Monday, September 23, 2013

Sermon from September 8th Counting the Cost

Count the Cost Luke 14:25-33 A few short weeks ago I got out of preaching one of the toughest passages in Luke’s gospel. The week of the Outdoor Worship Service I was able to preach on creation instead of Jesus saying that his coming will bring division. At text study that week I was able to take a sigh of relief as we discussed Jesus’ harsh words. This week it came back and the opportunity for me to preach on Jesus’ harsh words and for us to reflect on them is before us. And brothers and sisters I promise as your pastor to never ignore Jesus’ hard words as it is often his hardest words that we need to hear the most. And today’s Gospel lesson is a tough one. In one fell swoop Jesus tells us we must hate our families and get rid of our possessions. If the crowd was large at the beginning of today’s reading, I’m sure it thinned out by the end. We are told a couple times in the Bible that we must sell or renounce all our possessions. These are more about our tendency to turn things into idols then they are about a call to sell things for the sake of the poor and hungry. It is about ridding us of all things that keep us from fully embracing our new identities as sons and daughters of God. And there is always the reality that all we have is first and foremost God’s so even if we don’t get rid of all our possessions we do surrender our “ownership” of it. I am sure we can all think of something in our lives that we have placed more trust or value in then we have God and as hard as these words from Jesus are we can understand them and they are far from the hardest words Jesus spoke today. Now this bit about hating our families is hard. And it flies in the face of all the times Jesus talks about loving others. In our warm fuzzy world of political correctness and tolerance we hear the word hate and we are likely to shut down, turn inward, and refuse to hear what the speaker has to say, even if that speaker is God in the flesh. So I challenge you to stay alert, return your gaze on our Lord and savior and listen to him. I think that today he speaks of hatred because we are all called to Love God so much that our love and desire for anything or anybody else pales in comparison, even our love for mother and father, brother, and sister husband, and wife. My best friend Lewis and I were talking about this the other day; we both have many siblings and talk together a lot about the complexities that a big family can create. It was in this context that this week Gospel lesson came up. Lewis shared with me an awesome story and granted me permission to share with you all today. You see Jackie and Lewis have struggled to get to church on time. Over the last year or so Lewis has been entering a new phase in his faith life and this tendency to be late for church was really weighing heavy on his heart. One Sunday morning recently he and their 12 year old son were ready and Jackie was not. Lewis decided to drive himself and Michael to church and let Jackie take the second car. Lewis was feeling guilty and when Jackie arrived he apologized. Apparently Jackie’s response was to tell him he had nothing to apologize for and that she never wants him to put her before Jesus. In that story Jackie and Lewis both answer the call to love family less than they love God. You see Jackie’s affirmation that Lewis made the right choice by placing his relationship with Jesus before his relationship with herself was also putting Jesus first in her own life. This real life story may help us put Jesus’ difficult words in the proper light. Brothers and sisters, as strange as it seems the most loving things you can do for your families is love God more than you love them. For right relationship with God being made possible in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ makes possible right relationship to others. A distorted, worldly view of priorities only creates distorted and worldly relationships. And the incarnation of Jesus Christ does indeed shatter any human definitions and boundaries we may place around this concept of family. He creates faith families like ours and brings people together who need to be together, like he did in the lives of Kalyb, Kary, Keltyn, David, and Brenda, I am so thankful that they were all open to the new and radical things that God was up to. And I am honored to celebrate those things with you all today. I firmly believe that they were a result of you guys putting God first in your life. Whether or not Jesus is talking about letting go of possessions or loving family a little less they are both ultimately about attachment. You see when there are things that we place too much importance in or things in which we find our identity instead of finding our identity in our relationship with God we need to do some work. This is what Jesus means when counting the cost, and the cost can be steep. Has my relationship with God caused me to hate my atheist brother and sisters? No but it caused some added distance and moments of discomfort. CS Lewis did not receive a full professorship until 30 years after he joined the faculty at Oxford because the damage his conversion did to his reputation. And there are still places in the world today where the cost of discipleship can be persecution, imprisonment, or even death. So in perspective our costs may seem very payable. For our young people it may be the pains of standing up for what is right when they see another being bullied, even by their friends. The cost for some may be let a sure promotion fly by because their faith discouraged them from cutting corners that may have helped them on the climb to the top, or waiting until next year to take that dream vacation because we aren’t ready to cut the tithing line item and the family budget. As we discern what our cost of discipleship is, it is always helpful to remember that God counted his own cost. He paid for our eternal life with the life of his only Son our Lord. And I can’t think of anything or anyone I would rather call Lord than Jesus Christ, whatever the cost. So the question shouldn’t be can we afford to follow Christ. As we see the affects of sin and struggle in our lives and in the lives around us perhaps the real question is can we afford not to.

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