Learning to Swim
I learned to swim at an early age. I remember, before I started taking official lessons, my father taught me the basics of swimming. He would hold me on my back and teach me to float. In time, I learned to float on my belly and do the “doggy paddle.”
At some point, probably when I entered elementary school, my parents enrolled me in the city’s swim classes. I thought it was great. Our instructors were high school lifeguards. To me, they were the coolest people I’d ever met. They taught us how to kick, how to do proper strokes with our arms, and how to breathe. All was going well…until they wanted us to dive.
At first, it wasn’t so bad. We stood on the side of the pool and learned how to point our hands above our heads, how to lean into the dive, and, then, how to jump into the water. But, it turned horrid very quickly. They wanted us to dive off the diving board!
Jumping into the Deep End
Are you kidding me? They wanted me to climb up a steep ladder, walk out onto a wobbly and narrow plank, and jump into water that is deeper than I could ever imagine! And, they wanted me to trust them to catch me if all went wrong! How could I do that? They were, after all, only high school kids.
What I lacked, however, was trust. I didn’t trust everything I’d been taught, even though, by this point, I did know how to swim. I also didn’t trust the lifeguards. I had everything I needed, except trust.
Sermon on the Plain
In many ways, Jesus’s vision of the Christian walk is like diving into the deep end. The Orthodox Church has been reading through the Gospel of Luke, and, when Jesus gives the Sermon on the Plain (a lot like St. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount but this is St. Luke’s version), Jesus asks us to take a big jump.
Jesus tells us that being a Christian may mean becoming poor. It may mean going hungry. We may end up weeping. And, to top it all off, people will hate us, exclude us, and revile us. (Luke 6:20-23)
But, despite our treatment, we are to love our enemies–even do good for them! We are to allow people to hit us by turning the other cheek. We are to give away our clothing to those who beg for the shirts on our backs. And, when people upset us, we are to forgive them–over and over and over again. (Luke 6:27-31, 37-38).
Is Jesus really asking us to live this way? It sounds like he’s asking us to jump into the deep end with no life preserver.
Jesus Is Our Lifeguard
As scary as the Christian walk sounds, it is the only true way to live. (Just imagine if everyone lived this way!) And, the good news is that Jesus is there for us. He’s our lifeguard. This is the meaning of the gospel lesson we read on Sunday: the raising of the widow’s son at Nain. (Luke 7:11-17)
After the Sermon on the Plain, where Jesus asks us to jump into the deep end of Christian living, he tells us that to live this way is like building a house on a solid foundation. He then shows us the power of this way of life.
First, Jesus heals the centurion’s servant from afar. All it took was for the centurion to have trust. Then, Jesus raises the widow’s son. Entering Nain, he sees a funeral possession and he tells the widow, “Do not weep.” Remember, our Christian walk may leave us weeping. But Jesus promises that we shall laugh. We may become poor or hungry, but Jesus will give us the kingdom and fill us. Loving our enemies and forgiving others may lead to our death, but our master, the Lord Jesus Christ, has the power to raise us from the dead. He shows us this by raising the widow’s son. This is the power of God, a god who has visited his people.
Cross and Resurrection
The Christian walk is hard. It requires a lot of patience from us and a lot of compassion for others. It requires us to trust and dive into the deep end. Perhaps, we’ll drown. The martyrs, over 2,000 years, have shown that following Christ isn’t always about a happy ending…at least not in this life. But, this is the way of the cross. Jesus, who dived into the deepest water humanity has ever known, ended up crucified. But, the good news is, Jesus is risen! Christ’s resurrection is confirmation that the Christian walk is the true way. It’s vindication that loving our neighbors, even when they hate us, is the right path to follow. It shows us that we should pick up our cross and jump off the diving board.
Take a deep breath, trust God, and jump. Jesus is there waiting to catch us.