Jesus First

Jesus First!

Genesis 21: 8-21
Ps 86: 1-10, 16-17
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10: 24-39
‘Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.’ Matthew 10:36

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

Relationships. That’s the core of today’s gospel reading whanau and Jesus highlights the most important relationship we will ever have and that’s with him. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” In the first relationship there is Jesus, us, and our mother and father. In the second there is Jesus, us, and our children. Of course these are not the only relationships in our lives as they can involve anyone or anything.

However, in every relationship it confronts us with two questions. What is your most important relationship? And, whom do you love the most? After hearing Jesus’ words it’s not hard to figure out it’s him. But the answer is never that simple or that easy to define. It takes time to work it out. I would like to think and say with heaps of confidence that Jesus is my most important relationship, as I am sure some of you would acknowledge, that he is first and he is the one you love the most too. However, as you know, relationships are places of struggle and conflict. They are never cut and dried. We are either always right, never wrong, or we are always afraid of doing something wrong or hurting and letting someone down. We fear failure. And our relationship with Jesus is no different. So who do you choose? Do you choose Jesus over your parents, children, wife, husband, partners or siblings? Big call aye! As hard as it may be that’s what Jesus said you and I must do. If you want to follow me, then it’s going to cost you. And it’s a lot more than you think. Surrendering, giving up or letting go is never easy but the end result is amazing.

If Jesus asks us to love him more than our own parents and children, our own whakapapa (flesh and blood), then he also demands it with everything else in our lives. There can be only one relationship in our lives and Jesus says it’s to be with him. His demand is not just limited to our parents or our children. It’s over everyone and everything in our life. Our love of work, power, reputation, money, politics, agendas, ideology, friends, beliefs, values, rituals and the list goes on. Jesus says, whoever loves self more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever loves anyone or anything more than me is not worthy of me. So, what is your most important relationship? Whom do you love the most?

Today’s gospel holds before us and confronts us with the many loves in which we all live and struggle with. But it demands we make a choice. Does that mean we must reject our parents, our children, our spouses, and all other love interests? No, that’s not what Jesus is saying or asking. Jesus is not demanding he be exclusive. Instead, he is demanding he be our first priority. Jesus refuses to be just another one of our many love interests.

Jesus demands he be our first priority because it’s for our own good as well as the good of all our other love interests. We can only ever have one primary relationship. That one relationship gives us our identity, meaning and direction in our lives. It becomes the lens through which we see the world, each other, and ourselves. Jesus is the foundation on which we build our lives. He guides the choices we make, the words we say, and the ways in which we act and relate. He sets a true path for our lives and determines how we love. Why then would we want it to be something or someone other than Jesus, especially when he is God embodied in human life, whakapapa (flesh and blood)?

So how do we pick Jesus over our children, our spouses and our parents? How do we look at them and say, “I love Jesus more?” Easy, when you love God more, everyone and everything else becomes easier to love. No one or anything is left out, excluded, or rejected. God, not you or I become the source and origin of our love. This is the love by which we take up our cross and choose to follow Jesus, the same love with which Jesus loves us. Amen.

Caring God, even a sparrow is protected by you. Imprint upon our hearts, that because we belong to you, no one can pluck us from your hand; and because we fear you, we need fear no other. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen 

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu