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Like a Rolling Stone

“A disciple is not above the teacher nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” (Matthew 10:24-25, NRSVue)

“A rolling stone gathers no moss.” – Publilius Syrus (circa 100 BCE to circa 1 BCE)

Most people assume Syrus’ proverb about a rolling stone focuses on the importance of initiative and determination. This interpretation views moss as undesirable and the momentum of a rolling stone as positive. Yet, in Sententiae, Syrus described a rolling stone this way:

“People who are always moving, with no roots in one place or another,

avoiding responsibilities and cares.” –Publilius Syrus

The Temptations’ famous song “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” captured this interpretation—“Where he laid his hat was him home.”

Bob Dylan’s 1965 song, “Like a Rolling Stone,” builds off the popular perspective that celebrates the “successful” life achieved through hard work and undying effort, wondering about the freedom one might feel if one could escape the unrealistic expectations of constantly acquiring more.

“Once upon a time, you dressed so fine You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?...

…Now you don’t talk so loud Now you don’t seem so proud About having to be scrounging for your next meal.”

Dylan wants the listener to consider that letting go of the expectations for more might result in a better life. He argues that an uncertain future might be more fulfilling than accumulating more than enough to live on.

Matthew’s gospel highlights Jesus’ warning that following him might lead to ridicule and persecution. He paints a picture of the possibility of downward mobility and suffering because we follow him. That idea is so foreign to 21st-century American Christians. We use our Christianity as social capital, even advertising our businesses as “Christian businesses” and putting fish symbols and Bible verses on our advertisements.

Is it possible that if following Jesus according to the norms of our culture doesn’t lead to hardship and persecution, our cultural understanding of Christianity could be flawed? Is it possible that what most people follow as Christianity today may be more acculturated and watered down rather than the faithfulness Jesus calls us to live? We’ll explore all this and more on Sunday as we continue our Summer Playlist Series, and I unpack more of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Be sure to invite your friends, and plan to stay for the covered dish luncheon after the 11:00 am service to celebrate all our new members!

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