Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Building the future

Now, large crowds were following Jesus, and he spoke to them using metaphors, describing them as builders who, before starting out, had considered matters and arrived at an estimated cost, and decided that they had the means to pay the price, even if, as was so often the case, the final cost turned out to be somewhat greater than the initial estimate.

(Jesus, of course, was a house-builder by years of apprenticeship, and knew a thing or two about which he spoke.)

The crowd were confident that they could follow in the wake of this popular rabbi, swept along but never getting in too deep. In short, they were in control, and would not be exposed to ridicule.

The crowd, of course, saw themselves in just such a metaphor. Knowing. Judicious. Having a certain status in the world. Respected by others. Not a laughing-stock.

And then Jesus springs the trap. Tells them that, if they stick with him, they will indeed get in too deep; it will cost them everything they have, and, even then, they will not be able to complete what they have begun.

In the Gospels, as everywhere, crowds are not to be trusted, swept along as they always are by whichever way the wind is blowing. Jesus is always extending the invitation to step out of the crowd, to step away from even the crowd at its best; to embrace loss and ridicule and emptiness and servitude and death, when it comes, as it always does; to discover that in the rubble of what we cannot keep, God is building something that cannot be shaken.

The realisation that you have been swept up in something you thought you could manage, but have since discovered will cost you more than you have; that you have embarked on a course of action you will never be able to complete, and at huge loss of reputation; is a kairos moment.

There are, I suppose, three possible courses of action: to seek to return from where you came, and try to forget the whole, unfortunate recent past; to plough on regardless, suffering massive loss but pretending otherwise; or, to become a disciple, one being shaped for the kingdom of heaven on earth—a vision altogether greater than our towers and armies, our empire-building, could ever imagine or deliver.

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