20 Jesus raised his eyes to his disciples and said:
“Happy are you who are poor,
because God’s kingdom is yours.
21 Happy are you who hunger now,
because you will be satisfied.
Happy are you who weep now,
because you will laugh.
22 Happy are you when people hate you, reject you, insult you, and condemn your name as evil because of the Human One [or Son of Man]. 23 Rejoice when that happens! Leap for joy because you have a great reward in heaven. Their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.
24 But how terrible for you who are rich,
because you have already received your comfort.
13 “Go in through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is broad and the road wide, so many people enter through it. 14 But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it.
From playing a video game, Barley Lightfoot learned that “On a quest, the clear path is never the right one.” * Jesus' disciples began to learn that, too, as soon as he began to teach. Of his words in Luke and Matthew, scholar William Barclay wrote, “they are a series of bombshells….imagine anyone saying, ‘Happy are the poor, and, Woe to the rich!’ To talk like that is to put an end to the world’s values altogether.” **
Lord Jesus, Resurrection is big and respected. But through this church, you call me to live above and beyond my culture’s values and wishes. Give me the spine to keep going through your narrow gate. Amen.
* Onward quote from https://lolalambchops.com/
** William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 76, 77.
*** Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, from study note on Luke 6:17-49 in The CEB Women’s Bible. Nashville: Common English Bible, 2016, p. 1297.
****Barclay, ibid., p. 77
Our family enjoys hiking. Every vacation we schedule at least a couple blocks of time to be out adventuring in nature and we try to find new places to explore whenever we are together.
My husband and I normally prefer a route with a nice wide paved or gravel trail, preferably shaded, maybe even with some steps-–either created or natural-–for the really steep incline sections. Our kids, Kate and Ryan, always lean toward a little more adventure. So for our ideal route, we settle somewhere in between.
One of the things I have noticed over the years is that no matter where we hike or how much planning we put into it, our kids always seem to reroute us along the way. The hikes start off great, each of us full of optimism that we have charted the perfect trail.
But before we get too far, we find that almost every route has places where the main path continues, but smaller, less traveled offshoots diverge from the main. Most of the time, these are too small to even be marked on the map. As we come to each fork in the path, our kids always choose the road less traveled, the path that is a little more remote, a little more concealed, a little more unpredictable.
When they first started suggesting these less-used spin offs, we were hesitant, unsure of what was ahead and reluctant to take the chance. But, as kids do, they persuaded us to try something different--to explore the narrow path--and it has been amazing. It took a little more effort to duck under low branches and climb over tree roots, we’ve had to leap over muddy spots on the trail, and we have tested how waterproof our hiking shoes really are. At times, we couldn’t see far enough ahead to know if we would be able to continue or if we would have to turn around and retrace our steps.
We didn’t know what we might encounter along the way, we had no idea if we would experience something amazing or face unexpected challenges, and we didn’t know for sure how or when it would end.
Yes, we have retraced our steps several times. Sometimes because the journey was too much or there was no place to move forward. We have over-exerted ourselves and wound up exhausted and frustrated. Occasionally, the trail has gotten the best of us and left us bruised, scraped, and bloodied.
The thing that I have noticed, however, is how much the adventure changes when we take the path less traveled. Not just the physical challenge, but the way we engage with each other and how we realign our focus beyond ourselves. The narrow path requires us to pay attention to the needs of others and forces us to make decisions that work for everyone. It requires us to become encouragers and sometimes to be the voice of reason that says, “We have to stop here, we have done all we can.”
But no matter how the adventures have ended, when we have taken the chance to turn away from the carefully curated route and focused on the narrow path, we have seen amazing sights and experienced exhilarating moments. Of course, there have been a few rough moments, but in retrospect even they impacted us and taught us something. And we have found that no matter what path we take, it’s always better when we do it with people we love alongside us challenging, encouraging, and helping us stay on track.
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