Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 18), September 9, 2007, Luke 14:25-33

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Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33, ESV)

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;

How much is it going to cost?

That’s a good question.

Listen Bob, I’m not going to start this building project without knowing how much.

It isn’t that easy to calculate. There are a lot of variables to consider.

How am I supposed to know if I can finish the project if I don’t know the total cost.

I hear ya Tom. Maybe I can work up a reasonable estimate.

Bob, I need better than that. I need to know the worst case. Just think what it would look like if I started this project… what if I got the building half up and then the money ran out. I’d really look like a fool then wouldn’t I. I’d never be able to build another building again.

Ya, I see what you mean. I’ll get right on it.

Thanks Tom. I really need to know how much this is going to cost me.


How much is it going to cost? It’s a question we ask ourselves every day. Maybe not in a dramatic a fashion as Tom, the man building a building, but, it is the sensible thing to do. How much are the car payments? Can I afford to remodel the house, and add on a bedroom? Which college can I afford to go to? How much will the herbicide cost? If I don’t use it how is it going to affect the yield? We know how to count the cost. What Jesus is saying to us today is this: “You know how to count the cost of things in your life. Have you accurately counted the cost of being my disciple? Do you really know what it means to follow me?”

“First, of all,” Jesus says. “Do you realize that if you want to follow me, you have to hate your family.” I don’t know about you… but I don’t like the sound of that at all. I happen to love my family very much. After all, I work to support them. I try to provide them with everything they need, food, clothing, Christian education. I try to spend time with them, and don’t like to be away for too long. It seems to me that the Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and mother. And the Sixth commandment: You shall not commit adultery. Have something to say here too. Don’t these commandments specifically apply to my family? Isn’t what Jesus is saying here going against these commandments?

Maybe Jesus doesn’t really mean hate here when he says hate your family. Today’s theme is Count the Cost. I think we can pretty easily see what Jesus is talking about. Some people, when they become Christians are disowned by their families. When I was in Concordia College in Seward, I remember a gal from Taiwan. When she came to school she wasn’t a Christian. But over her time there God worked in her life through all the people around her. She heard the Gospel and finally gave a confession of faith. She was promptly disowned by her family. When she left for home she was not heard from again. The great fear in her case is that there are so few Christians in her home land that she was pressured to return to her family religion. Maybe the cost was too high for her. Maybe no one took the time to explain to her what Jesus is saying in this text.

But, Jesus isn’t just talking about people whose families disown them when they become Christians. He’s talking to us too. God is to take first place in our lives. We are to love him with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our being. Remember the 1st Commandment: Maybe not, so turn in your hymnal and we’ll read it together.

The First Commandment
You shall have no other gods.
What does this mean?
We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.

We should fear, love and trust God above everything else. Everything else includes our wife. Everything else includes our children and parents. God is to be first. The most difficult idols to give up are the ones that are closest to our hearts. What Jesus is saying is that when we place things in our lives in the place that only God should be, pushing them out may indeed feel like hating them; in contrast to the love we hold for them now.

What Jesus is talking about here may fall much closer to home than we are comfortable hearing. I’m sure you can think of examples of children who have fallen away from the faith… yet, parents don’t speak about it, even to each other, for the sake of family unity. It’s difficult, who wants family gatherings to become a battle ground. Who wants to ruin the all too brief visits with arguments? And yet, that is exactly what Jesus is talking about. Holding God over family unity can feel very much like hating your family.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks this idea just a little bit differently.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37, ESV)

It isn’t easy. It is a cross to bear, so to speak. And Jesus knows that it’s not easy. He didn’t say, “Take up your Lazy Boy and follow me.” He said “carry your cross.”

This is a very powerful image. In Jesus time especially, the person who carried a cross was the one who was going to die on it. It was a part of the execution itself. Humiliation, defeat, painful, bloody death, dealt out with cruel indifference. To bear a cross meant all of these things. Jesus is saying to us today… the Christian life a life of cross bearing, and you can’t do it unless He is the most important thing in your life.

By now we are all saying to ourselves, as we look around us to the ones we love; “The cost is too high. How can I possibly love God more than my children? to do so feels like hating them. How can I…” well remember what Jesus said. “… anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” The cross Jesus is asking you to bear is more than just keeping the first commandment. The cross Jesus is asking you to bear isn’t just suffering sickness, or family dis-unity. The cross Jesus is asking you to bear is his cross. And he expects you to carry it to your death, just as he did. “I can’t do that!” You say. Yes you can. As matter of fact you’ve very likely done it already.

And what’s more we’ve seen it happen right here in this place, right before our eyes. Right here little children have carried their crosses to their death. “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

The promise of God there is this. The sin in your life, the things that you put before God, I have done something about. I have killed you. I have raised you. You are my precious child. Just as I killed my own Beloved Son, just as I raised my own Beloved Son, this baptism is my promise to you that I have done all this for you. Go now live your life bearing your cross.

A little child that is baptized here isn’t your going to love God all the time. You don’t love God with your whole heart as you should. Sometimes you love other people, like a child or parents or a spouse more than God. That’s because of the sin that is in your life. At times it pushes God out of first place. But, that’s why Jesus lived and died for you, because we can’t do what God demands. But, you see, from the day that you were baptized you bore the cross of Christ. We make that sign: “Receive the sign of the cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified.” Jesus also said it this way:

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23, ESV)

That’s one of the reasons why we come to church every week. To be reminded again and again of Jesus life, death and resurrection for us. To be reminded that we live as God’s baptized child every day.

So what about the cost? Well, the cost is still there. We don’t try to build a building with out knowing how much it’s going to cost. Jesus is describing what our lives, as God’s beloved baptized children, are going to be like. It isn’t going to be easy… sometimes we’ll have to confront our children… sometimes there is going to be family disunity… sometimes our actions are going to feel like, well, like hating them… we need to know the cost of following Jesus. He wants us to know what’s coming, so that when it does, we can remember to bear the cross, his cross… and remember what he did there on that cross for us. He wants us to remember how our Baptism ties his death to our death… how Baptism ties his resurrection to our resurrection. When we remember that, God will once again be first in our lives. Amen.

The peace that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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