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Cost of Discipleship

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Lord may we hear your will and ways, catch a glimpse of what you want for us during this service and respond as willing disciples… in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit - Amen

I would like to start out by saying, if you are new to Church, visiting church and us at St. Luke’s for the first time….             Boy did you pick the wrong day

            You may have thought, it is a new school year and with that comes new things; maybe I               should check out Christianity and see what it is all about

                        …And then you hear the Gospel passage for today

“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.”

            Welcome… Welcome to the Parish Church of St. Luke’s

                        welcome to this Anglican church

                                    welcome to Christianity


hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself

            not exactly sugar-coating it

The reading today is from a section which some bibles have subtitled “the cost of discipleship” - not necessary the best “entry-level” stuff

            Those words come out of the mouth of Jesus           

Good passage for a capital campaign Sunday

            Jesus is asking you to hate your whole family and even your life itself - we are only asking            to help to do your share and pay down the mortgage…

I will warn you, that in many of my sermons I follow a four part structure,            

            * explaining the trouble in the passage,

            * then the trouble in our world - how our world connects with passage

            * the good news or grace in the passage

            * which relates to the grace in our world that God provides

                        This passage doesn’t provide for us that Grace

It is a good thing that our service is set up in two parts - ministry of the word (in which the sermon is part of) and Holy Communion

            Today you will find God’s Grace in the second half

I am sure that some of you here today will find the message of this part of scripture and my sermon to be uncomfortable - I know that was uncomfortable writing it

            But when we have a passage so shocking in our readings it needs to be addressed

One might quickly react and think God doesn’t really want us to hate our family - what about the ten commandments and number 5 “Honor your father and your mother”

So what is really going on here?

            Like anything in life, in order to understand something you need to dig deeper, you need to         look at the whole situation and let’s start with the context of the passage

So first thing that you need to understand is that like all the Gospel writers Luke has an over-arching structure and motif to his writing

            For Luke it is a “journey motif”

                        It is a series of journeys to Jerusalem,

                                    which is symbolic of journeys to getting closer to knowing God.

                        Whenever you read Luke, read it with a eye to a message of journeying

This passage is the conclusion to an important section in Luke’s account - of Jesus’ response to who will be part of the wedding feast in heaven.

            And part of an even larger section in which the general theme is confronting                      hypocrisy with some very challenging truths

                        If you put together all of what Jesus says in the four Gospels - How he                                           challenges so much of what they understood in life

                                    It is no wonder that the religious authorities plotted to kill Him

And if you have bible in which the words of Jesus are in red - this section is filled with the a lot of red - a lot of teachings of Christ

            Even though the passage for today ends chapter 14, the section starts at chapter 12

  • Chapter 12 begins with Jesus Warning the disciples against the Hypocrisy of the Pharisees
  • There is Parable warning against coveting riches with the parable of the  Rich Fool - building a bigger barn only to miss God

            “those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

  • Then a large section which is very similar to the part in Matthew’s gospel on the sermon on the mount focus of the instructions to “Not Worry” - ending with

            “Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear             out…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

  • Then the passage which Michael preached on only a few weeks ago where Jesus is the Cause of Division - and says similar things to today passage

      “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather          division! …they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against           daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

  • This is followed by Jesus chastising those following him about how they fail to Interpreting the Time - telling them how they see the signs of weather to forecast what is coming but missing the signs of the Son of man
  • He then calls them to Repent or Perish
  • Twice there are challenges to Sabbath observance with Healing a Crippled Woman and then the Man with Dropsy - re-orienting the understanding of the true purpose of those rules - calling them to a higher purpose
  • There is the Parable of the Mustard Seed and Yeast
  • Peter’s question of whom His teachings are for and Jesus’ answer with the message of the “Narrow Door”
  • There is Jesus’ Lament over Jerusalem

            “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!

  • His instructions on Humility and Hospitality

      “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your   brothers or your          relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, & you would be     repaid”


Through-out all of this larger section we see Jesus challenging us

      Revealing what the world has come to understand to be wrong

                  Even the very religiously observant in the group and challenging what                                            they understand

                              Pushing the limits - calling them to a purer - higher - more righteous                                          understanding and stating God’s truth

Our passage today is immediately following “The Parable of the Great Dinner”

      With the question of who will be part of the heavenly feast

What is Jesus doing? Why would he string together all these challenges?

      Why does He seem determined to upset all their understandings?

Does this seem like the strategy to build a movement?

      Does this seem like the plan to grow a group to follow God…?


I mean the passage today starts out with

            “Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them 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.

Jesus seems determined to scare them away

            A large crowd following Him would by our accounts seem like a good development

                        But remember that Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem and is preparing Himself and                          His followers to something that they don’t understand

God’s ways are not our worldly ways

            God’s desires for us are not limited to our human understanding of success

Jesus seems determined to thin the crowds

            When we see a growing group we think - great - bigger the better

More the merrier - if you get some to follow well you might achieve somewhat

            - but if you get a lot to follow - well now a lot can happen

God directly challenges that

            And Jesus is not afraid of telling the truth

Jesus doesn’t want quantity - He wants quality

And that is precisely what the passage today is about - “the cost of discipleship”

Now an important clarification needs to be made in regards to the word “hate”

            There is throughout the Bible a tendency to use the word “hate” when what is really meant           is a secondary form of love.

                        So when in Deuteronomy 21:15 there are regulations for a man with two wives (one                      of who is loved and one of whom is hated)

                                    the meaning is not that there is literal, visceral hatred per se of the second                                       wife but more that the second wife is less preferred than the first.

Similarly when God says things like “Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated,” the meaning is not that God literally hates Esau or his kin in the colloquial use of that word

            but rather that Jacob was preferred over Esau and that Esau, therefore, received love but a            love that was perhaps a bit less in intensity or scope.

In this passage Jesus is in fact not really saying anything new

            I mentioned the ten commandments earlier

                        And the first and most important is

I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me.

            And commandments two and three basically clear it up further

                        No idols of other gods and do not take the Lords name in vain

                                    God is saying “Me first”

Jesus, Himself restates this in Mark 12 this very same thing - which we have in our prayer book service

            Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with           all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength”


The cost of discipleship is putting God first

NT Wright - New Testament scholar and Bishop of Durham is his book “what Paul really said” comes to this conclusion - simply put

            “Jesus is Lord….!”

                        Not Caesar

                                    Not other gods

                                                Not my house

                                                            Not my car

                                                                        Not my job

                                                                                    Not even my family

                                                                                                And Not my own life

                                                                                                            Jesus is Lord

The Cost of discipleship is making that claim - for all in you life

Make no mistake about it, some of the old sayings are sometimes the wisest -

            “if it doesn’t cost anything - it isn’t worth anything”

                        “you get what you pay for”

                                    being a follower of Christ costs

                                                it certainly challenged the crowd of followers

                                                            and it challenges us today

My message for today is not to soften the “cost of discipleship” but to be true to it

Today I am so glad that we have two parts of the service

            ‘The ministry of the word’ in which my sermon is part of: needs the message of the cross and the resurrection

Brothers and Sisters in Christ - if you found the gospel and my sermon uncomfortable today - listen closely to the next part

today the grace is contained in the presence of the Lord and in the remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice and the promise that goes with that

today, with the limited time that I have, I have tried to lay out the truth of some of what it costs to be a disciple and I am truly glad that in our communion service - our second half we have God’s Grace.

And I want to share with you one last thing

A few months ago I had the privilege of attending two Order of Niagara services

            In the first one I was sitting on the end of an aisle and during “the peace”;             Rev. Sue-Anne             Ward, who organizes many of these things at the Cathedral

                        Asked me if I would serve in administering one of elements - the Bread or the wine

                                    I was to go to the back and due to logistics I needed to cross the floor in                                        front of everyone

                                                This gave several people, including my parents - the opportunity to                                      see where I was going and they subsequently lined up in that line

                                                            It was incredibly humbling and moving for me to                                                                 say and serve people close to me with the bread as “the body of our                                                Lord”

            To my Mom and Dad with tears in their eyes - and in mine

                        And then to a person who I know somewhat - who after he received it said in clear                       voice ….“Thank you Jesus”

                                    Most people say nothing - some say “Amen”

                                                But I will never forgot the conviction in his voice and the words                                                     offered to the one who deserves it “thank you Jesus”

The cost of discipleship, if accepted, allows us to come to the Communion and say

            “thank you Jesus”                               Amen

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