I’m not sure how it is with you but it seems to me that I spend a good bit of my life in lines. There is the line backed up at the traffic light. There is the line at the grocery store. There is the line at the movie theater ticket window. There is the line to get into church (ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but one can always hope). There is the line at the post office when all I need is one roll of stamps (and, yes, I realize I can buy them “on line.”) There is the line of callers ahead of me when I am calling about some service deficiency with my Internet hook up at home (so that I can order stamps “on line”). There is a line of people waiting to check out a book from the library (only 47 patrons are ahead of me in the “hold” line for the new Thomas Jefferson biography).
I spend way too much time in line.
One of the lines that I am not in any longer that I watch with interest is the line of children from Methodist Children’s Center when they are moving from one part of the building to another. You know how this works. The children line up in a straight line against the right hand wall. Someone is the line leader. What is most striking to me is that the further back in the line you get with the children, the less attention seems to be paid to what is going on in the front – and that is where the trouble begins. The children in the back of the line aren’t watching the front of the line. Frequently, they aren’t even watching the child directly in front of them, which results in bumping, touching, pushing, shoving, and all sorts of recriminations being hurled back and forth.
Somewhere in there is a parable of discipleship. Perhaps the closer we are to Jesus, the easier it is to pay attention to where he would have us go and what he would have us do. In the same way, the further back we are, the harder it is to see and the easier it is for our attention to drift. That’s when the trouble begins.
Jesus seems to say (Matthew 16:21-26) that discipleship is a matter of following, of standing and staying in line behind him. It is almost a game of “follow the leader” where those in line do exactly what the leader does.
We’ll spend some time Sunday considering that as we begin our Lenten discipleship series. “It’s Not a Game.” Come prepared to play “follow the leader.” You may want to try to get as close to the front as possible so that you can pay attention to what’s going on.
Grace and peace. rcf