Readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 10:5a,21-33; Romans 6:12-23; Jeremiah 20:7-13

The readings for Sunday brought to mind this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor during World War II who served the underground Church in Germany up until his execution by the Nazis.

“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our  lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.” (The Cost of Discipleship, 99)

Each of Sunday’s readings describes the cost of following Christ, whether in the endurance of hatred and mockery for one’s beliefs or in the internal struggle against sin which must be waged every day. But each reading also contains a Gospel promise, a seed of hope that shows why the way of the cross is really the best and only way for us to live. “Sing to the LORD…for he has delivered the life of the needy” (Jer 20). “Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6). “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt 10). So in Christ there is joy even as we carry our crosses.