All in the Family – LOVE’s a Budget Buster! Jesus Says So

It’s odd, I think, the images that tell a story. Sometimes the simplest tell the truest tale. So I hope you won’t mind if I share an odd image today. I was going to bring an actual sample from my own collection. But, what with it being a communion Sunday, and these (my) hands touching holy things, I thought better of it. So, a more sanitary replica: Behold… (people see/speak)… the soul with a…hole. (Shoe trace.) Now the story. John had four kids in his Boston triple. John Jr., two girls, a baby son. It was winter. Boston’s can be cold, wet, white. John was a letter carrier. That’s hard on shoe leather, especially in weather. Saturday nights, John did the shoe line-up to put a Sunday shine on, before everybody went to mass. Four kids’, sometimes mother’s, John’s last. That’s when John Jr. noticed, and I quote, “His were the only ones with a hole in the soul. He wouldn’t have it any other way.” When I met Jack (ditch the Jr. thing) it was years after Sr. had passed. Jack said of that Saturday night, and the many-after that repeated the scene, “It was a long time before I looked on those shoes and understood the love in that leather line-up. My father loved us down to the lowest reaches, loved us to his soul. He never said a word. He just gladly suffered holes in his so there would never be a hole in ours. When I think of the miles he walked in snow and sludge, on hot, hot concrete and slippery leaf sidewalks, I think of those aging, throbbing feet. And I ache for him. But I’ll tell you this. I want to have at least one love like this in my life. I want to give myself away like that, at least once. Nothing held back. I want to love right down to the hole in my soul!” In God’s name, Jesus loves like that. And he asks us to do the same if we want to walk in his footsteps.

We’ve been talking about family the first month of this new year. We complete the series today with the knowing affirmation that, “Love is a real budget buster. Jesus says so.” He does that by cautioning anyone and everyone who wants to follow, “This will be costly, not easy. You need to know what you’re getting yourself into. So I’m tellin’ you up front!” “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost? Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” If I quoted the entire passage, as Linda read it, we might conclude that Jesus was no friend to families. (All that leaving ours to be with him stuff.) We might figure poverty is required. (18 centuries of monasteries would say amen.) But without the time fully to (exegete) explain all that pertains here, let me say Jesus’ teaching is no more complicated, and no less touching than a hole in the farthest end of a dear saint’s soul. Love, love for Jesus, love for those we love… will not, cannot, hold back. Should we count the cost before committing, none of us could afford it. And yet, to fail to spend our self for the love of Christ will cost us more. [Jesus asks, “What does it profit you to gain the whole world, and forfeit your (eternal) life?] In the end, my friend Jack has it right. The thing that costs the most…the unaffordable, lose-everything-thing, is the very thing that crowns us in this life and glories us in the next. It is Jesus. Only Jesus.

Long after Jesus has left this life, having beckoned us from the cross to follow him to the next life, Paul writes his Letter to the Christians at Colossae. In it he uplifts marriage and family as a kind of laboratory for learning-and-teaching the love of Christ. In sweeping language he conjures up a Christ-ian meaning of wedlock unimagined at the time. Granted he counsels wives to serve their husbands. ‘Nothing new there. But he says, “…as is fitting in the Lord.” I.e., gladly, not as obligation; joyfully, not in resignation; with a full heart, not the grinding teeth of a slave. He turns to the husbands. “Love,” he says, “like Christ loves the church.” No holes (point to replica) barred.” In an age when women were thought property, such a proposition was scandalous. Well, in an age when, in all honesty, we treat almost everyone like property, it’s still pretty “out there.” But there’s more, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (It has since Moses brought the command to honor our parents.) Fathers, don’t provoke your kids, encourage them!” It’ll bless them. (And sometimes drive them nuts, just wondering what you’re up to!) The issue here is commitment. Total commitment! The message for renewing families in a new year is this: Christian love busts the budget, because nothing is held back. Love unaffordably in all things. It’s the only thing of value in the end, in Jesus Christ.

How on earth can we do it? How can we love beyond our means? Because this is the meaning of Jesus: That he will love to the last hole in his own sandaled soul… and then some. He will love ‘til there are holes in his hands as well, and in his side, and in his feet. He will love ‘til he is broken that we may be mended. He will love ‘til everything inside him is poured out, from the soggy of his shoe soul, to the life-blood of his heart’s soul. And he will give it all to us. And when we take it in, as we do at his table today, it is enough to fill us up whenever we empty ourselves for him or for each other. It’s an act of devotion, like a dad in a triple on a Saturday night. With shoes to shine. And a heart to be ready for Sunday glory. It’s a God thing. It’s a Jesus thing. Is it your thing?

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