It’s (What’s?) To Die For
June 1, 2022 Creekwood United Methodist Church

It’s (What’s?) To Die For

Posted in Deep Thoughts

It's To Die For

There used to be an item on the dessert menu at the Cheesecake Factory, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Cheesecake – it was to die for.

I remember a youth back in Atlanta when Taylor Swift tickets went on sale, “OH MY GOODNESS, I would DIE if I could go!”

It’s kind of like when Jesus told his disciples in Luke 9:23, “If any want to become my followers, let them [die to] themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

One of these things is not like the other.

This weekend, down in Houston, we drove past neighborhood streets lined with American flags courtesy of the Rotary Flag Program for Memorial Day. My social media feed was flooded with veterans of all the service branches remembering buddies they had lost along the way. And on the radio were patriotic country singers extolling the virtues of our country. One, in particular, caught my ear. It was the Zac Brown Band’s hit song “Chicken Fried.” It’s a great song, and one of the few I think I can sing well, but the last verse always seems out of place to me and this year I think I finally figured out why. It transitions from a song about southern comforts to giving thanks for all things America, with a distinct line, “…so we don’t have to sacrifice all the things we love…”

It hit me this year: The celebration of those who gave their lives for a cause bigger than themselves is celebrated by our unwillingness to do the same.

And it allows us to over-exaggerate our commitment.

Would I really give my life if I got another slice of that decadent cheesecake? No. I’ll settle for less if it means I get more.

Would any of us really be ok ceasing to exist if we got to go to one concert, especially as people who have the means to go to just about any concert we want to? Not at all.

When faced with a choice, most of us are going to cede our ideal for what’s more personally comfortable.

And when confronted with a fork in the road when we know what Jesus would do and have us do vs. what might be extremely comfortable for us personally – who really wants to give up their preferred way of life?

Jesus finishes the thought in Luke 9:24-27: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for y sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

If you read further, you’ll find a few other stories and texts associated with “would-be” followers or Jesus’ extreme frustration with disciples that don’t seem to put their whole selves into His ethic of life. It’s the non-cuddly part of Jesus we don’t like to talk about OR we like to co-opt for our own political/social arguments. But this is the Jesus who shows us perfect love and gives us a vision of a peaceful world that is bigger than any of our individual imaginations. This is the Jesus that knows it only works if we truly are willing to die to ourselves. This is the Jesus that knows that if we die to ourselves, none of us will ever lose our lives.

And it goes beyond simple kindness to a willingness to sacrifice our own comforts when they conflict with the fullness of God’s preferred world.

The scripture that gets quoted every Memorial Day is John 15:13: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It’s a comforting scripture to turn to because it validates the cost given and bravery shown with holy blessing. But let me ask you to read a bit more of John 15:

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said the things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have hard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

(John 15:12-17 NRSV)

John 15:13 isn’t just for Memorial Day. It’s for every day, in every country, for every person who claims to be a follower of Christ. It’s a constant challenge to give our life to Christ, and in doing so, give up our life for the sake of our friends – which – Jesus redefines over and over as more than our social group, more than our community, and even more than our country. It’s a challenge to open ourselves up to the question,

“What am I willing to die for?”

You’ll get the answer by examining what you’re using your life for. And I wonder which cause of life we’re more willing to find:






David Lessner

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