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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

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Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Cost of Discipleship - June 30, 2013 - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 8) - Text: Luke 9:51-62

I have told this story before, but it is worth telling again. There is a story about a young college man, a Christian man, who got a summer job working in a lumberjack camp. This particular lumberjack camp had a reputation for being a real tough camp, the roughest, toughest lumberjack camp in all North America, full of only the vilest of heathen men. After the summer ended all the friends of the young college man were curious as to how the he had fared at the lumberjack camp. They wondered if he got beat up for being a Christian. One day one of his friends ask him, “did they make fun of you or persecute you for being a Christian?” The young man answered, “no, they never caught on.” The question we might ask is, “is this young man really a Christian?” or does he merely confess to be a Christian with his lips, but his heart is far from the Lord. This morning with the help of the Holy Spirit we hear what Jesus means when He says, “Follow me.” And we will better understand the true cost of discipleship.
 
The question we might get from our text for today is, “What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?” Our text for today is sandwiched in between the disciples argument about who is the greatest and Jesus sending out the seventy-two to go and proclaim the good news of salvation. In their argument of who is the greatest, Jesus explained to His disciples that greatness, that is spiritual greatness, is not measured in human terms, but that greatness comes in having faith as a little child, which truly speaks of infant baptism. His concluding words are, “For he who is least among you all is the one who is great” (9:48c). Here we have our first hint at what discipleship means.
 
Our text begins with telling us that Jesus time to be taken up to heaven was approaching. That means that we are approaching the time for Jesus’ death on the cross. We are also told that Jesus is resolute in His going to Jerusalem, which is where we know that He was to be crucified. As He is heading for Jerusalem, He needs, either to go around Samaria, which is the long way, or to go through Samaria. However, the people of Samaria did not welcome Him, because He was headed toward Jerusalem. Now, here in this text, we get a glimpse of the character of the disciples (v. 51-56). James and John, the ones that Jesus affectionately called the sons of thunder, react by wanting to send down fire from heaven. They want a show of power.
 
The Samaritans did not welcome Jesus because of who He was, the proposed Messiah. Remember, there was a continual battle going on between the Jews and their “half” cousins, the Samaritans. Neither liked the other. And here we see that just as many of the Jews did not believe in Jesus, so neither did many of the Samaritans. Jesus knows that He did not come to destroy the Samaritans, but to save all people, thus He rebukes His disciples and turns to go another way.
 
All of this brings us to our lesson in discipleship (v. 57-62). “57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’” (v. 57-58). This first man wanted to follow Jesus, but He did not understand the cost of following Jesus. Jesus wanted to make sure he understood exactly what it would cost before making such a commitment. The cost of following Jesus is the cost of giving up everything, including a “permanent” place in this world, a permanent place to sleep, a roof over your head and a nice cozy bed. To us the question might be, “Are we ready to give up everything in this world, the luxury of a bed, and a roof over our heads, even our status quo, for the sake of following Jesus?”
 
Continuing on in our text we read, “59To another [Jesus] said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ 60And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (v. 59-60). Jesus calls this second man, but he has an excuse. His excuse is that he still has family to take care of, but after his family obligations are complete, after his father has died and he has buried him and completed the required number of days morning, then he will follow Jesus. Jesus’ response might sound a bit crass, “let the dead bury their own dead,” but He wants us to understand that to be His disciple means He comes first. To us the question might be, “Are we ready to give our lives for Jesus now or is something else standing in our way? Do we want to put off being a disciples until a more opportune time?”
 
Continuing on His journey, we read, “61Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (v. 61-62). Here again, this third man steps forward and volunteers his service, yet, he too has an excuse, he needs to go back and say good-by to his family. To us the question might be, “What is standing in our way of being disciples of Jesus? Are we too busy with the things of this world?”
 
One, two, three; three strikes and they’re out. Each of these three incidents teaches the same lesson; true discipleship of Christ implies a denial of self and all earthly ties, and in certain circumstances even the obligations of blood-relatives. Service to Jesus requires an unconditional allegiance.
 
In our epistle lesson for today, Paul outlines the difference between being a disciple, a servant of Jesus and walking away from such service. He uses the terms, living by the Spirit or living by the flesh, that is our sinful nature. Listen again to what Paul tells us, “13For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:13-25).
 
So, what does this mean, to be a disciples of Jesus? To be a disciple of Jesus means to recognize that it is not we who choose Jesus in order to follow Him, but rather that He has chosen us. He chose us through His Word. He chose us at our Baptism. He chose us and gave His life for us. He gives us forgiveness of sins and faith. He is the one who does everything for us and gives to us everything that we need. He does, He acts.
 
Jesus calls us to faith and He calls us to discipleship. When it comes to being a disciple of Jesus we are reminded that we cannot compartmentalize our lives. We cannot be like the young college student in our opening story, that is we cannot be a Christian only when we are at church and then not be a Christian when it might be difficult to be a Christian. We cannot divide our lives and the times of our life as such: this is work time, this is family time, and this is Jesus time. Jesus calls us to lifetime discipleship, that is that all our of life and all parts of our life are lived as a disciple. When we work, we work as a disciple. When we are at home, we are a member of our family as a disciple. When we play, when we do whatever we do, we do all as a disciple of Jesus. Our lives are lived in such a way that they say, “I am a disciple of Jesus.”
 
Finally, Jesus is not a now or later proposition. At the beginning of our text we read, “51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (v. 51). The time is now, there may be no tomorrow. About this, we rejoice. We rejoice, because we are New Testament Christian. We have God’s Word which tells us that everything has already been accomplished for us. Jesus has given His life for ours. Jesus has paid the price for our sins. Jesus has suffered and died on the cross for us. Jesus has told us, “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus has risen from the dead. Jesus has ascended into heaven. Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to work faith and strengthening of faith in us. The Holy Spirit works in us so that we are disciples of Jesus. Jesus has promised that He will return.
 
The cost of true discipleship is your life. And this is not a half and half proposition. A person cannot be a Christian part of the time and say leave me alone the rest. We are either one hundred percent God’s, or one hundred percent not His. So, whose are we? What do our actions confess about us? What does our stewardship confess about us? What does our Divine Service attendance say about us? What does our Bible Class attendance say about us? What does our participation and volunteer service at church say about us? Are we trying to be a part time Christian. Are we only lukewarm for the Lord? Can we relate to these words from Revelation where God says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15,16). Unfortunately, because of our inborn sinful nature, we are poor Christians, but take heart, because we have a God who does not do fractions. He did not die a little for us. He did not give us some forgiveness now and some later after we “make the cut”. We have a God who gives us the whole lot of His grace and forgiveness and a whole lot more. We have a God who is not lukewarm. We have a God who is not our God just part time, only when we are at church. We have a God who is always our God, one hundred percent of the time and one hundred percent our God. We have a God who has given us His everything, once and for all. The cost of discipleship was the price of His one and only Son. And He paid that price for us. I now live, because He lives in me.
 
We are disciples of Jesus. By faith in Him, faith given to us by Him, we are His disciples. We may not be perfect disciples and we will never be perfect disciples, at least not this side of heaven, but we have our Lord’s promise that He will be with us. He will continue to work on us to mold us into being the disciples He wants us to be. He will continue to help us as He has paid the price for our discipleship.
 
My prayer for each one of you is that the Holy Spirit might continue to work in your lives, working faith, strengthening your faith, and keeping you in faith so that you do have your eyes looking forward in service to Jesus and His Kingdom. So that ultimately we might all together stand before the Lord’s throne and say, with all the saints, “to Him be the glory,” for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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