to the brim with all of God that can fill a human life. Paul also uses the word, "dignity" to describe this praying-for-others kind of Jesus following life.
Dignity is often seen as a characteristic that is earned by reason of one's accomplishments, status among others, power, and/or wealth, but Paul sees dignity being inherent in every human being because we are all made in the image of the only true God and creator of all that is. So, whether we think someone has dignity or not, Paul says to pray for that person "as if" they did have dignity because to do so helps us to experience our own dignity seen in the ways we act like God is love, mercy, and concern for others irrespective of who they are in our opinion or the opinions of others.
For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all -- this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Paul is saying that since there is but one God who calls all of us his children and only one God in whose image we are all made, we only need one mediator between God and ourselves. Why? Because Jesus does not take sides against any of his brothers and sisters who are all made in the image of God, the creator. Whenever Jesus looked at another person he saw God, not an enemy or a friend, but God and he loved that person with all of his heart, mind, and strength. It is this quality, particularly and uniquely in Jesus that identifies him as the only mediator and advocate for the whole human race.
It is Jesus' ability to see God in all of us that makes him our hero, our rescuer, our redeemer, our savior, our Lord. Other heros, political, spiritual, and religious have come along, but they tend to only see themselves as favoring one group over another. These heroes see only themselves and their own and not the rest of creation. It is this quality of heroes being over against those we might see as enemies or persecutors or evil that makes them incapable of saving all of God's children whom God has made. So when Paul claims exclusive status for Jesus as the only mediator between God and all of humanity, he is saying something rather simple, but ever so deep. Jesus is here to rescue us all and pours his life out for all people, not just some.
There are many who will reject such an exclusive claim for Jesus because it seems to exclude those who do not believe in him, but Paul is saying just the opposite, he is saying that no one else can rescue the lot of us without being willing to give himself up to our wrathful human ways of taking sides. Jesus becomes the ransom for all humanity in a world that is more than willing to play favorites and scapegoat the rest as being unworthy of continued existence.
Sunday's Gospel reading is about the unjust steward who gets busted by his master for misappropriating his master’s wealth and by doing so, he made the master look bad. Masters with great wealth were not well liked by those who owed them money, but dishonest stewards were held in even greater contempt. So, the borrowers go to the master and demonize the steward (yep, the word used to describe how these borrowers told on the steward comes from the Greek word, diabolos, devil, divider, demon) and the master's initial response is to rip the steward from his position in a violent and rather harsh way.
But the master gives the steward time to settle up the accounts. It is during this time that the steward offers deals to the borrowers that make not only the master look good (thus restoring his honor), but also gives this crafty and unjust steward “many friends” and “eternal homes” among those who will probably not soon forget the steward’s pardoning or forgiving whatever debt they said they owed the master.
Imagine being able to tell your creditors how much you owed them because the creditors really didn’t know or care what you owed? Would you tell the steward the truth when he asked you to write out your bill? Would you pay what you really owed? But that is not the main point of this story.
The honor, not the money, seems to matter most to the master. Creating good relationships with those in debt to the master seems to matter most to the steward. So the steward reduces debt in the name of the master and the master commends him this unjust steward (who is still misappropriating his master’s funds) for getting something right.
Jesus may be saying, “I don’t care why you forgive others, whether out of fear, or self-preservation, or greed, or to uphold your honor, just do it. Forgive now, not later. Forgive not just the ones who are easy to forgive, forgive them all. Forgive debts that are deep or shallow. Ultimately, the debt is owed to the master not the stewards.
Finally, the kingdom is about forgiving and those who can forgive in the name and power of God had best be at this work of forgiveness. Will we forgive to avoid punishment, to uphold God’s honor, or because we hope to forgiven ourselves? Motives seem not to matter at all.
Paul says to prayer for everyone—see them as owing you nothing, as debt-free. Uphold the honor and dignity of God captured in each living soul, rejoice and celebrate that God has come to free us all from the debts that are killing us. He comes to free us from demanding that others pay up more than they owe or can possibly pay us. The ransom God pays in Christ has us all covered. Will we share this good news with others by letting them know that our debts are forgiven?
Thursday, September 09, 2010
In the midst of the many challenges and changes in our world, it is sometimes appropriate to offer a word about a current news event that might help us look at it from a distinctly Anglican perspective. The news is full of fairly heated rhetoric these days mostly blaming and shaming and encouraging one part of the public to side against another part of the body politic as simply wrong.
It used to be said: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Perhaps it is true that words are not capable of directly and personally injuring me, but words can incite those who hear certain accusatory and defamatory words to pick up stones and sticks and go after the person or persons against whom the words are directed.
Anglicanism has many gifts for those who are willing to receive and use them. One of these gifts is the way we try to think about questions that trouble us or call us to action. This gift comes in three parts: Scripture, Tradition, and Reason and is often called the source of authority within the church.This three-fold gift causes us to pause before responding to incendiary words and calls to action against others. In short, this gift is a call to prayer and thinking through issues and events that trouble us and that seem to be demanding that we take a stand against this or that person or cause.
The tragedy of 911 is an event whose meaning seems to be open to many interpretations. There is a struggle within America as to what meaning it should have for us. There are those who want this event to be a rallying cry against the perpetrators and this cry for revenge seems to have expanded to include all of those who practice the same religion as those who actually flew the plans into the Twin Towers.
Revenge is a powerful emotion and one of our nationally known political leaders summed up how we have separated God out from the question of how we should respond to those who attacked us or who are in anyway associated with those who attacked us. He said: “God have mercy on the souls of those men who did this (911 attack), because we won’t.”
What we say becomes a sort of covenant with a course of action. A Florida minister says that God has directed him to burn copies of the Koran on 9-11 this year and his small congregation of 50 members becomes front page news; a photograph of him is burned somewhere in the Middle East and he is called the devil; the leading military officers in the United States plead for him not to burn the Koran and offer reasons for their pleading including the safety of American troops; some political and religious leaders have condemned his actions while others have remained silent.
The minister says that he hopes that the burning of the Koran will not result In anyone suffering or dying, but that if it does lead to suffering and death, he would not accept responsibility for those deaths. He disconnects his words from any potential outcome of suffering and death, but says that he and his people must do the burning to take a stand and do what God has directed them to do.
Notice how God is the ultimate authority for the violence that may or may not follow the burning of the Koran. The minister and his congregation are relieved of any such responsibility because God has directed their actions and only those who actually do the killing of Americans or anyone else are responsible for any deaths that might follow their burning of the Koran.
You may have a gut reaction to what this minister is doing and how he is justifying his actions, but I would like us to go beneath the surface of these gut feelings and explore why we are reacting the way we are in this situation. Our three -fold gift of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason provides us with a way to do just that. It also challenges us to take a hard look at how we view God and how God communicates his will to us as individuals and as the human community and at how we view ourselves and how human beings respond to threats and tragic events like 9-11.
Scripture: So, what can you find in Scripture that would make the call for the burning of books like the Koran acceptable? What are the examples taken from Scripture of how God’s people have responded to threats from their enemies? As Christians, what does Jesus and the apostolic witness say about how we are to deal with our enemies and those who persecute us?
How do you weigh what may be contradictory messages on these questions that are found in Scripture?
Tradition: How do you understand the continuing revelation of God in human history as recorded in the non-monolithic teachings of the church in each succeeding generation? When you look at some of the rules of warfare found in the Geneva Convention, do you see any of these rules as somehow related to the influence of the church on nation states? Of the many choices for responding to attacks by others offered in the church’s history, how do you evaluate which of these paths is the one you feel God is calling you to embrace? How might this path differ from your understanding of God and human beings offered in Scripture?
Our baptismal vows and corporate prayer life are part of this gift of tradition that is rooted in Scripture. In our vows and promises we say that we will seek and serve Christ in all people, loving our neighbor as ourselves. We also say that we will respect the dignity of every human being. There are no “unless” or “until” or “if” clauses in these promises we made at our baptism, but we are left with the choice of how we will live into these promises and vows we make. If you are not a baptized Christian and have not made such promises, you may have other ways of evaluating the proper course of action.
Reason: This gift of reason includes our acquired knowledge about life including what we have learned through science, the arts, theology, literature, and all other sources of knowledge that teach us about the visible universe and how it works. It also includes your own personal history and moral/ethical decision-making over your life time.
In taking time to prayerfully and thoughtfully consider the questions raised by this one current event and the historical event that created this event, we are making a choice to not respond from our gut, but from our hearts informed by our willingness to be guided by the Holy Spirit in our use of the three-fold gift of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. I know the temptation to do a knee-jerk response is strong and I have more than once succumbed to this temptation, but I pray that we will all use this opportunity to consider our response.
Now, let’s see how this bit of Scripture for this coming might help us respond to both the 9-11 attack and the current event making the news.
Jesus is surrounded by people who were considered the enemies of culturally defined goodness and sanctity—tax collectors and sinners summed up their condition. I am guessing that among this crowd were potential if not actual terrorists who were fighting the Roman Empire’s occupation of Israel. He was also surrounded by those who judged him for associating with such people and for sharing common meals with them, an act that would defile him according to their strongly held beliefs.
Jesus tells the story of the Good Shepherd to both groups. The good shepherd is the one who leaves 99 of his sheep in the wilderness and goes out to rescue the one who got lost. When the good shepherd finds this one lost sheep, he hoists it up on his shoulders and brings it back to the community and the other 99 sheep. A party is thrown to celebrate the return of the lost sheep.
Consider the possibility that Jesus was telling the story about himself, not as the good shepherd, but as the lost and dying lamb. Scripture often calls God the shepherd of his people. In the psalms we hear that we are the “sheep of his pasture.” So perhaps Jesus is telling the story of his own death, his loss of place in the community, his loss of the protection of the Good Shepherd who is God, his loss of identity as a child of his people and of God, and finally his loss of life.
It is interesting that the 99 sheep are left in the wilderness, the place where Israel was led by Moses to learn about God and about themselves. In leaving the 99 in such a dangerous place, the shepherd runs the risk of all of the sheep being stolen, injured, eaten, or lost. So, why would he do that?
Suppose that the Good Shepherd is God the shepherd. God the shepherd is different from any other human shepherd. God as shepherd understands that the 99 sheep stay together out of fear of being lost themselves. They hang together to protect themselves from their enemies and from the harshness of the wilderness and in their sheep’s world they see the loss of one of their own as being acceptable collateral damage for keeping them all together and safe.
They expect God the shepherd to stay with them rather than go after the one who is lost, but God disappointingly does not follow their script. This God goes in search of the lost one because in God’s economy, no one is expendable or a sacrificial offering for the rest of the sheep, the herd, the crowd, the mob.
God never really was in on this system of loss and so he goes in search of this lamb, this child of his and brings him back on his shoulders like one carrying the horizontal bar of a cross. When he returns with this lost Lamb of God, the party begins because it could not ever begin without this lost one.
We call this return of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the resurrection.
All of history since that moment in time is about how the human race will imitate God in welcoming the lost ones, some of whom we have responsibility for driving out from our presence. The party celebrating the “first born of the dead” has begun. Will we be among those who join the celebration or will we remain steadfast, as the elder brother in the story of the prodigal son does in staying away from the party and being angry about the return of the lost brother that the Father then celebrates?
History since the resurrection is about the 99 sheep left behind in the wilderness joining God in the search for the lost, ignored, abandoned, forgotten, reviled and rejected and rejoicing when the lost are found and restored to community. We become a new sort of sheep, no longer sticking together out of fear, but called together around God the Good Shepherd of the human flock.
“Jesus is the first born of all creation, the head of the church, and the author of our salvation” because God the Shepherd sought him out in death and raised him from the grave when we judged him worthy of death and non-existence. It is Jesus, this first victim restored, who contains within himself all victims of every age—past, present, and future that the Father, the Great Shepherd of the human flock, has sought out and found and now celebrates in bread broken and wine offered.
Perhaps this simple story Jesus told about a lost lamb and the Good Shepherd can be part of the way we come to understand a minister who plans to burn the Koran and all of the various people and institutions that are responding to his intended course of action and making it large in our national conversation.
In the original response to our national loss on September 11, 2001, some people went to ground zero to pray for the lost, to work to save those who were lost, to comfort those whose loved ones were missing and possibly dead, to give aid and support to the workers digging through debris, and there were those who prayed for those who had committed the acts that led to death and destruction in the name of God.
Perhaps you have your own way of understanding the parable of the Good Shepherd that is helpful to you in deciding how you will evaluate this one single moment in history called 911 that carries such a heavy weight of pain, fear, anguish, wrath, and fury. Perhaps you will find in the three-fold gift of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, the wisdom and courage that help you keep the promises and vows you made when you were baptized.
Thursday, September 02, 2010
Gospel Reflection on Family Values: WHAT WAS BEFORE FAMILY?
Our collect for this Sunday (This link will take you to a rather longer reflection on the collect) reminds us that trusting God is not something we do based upon our strength or intelligence, but comes as pure gift.
How does that work?
Well, consider that a young child will jump with reckless abandoned towards an adult trusting that the adult will catch them rather than letting them fall to the ground. Is it the child trusting that he or she will be able to stop their fall or is it rather that the child has been given the knowledge that the adult into whose arms they are headed is strong enough and willing to catch them?
Where does that knowledge that allows the child to trust parents and other adults to take care of them? Prior experience of the trustworthiness of the parent or adults in general may be a big part of the answer. It can work the opposite way as well.
The child can fearfully retreat from adults, even parents if their experiences of these particular adults is not fairly consistently loving, caring, and trustworthy.
Our collect draws from a long history of experiencing God as trustworthy. It is this gift of trustworthy, loving, and caring actions that allow us to trust God as we enter into a deeper and more committed relationship with him. This is what Jesus is talking about in our Gospel for this coming Sunday.
Among most cultures, the family is seen as the foundation for the best in our national life together. So much of the current debates about what constitutes a family today is driven by this central and long held belief that healthy families promote healthy civic culture.
Recently I have been asked to provide Cub Scout mentoring for boys in the parish who are going for their religious merit badges. The program that is used by the scouts is called P.R.A.Y. The two units I have been asked to assist with are called “God and Me” and “God and Family.” As I looked over the mentor’s manual, I was struck by how those responsible for creating the units dealt with the place of family in the life of the young man.
They compared the relationships that form our lives to a pizza. The whole process of creating a pizza was compared to the process of socialization that we have all gone through as from birth onwards. The crust, the sauce, the toppings, the cheese, baking, eating, and sharing were connected to a Christian understanding of the family.
The crust is foundational to who we become and represents God as the sure foundation on which our lives are built. The sauce is our family heritage and spiritual heritage. The toppings are our talents and gifts that strengthen our families. The cheese is about being covered with God’s unconditional love and our response to that love. Baking corresponds to the patient process of being formed as individuals within the family with all of the ingredients combined with the finishing time in the oven and how important being in God’s family is when faced with the tough times of life. Finally, eating the pizza represents our sharing God’s love that we have learned to trust within our families.
So, it is the crust to which Jesus refers today when he says that being a disciple means that our trust must not be placed on our parents or other family members, but upon God as the sure and trustworthy foundation of our lives.
Before families were, God is and it is upon the God “who settest the solitary in families” that must be the most important relationship we have as disciples of Christ. Why?
Our parents and other family members have a responsibility to raise us to be in a loving relationship with God and with all of God’s children, not just the ones we like or who are like us or to whom we are related. This is this duty and obligation of Christian parenting.
In other words, parents need to trust in God as their Father so as to show their children that as parents, they too, are limited and dependent upon God as the foundation or crust of their lives. If the sauce, toppings, cheese are substituted for the crust of God’s love what comes out of the heat of baking will be predictably less than desirable.
It is God “in whom we live, and move, and have our being.” God is the trustworthy crust or bread of our existence. If we think our family heritage or our spiritual heritage or our talents, gifts, or the excellence of our family life can substitute for God, we will build and bake in vain. Only God can be God and while these other things are good, they are not God.
In saying that one must hate one’s father and mother in order to be a disciple of Jesus, he is saying that to put anything in the place of God (also known as idolatry) only leads to a closed-minded spirituality that sees family, tribe, or nation more important and trustworthy than God. Jesus is clear, God as unconditional love and forgiveness must always be the crust upon which the nurturing gifts of family life must be built.
To do otherwise is to “hate God” and all that God is. To love God over family, tribe, and nation is to love them ever so much more than if we tried to put the burden of being God on them. Such attempts lead to disappointment, heartbreak, and broken relationships.
Here is one of my favorite prayers from THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER for families. Read it over slowly and prayerfully and see if you don’t see what Jesus was saying in the Gospel.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
READINGS FOR THIS SUNDAY
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.
For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love-- and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother-- especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, "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. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."