From the Daily Office Lectionary for Wednesday in the week of Proper 13, Year 1 (Pentecost 10, 2015)
Mark 8:34 ~ [Jesus] called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Confession: I don’t really believe Jesus said this. The metaphor of “taking up the cross” would not have been something a First Century Palestinian Jew would use. Do I think Jesus said something like this? Yes, I do. I’m pretty sure that Jesus knew that following his path would be costly and that he was “straight up” with those who would join him. I believe that when the church remembered him and his words, those who told the story “read back” the cross metaphor which, because of his death and his example, had by then become current in Christian circles. So, I don’t believe Jesus said this, but I do believe he made this point.
And when he made it, I’ll bet someone said, “You don’t know what you’re asking.” We’re coming up on the beginning of the church’s “program year” which means that we’re also coming up on Father Fundraiser’s least favorite season: “stewardship campaign season.” God knows, I hate this time of year!
First of all, I hate the misuse of the word “stewardship” as a synonym for “fundraising.” It distorts what should be a year-round lifetime concern of every person. Stewardship is not fundraising; it is the care of everything we have been given so that it is not despoiled and can be passed on to those who come after us.
Second, I hate asking for money. I hated having to ask for money when I was a kid. I pretty much grew up in a single-parent household with a mother who worked hard to raise two kids. There wasn’t a lot of extra money, and I knew it. (As, as if I didn’t, I was reminded of that fact.) I still hate asking for money.
Third, I hate it when someone says, “You don’t know what you’re asking” and then proceeds to tell me all about their mortgage, their kids’ college tuition, and their medical expenses, but fails to mention their cruise in the Caribbean or their ski vacation to Colorado or their top-of-the-line, latest model SUV. Yeah, I do know what I’m asking: I’ve got a mortgage, kids who went to college, and plenty of medical expenses (and I’ve never taken a cruise, haven’t gone skiing in 30 years, and drive an eleven-year old vehicle). Besides, I’m not really asking. I hate asking for money. What I’m doing, or at least trying to do, is preaching stewardship, not fundraising.
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
“But, Jesus, you don’t know what you’re asking!”
I don’t think Jesus actually said that, but yeah, I’m pretty sure he got that response.