By the Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
September 9, 2007
Read: Luke 14:25-33
Barbara Brown Taylor suggests that Jesus would have made a poor parish minister. “Talk to any church growth expert today and they will tell you how important it is to create a safe, caring environment where people believe their concerns will be heard and their needs will be met. The basic idea is to find out what people are looking for and give it to them, so that they decide to stay put instead of continuing to shop for a church down the street.
What Jesus is saying is the complete opposite of giving people what they want. Far from trying to make it easier for people to follow him, he points out how hard it is. He tells the crowd who is enthusiastically following him not to get their hopes up. He says that they, more than likely, will not be able to afford what they want. He suggests they go home and do some sober feasibility studies before they decide to go with him.
They all want to go with him. They want to get as close as they can to the energy that radiates from him like heat from a coal. They want to be the first to hear what he says next—to be part of changing the world with him—and they don’t have a clue what it costs. Jesus wants to tell them, because the worst thing he can do is to mislead them and let them believe they are running off with the circus when they are in fact headed into battle unarmed.
Why does he say these disturbing things about hating parents, their children and their lives?”
One possibility is that he is using a figure of speech. Hyperbole, or exaggeration-for-effect was often used in Jesus’ day for shock value. And the word hate in Aramaic meant to “love less” which is not as strong as our English understanding of the word. It was a matter of priorities. Jesus is calling us to love God above all other things, even family and our very own life. Commitment to God, to Jesus, is first in our life.
This love of God can be a sacrificial love. It means that we sometimes have to sacrifice our own desires and wants in order to be true, or loyal, to our relationship with God. Following Jesus means becoming a member of a new family in which all are to care for one another.
This call to sacrificial love works itself out in our lives differently from one person to another. There is no standard template. For one Wall Street broker, it meant giving up a prestigious job to go to seminary and then to a small-town church in Pennsylvania. But he doesn’t regret it, he loves his life now. For one Malaysian girl, it meant leaving her family behind. In the book, Stories for the Soul, it tells the story of Jim Denison, who went on a mission trip to Malaysia for a summer. While there, he worshiped at a small Malaysian church. One Sunday, he noticed an old suitcase sitting near the wall. When he asked about it, the pastor pointed out a teenage girl who had been baptized that morning. He said, “her father said that if she was baptized as a Christian she could never go home again. So she brought her luggage.”
“So she brought her luggage!” What a price tag to pay for her decision to follow Jesus. What a commitment. She literally gave up her family to become a Christian.
We don’t talk about sacrificial discipleship very much today, but perhaps we should. Jesus clearly thought it was important. There are some things we can give up to God right here, right now. I came across the beatitudes of the Devil that the Rev. Richard J. Fairchild shares:
The Devil’s beatitudes for believers in Christ:
Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians, they are my best workers.
Blessed are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked – I can use them.
Blessed are the touchy. With a bit of luck, they may stop going to church – they are my missionaries.
Blessed are the troublemakers – they shall be called my children.
Blessed are the complainers – I’m all ears to them and I will spread their message.
Blessed are the church members who expect to be invited to their own church – for they are part of the problem instead of the solution.
Blessed are they who gossip – for they shall cause strife and divisions. That pleases me.
Blessed are they who are easily offended – for they will soon get angry and quit.
Blessed are they who do not give their offering to carry on God’s work – for they are my helpers.
Blessed are they who profess to love God but hate their brother or sister – for they shall be with me forever.
Blessed are they who read or hear this and think it is about other people – I’ve got you…
Our gospel reading today ends with the words:
“So therefore, none of you can become my disciples if you do not give up all your possessions”.
Some things are well worth giving up to God – they cause us and others nothing but grief. Other things are well worth giving up to God because God can renew them and remake them, because God can renew and remake us.
Jesus already paid the price for us. He died on the cross and rose again for our salvation. Jesus paid the price. He loves us that much.
A question to think about this week. If you put Jesus first, what would that look like in your life? How would that change your life?
I’ll end with a short story:
A pilgrim settled down to sleep one night at the edge of a village – soon an excited villager appeared saying, “Give me the diamond, give me the diamond.” “What diamond?” asked the pilgrim. The Villager replied, “I have had a dream that you have a diamond of great value and if I asked you for it you would give it to me and I should be rich forever.”
The pilgrim reached into his bag and pulled out a stone. “You may certainly have it.” He said and settled down again to sleep.
The villager looked at the stone in amazement for it was the largest diamond he had ever seen. He took the diamond and walked away.
He tossed and turned all night unable to sleep, and the next day he returned to the pilgrim and said, ‘give me the wealth that makes it possible for you to give away this diamond so easily’.
If you put Jesus first, how would your life change?
There is truly treasure in heaven. Amen.
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