We live in an age characterized by anxiety and consumerism. There is plenty around us to anxious about—war, environmental issues, terrorism, and more. I have a hunch that the reason The Simpsons Movie is doing so well at the box-office is because people need a break, a crazy, silly, mindless break from the anxieties of our world. Consumerism is so much a part of our lives that we don’t even recognize it. Our motto is: I shop therefore I am. We are constantly being bombarded with messages to buy, to get more. We see brand labels everywhere, and we pay good money to companies to wear their brands.
Anxiety and consumerism are the topics addressed in this passage. Jesus calls us to follow him, to the practice of discipleship. This discipleship is not an add-on to our regular lives; it is rather a re-orientation of our whole lives. This passage has a sense of urgency about it. Now is the time to follow. Now is the time for a change. Jesus says don’t be caught off guard or asleep.
Jesus knew that a train wreck was on the horizon. Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem would put him at odds with the religious leaders. This political/religious battle in Jerusalem in the early 30’s AD just grazed the surface. Beyond this there was a greater political battle staging . This battle involving the Roman Empire would have dire consequences for Jerusalem and Israel in general. And the NT writes show that beyond the political and religious landscape is another battle, a spiritual battle. Jesus would go to the cross. This seeming defeat would have implications of hope for all of human history.
So Jesus calls his followers to have a sense of readiness and urgency. This is no time to be complacent. The stakes are too high. Jesus wants to shake his disciples awake. These are critical days.
Jesus addresses anxiety with a reminder that his followers are children of the Father. So don’t be afraid. The Father will care for you. But more, Jesus tells his disciples to actively fight against greed and consumerism by selling possessions and giving to the poor.
A side note: authentically following Jesus does not just take place in all contexts. It takes place in urban settings. It also takes place in the suburbs. Discipleship in the suburbs will look different. It is very challenging. It is not easy. Anxiety and consumerism are hallmarks of suburbia.
Alan Roxburgh at http://www.allelon.org/ARTICLES/article.cfm?id=392 is writing on ministry in suburban settings. I am collecting and reading a number of books on following Jesus in the suburbs.
Hsu, The Suburban Christian
Erre, The Jesus of Suburbia
Goetz, Death by Suburb
Samson, Justice in the Burbs.
We need to heed the urgent call of Jesus to follow him wherever we live. Now is the time to be ready and watchful.