by Brent Camilleri, Deep Run East (Perkasie, PA) congregation
Absurdity. Following Jesus can feel absurd. Perhaps that sounds slightly extreme. However, from the world’s point of view, it might not be all that far from the truth.
On August 19, approximately 20 credentialed leaders from Mosaic Conference gathered (virtually) for the Faith and Life gathering, a time of meditation, reflection, and discussion. Recent gatherings have focused on the theme of “Identity.” This month we centered on the role of our socio-economic status in our identity.
Pastor Nathan Good, of Swamp (Quakertown, PA) congregation, started off our conversation with personal reflections. In his youth and as an adult, Good, like many of us, was not always aware of the ways that his own socio-economic status informed his sense of identity. And yet, we recognized that our financial and social location does, in fact, play a significant role in how we define our own sense of self.
Our discussion time followed, with a time of meditation on Luke 4:16-19, looking at Jesus proclaiming “The Year of Jubilee.” This vision of the Kingdom again seems impractical or absurd by any earthly definition. We then spent time in smaller groups, discussing Matthew 19:16-30, the story of the rich young man.
Dual themes of guilt and hope arose from our discussions. Guilt and anxiety, mixed with a strong sense of being challenged, were expressed as we recognized that most of us, by living in the United States alone, are in the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest people. Many mentioned that we have underlying anxiety about appearing needy, or that we still find neediness unattractive in some way. It chafes against our desire to be independent, self-sufficient, and responsible.
The scripture in Matthew also contained hope. When Jesus calls us to follow him, he is calling us to something better, healthy, and whole. To all who follow Jesus faithfully, there is the promise of a one hundred-fold return. And although, in many ways, living out the “absurd” economy of Jesus’ Kingdom feels impossible, we are assured that “with God, all things are possible.”
In the end, socio-economic identity and the upside-down values of God’s Kingdom feel challenging to us because it is challenging. Instead of storing up our treasures on earth, Jesus invites us as his followers to “live with the end in view.” Not only our wealth, but our time, material resources, energy, and attention should be oriented again and again towards the Kingdom of God. Jesus proclaims the renewal of all things, the year of God’s favor.
We are called to live in ways that welcome that future reality into our present reality. Absurd? Perhaps. Impossible? Without a doubt! But with God, all things are possible.