“Now large crowds were travelling with him; and he turned and said to them, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27) This is a hard saying and on the face of it, perhaps even a ridiculous one. Was Jesus a hater? Is he telling us that we must be the same? I don’t recall this ever being a theme at Vacation Bible School! The Greek gives us some help, as this is not an absolute, emotional hatred but rather a point of comparison that is made clear in Matthew’s version of the story. We must love Jesus more than anyone else in order to follow him in the way that leads to life. So there…well this is still a hard saying, isn’t it? And we gain no relief when we realize that Jesus is speaking to the large crowds. In other words, this is no message aimed at only a few saints or the spiritual elite. No this cross talk is for you and me. In the end, it seems to me, the only way that we (being among the large crowds who are following) can ever hope to hear and obey is to recall Jesus’ destination. He gives this admonition while he is on the way to the cross. He turns to us and says ‘don’t give up and I have never promised you it would be easy.’ Instead, you and I may take up our cross only because he has already borne one that you and I could not. And the cross that you and I are called to bear is the one given to us by those loving hands which still bear the marks of his own. The way is not easy but it is the one that leads to life. The way is not easy but we never walk it alone. Have a great week!