Posted on Sun, Sep 8, 2013
September 8, 2013
16th Sunday after Pentecost
Gospel Text: Luke 14:25-33 - “GOD COUNTED THE COST!”
The Cost of Discipleship
25 Now large crowds were travelling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 ‘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. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
It’s Rally Sunday!! Yeah!! So what is the deal with this particular Gospel Text? This is one of those Gospel texts that when I finishing reading and announce, “The GOSPEL of the Lord!” I feel that I really want to phrase that proclamation as a question… “The Gospel? Of the Lord?” … “Really?” We've had a few texts like that this year, but we manage to get through them.
On Friday during Bible Study, we finished reading the text and I asked the group, “So, what jumps out at you in this text?” One of our members had a truly concerned look on his face and he looked at me and said, “what is going on in verse 26? Why must I hate my father and mother? I don’t want to hate my father and mother, I don’t understand.” The concerned, if not an almost pained look came to his face, and I could easily see how a text like this, by itself, without an understanding of the context, can be a very painful text to read… because it is written in our beloved Bible.
We respect the Bible and as it is our Holy Scripture, the words found in this Holy Book are held with great authority. And if we hear Jesus saying words like, “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.” We all wish to be called a disciple of Christ, but no one could imagine responding to a command to hate ones own family. What is going on here in these kinds of texts?
First of all, we need to acknowledge the power of scripture because of the authority we give it. All of our theological understanding comes a thorough examination of the scriptures, their historical and cultural context, where and when pieces of scripture was found and pieced together into a single manuscript. The role and religious or even political context certain prophets, kings and scribes had to write or translate their texts. Who the audience of the writer was and the way the writer was stressing certain sayings of Jesus to uplift or even keep a faith community together.
The Bible is written by many writers, men and women, in different countries, languages, cultures and times; There are actually many different book considered scriptural, spiritual, mystical or even called Gospels, but according to the early church theologians, most of those books were not selected to be part of the book we call the Holy Bible today. There isn’t even agreement on the proper order of the texts in the Gospel of John as it was found in many small fragments, and if you read it, you will notice that it doesn't read in a smooth order like the book of Luke and Mark. Martin Luther didn't like the order that was chosen at all, but he had to settle with what was given to him. Luther didn't even think the book of James should have been accepted into the Bible as it theologically got to close to what is called, “Works Righteousness.” Meaning, the role of the Cross is diminished and the importance of our actions in order to be saved, is given too much importance.
One thing that is helpful for us to remember, as a “Confessional Church,” meaning a church that ‘confesses’ what God has done for the world through the Cross of Christ is the Saving Gospel for the world. The scripture tells us the story of the loving mercy of God, calling, redeeming and leading God’s people in a faith journey so that all people of the world can see the love, mercy and grace of God through the words and actions of the church. In short, we worship the Living God; we do not worship the Bible. The Bible is the authority of our faith, but we worship a Living and Loving God.
So, what does that have to do with today’s text? We never want to take any one or two texts and give them more authority than the entire meaning of the Gospel. As Christians, we read all texts, both the Old and New Testament, through the “Lens of the Cross.”
The words of Jesus that Luke wrote in the text are true, but Luke was writing the text for a young church that has formed after and because of the death AND RESURRECTION OF Jesus. It was written for those who ‘love God’ and are searching for the meaning of God in the scriptures as well as the life, death, resurrection and teachings of Christ.
He is writing the to “EASTER PEOPLE!” That means, he is writing the text for people who know the ‘end of the story!’
Are we forgiven and saved by, “hating father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself?”
No, we are forgiven and saved through the Cross of Christ, and this is the Gospel lens in which we read the scripture, proclaim from our pulpits, make known in our service, music, speech, actions, statements, etc. etc.
But when Jesus starts using the metaphor of the cross, an instrument of execution, an instrument everybody clearly understood and were deathly afraid of, then we see Jesus, or Luke, giving us a foreshadow of that is to come. The foreshadow of the cross lets us know how serious of a message this is and how much it will cost God to forgive and redeem us.
Then when Jesus is talking about planning what it would require to be a follower of Jesus and counting the cost of following Jesus, there are two messages for us there.
If you were going to build a tower, and if you were a king or even a grape or fig grower, towers are essential, no matter what you must build one, and before you build your tower, you need to: 1) SIT DOWN. Think with a proper mind 2) Estimate the cost 3) Before you begin, determine if you have what is required, or if you will need to make other arrangements… but you still have the reality that you must build the tower.
If you are a king and there is another King coming at you with twice the number of soldiers and they are coming toward you and you will need to respond no matter what, you need to: 1) SIT DOWN. Think with a proper mind, before you act. 2) Evaluate your present strength and compare it with the army coming at you which is twice as strong as you 3) Figure out if you need to surrender and find out how to make terms for peace. NO MATTER WHAT, A MUCH STRONGER ARMY IS COMING AT YOU, you must respond.
In reality, when God comes calling us to follow Him, do we 1) Sit down and think this out? 2) Count the cost of following Jesus? 3) Do you make arrangements with God that fit your particular situation?
No, we read the text through the lens of the Cross of Christ. We live in a broken world, but Jesus has already given his life and died for us. This is the Good News and Truth we live in, NO MATTER WHAT THE SITUATION WE FIND OURSELVES.
Let’s put this in a reverse order? When God created humankind, did God, 1) Sit down and think about how wonderful these humans will be after God creates them? 2) Did God evaluate how much of a blessing humankind would be to the beautiful garden called ‘Earth?’ 3) Did God have a plan if this wasn’t going to work out?
God did try to start all over again with Noah and the ark, but that didn't really seem to solve anything. But the one fact is, God did send a savior to us to redeem us, sanctify us and empower us to be the People of God.
The fact is that Jesus did come, he gave his life as a ransom for ours and rose again to conquer death; and this is the Gospel. God did this and now we are faced with this truth each and everyday.
God has created you and blessed you like no one else in the world, PLUS, Jesus gave his life for you, what are you going to do?
Jesus has taught you to love God and your neighbor, you live in a world full of conflict and strife, as a person redeemed through the Cross of Christ, what are you going to do? What are you going to say?
Life itself is important, but the Truth of God’s love and mercy for us is much more powerful. Our plans and dreams are important, but they must always be thought of in the context/framework of the Truth that Jesus has already gone to the cross for us, and that we are a redeemed people. How does this change the way we choose to live our lives?
The world was created by God and the world is a Garden for us to care for; Through the Cross of Christ we have been forgiven so that we can be freed from greed and care for God’s garden and our neighbor as God loves this garden called ‘Earth’ and even our neighbors as well. How are you going to respond to this Truth?
Maybe this is the perfect Gospel text for us on our Rally Sunday. We have been Called, Redeemed and Sanctified to live, serve, worship, teach, study, and act as God’s People in a very turbulent world. God will never leave us, that is the Truth… How will we respond as God’s people? Amen
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