Sermon – 09-08-19 – Proper 18 – Cycle C
Scriptures: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 1; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33
Sermon Title: “Figure the Cost”
One of my friends is a conscientious buyer. She is willing to research various companies, be it landscaping, painting, washing machine, new car. She is willing to go store-to-store or website-to-website to compare prices to buy almost everything she buys. She knows the quality of the things she buys. You can’t fool my friend! My goodness, if she were planning to build a new house, she would price things down to the last brick.
I have another friend who is very busy and is just glad if the first person she calls to do emergency lawn mowing can fit her yard into his schedule before she needs to bale the cut grass as hay for cattle. For this friend, time is money. She will take whichever gas station is near when her tank gauge says only one gallon left. She is fearful of trusting that one gallon. She simply does not have time to wait for AAA to come to her rescue if her car goes sput, sput, sput!
If this friend had to find a new dwelling place, she would not start with an empty lot. She would lean on a realtor to find the house that would vaguely fit her and sign the papers.
However, this friend needs to be in charge of planning, constructing, and using a new building for her company, she is all detail, endless detail, because she is accountable to the owner of the business to do this task well. She dare not go overbudget. This project needs to meet the time deadline. When it is finished on time and within budget, it looks good on her resume. She can feel pleased with herself. I don’t know how Jesus feels about her vanity. Last week we heard the “sit at the low end of the table” passage, the “be humble” instruction from Jesus. But, I believe that Jesus is pleased with the planning that my friend does for this new company building.
In Luke 14:28-30, we read Jesus’s words about planning before we attempt a project. Jesus goes on to say that a king needs to analyze his chances of winning a war before he says, “Go!” to his soldiers. If he can’t win, he asks for peace instead of starting a war.
This whole gospel passage from Luke 14 speaks to our giving up everything to become part of the kingdom of God, to be a follower of Jesus. Not just a walk-along follower, but an active disciple. We are to give up everything that detracts us from serving Jesus. Really! Do we need to do a total surrender? Yes, we do. Are we ready to do this? Do you know anyone who has done this and is still doing this? Give up everything to serve Jesus! Well, I always knew that God should come first in our lives, then our wife, then children, and then the dog, or something like that.
Did you hear, and did you see the cover of the bulletin, that we need to carry a cross in addition to giving up everything? Jesus said, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” A cross!
I have good news about the word “hate” which Luke says that Jesus says. Get this! Jesus exaggerated to get people’s attention. It is called hyperbole. Apparently, Jesus really meant that we need to love Jesus more than we love anyone or anything else. Whew! What a relief!. Can we go back to our regular lackadaisical way of thinking and acting. Can we come to church once a week or once a month and think we are dong great as a Christian?
I acknowledge and submit to you that some of you are way ahead of me in Christian living. But no matter where we are in the matter of carrying crosses most of us are not at #10 on the scale of being a Jesus follower.
Carrying our cross could mean that we have burdens in our lives that are causing hardship. Some of these burdens are physical demands on our lives. Some of us are carrying crosses of guilt that no matter how many times we go through the confession routine, we cannot feel white as snow inside. Some of our crosses are a lack of discipline: harmful habits, loss of control with money, wastefulness with time, just thinking about ourselves. Some of our crosses are simply obeying the rules of life which work. Some of our crosses are an eagerness to get to the end of the race; to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Have you recognized your cross here or have I missed the cross you are carrying?
Does God, and therefore Jesus, really want us to feel the cross as a burden? Can carrying the cross bring healing from whatever made it feel like a burden? Can our cross become lighter as we move closer and closer to Jesus? Can carrying the cross transform us? Is there something magic in this cross? Think about this. If we are focused on Jesus as being #1 in our lives, could our families be carrying crosses together? Sounds like a plan to me. Let’s think of our families. Could you persuade each person in your family to put everything aside to carry a cross with the goal being a disciple of Jesus? Oh, Oh! Here is where the separation becomes reality. Not everyone is going to want to follow. Following Jesus seems like a gamble.
But we are here today because the gamble seems more sure than not sure. We are here because we are ready to carry our cross if we are not already carrying the cross. We can try to persuade other people to assume a cross on their backs but in the end some will and some won’t. But how will they know about the cross unless we tell them. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Bringing people to Jesus is a lost art. But if we consider ourselves disciples of Jesus, if we want the fulness of the experience of being a disciple in the kingdom of God, we need to ask God to cover us with courage; courage to invite people to accept the love of Jesus, invite people to walk through the church door with us. Some of you have already done that. Some of you are the persons who were invited and you came. Some of us, including myself, need to pray, and pray some more, asking God to give us the right words to invite our co-workers, our co-volunteers, our own relatives, our friends to step inside. Let’s use a bit of marketing skill and not tell them they will be expected to carry a cross. Let’s make sure they feel the love of Jesus and our love. However, I have seen new Christians who could not stop telling people about Jesus. It was a truly joyous time for them. Maybe one of our own crosses could be finding and sharing the joy of Jesus!