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!
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, September 8, 2013
On Giving up Everything - September 8, 2013 - Sixteenth Sunday after the Pentecost (Proper 18) - Text: Luke 14:25-35
There is the old story about a chicken and a pig who lived on a farm. The farmer was not doing well financially and so the chicken and the pig thought about how each might contribute to help the farmer. The chicken suggested that they provide the morning meal for the farmer to which the pig pointed out to the chicken that her suggestion showed the difference between volunteering to make a contribution, that is that she would lay the egg, and making a total commitment, for to provide the ham, bacon or sausage, meant the pig’s life. Our text for today is not for the squeamish. Our text is another one of those Gospel readings about which we read and question, “This is the Gospel of the Lord?”
Our text begins with Jesus’ words of warning, we begin at verse twenty-five, “25Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26‘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. 27Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple’” (v. 25-27). As Jesus moved from place to place, the crowds followed Him. Some were looking to witness a miracle or to be part of a miracle. Some were looking to be feed. Most were looking from something for themselves. At one point, Jesus stops, turns and addresses the crowd. His words are hard words. The cost of true discipleship is great indeed.
Jesus speaks words which might at first hearing sound rather harsh, that is that one must “hate” one’s own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and even one’s own life or he or she cannot be His disciples. And here is one of those instances in the Bible where we might be puzzled and think that the Bible contradicts itself, because we are told in other places that we are to love others, so if we are thinking this is some contradiction then the problem is not with the Word of God, but with us and our understanding, or misunderstanding. Always remember, the Bible never contradicts itself, so if we think there is a contradiction, then we need to look deeper to find our misunderstanding. So, let us look a little deeper. And as we look deeper we see that this word “hate” is a word which means “not love more than,” in other words, we are to not love our father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even our own life, more than we love Jesus. Of course, this is what we confess in the explanation to the first commandment, that we “fear, love and trust in God above all things.” One must be willing to love Jesus more than one’s own family, even more than one’s own life. We can only be a true disciples of Jesus by putting Him first in our lives.
The ultimate challenge of true discipleship is showing one’s love for Jesus so much that one must be willing to die for Jesus, which, incidentally is what we promise at our confirmation and when we joined this congregation, that is that we will “remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death.” Similar to the hen and the pig providing breakfast for the farmer, true discipleship is more than simply volunteering to make a contribution, true discipleship is a total commitment.
Jesus continues by giving two illustrations to help the people and to help us to understand what He means, we pick up at verse twenty-eight, “28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or 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? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace” (v. 28-32).
Notice how Jesus builds His illustrations. First, one does not build a tower without first setting down and counting the cost of building a tower. Here we are reminded of the very foundation of our own Christian faith life. The foundation of our own Christian faith is that of the means of Grace, the Word, the Bible and the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and of course, confession and absolution. Through the means of the Word of God and Holy Baptism our Lord brought us to faith and made us a part of His Kingdom. Now, through our Divine Service and Bible study and through our private reading and devotions, we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, work to build on that foundation.
It is only after we have set a firm foundation that we count ourselves worthy to go to war for the Lord and so, we then count the cost of war. We do not go to war by ourselves thinking that we might be able, by ourselves to defeat the enemy, for he is far too superior to us, rather we go to war only as our Lord leads us into battle.
The final step in being a disciple of Jesus, after building a firm foundation and after being made ready for battle is a fight against one’s own sinful flesh and renouncing oneself, we read the last verse of our text, verse thirty-three, “33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (v. 33). Many of you know that I like to put things into context and perspective and in particular into an eternal perspective. So, let me remind you of the eternal perspective of discipleship. What we are born with and what we take with us when we die is what is truly ours. So, basically, nothing is really ours. The “preacher” in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that all is vanity and that what one spends a lifetime of accumulating, their heirs will quickly be rid of, spending it without thought to how much was put into accumulate it. Jesus’ warning is that we not let the things (and this is what they are, things) of this world get in the way of our discipleship and unfortunately, that is too often what we do, we let the things of this world cloud our minds and keep us from discipleship.
Perhaps, if we are looking to a “bottom line” for this text, the bottom line is that Jesus came to give His complete self, to give His life and so He demands complete allegiance from us. Which brings us back to the question, “This is the Gospel of the Lord?”
So, if this is the Gospel of the Lord, What does this mean? Jesus is speaking to a group of people with a mind set, not unlike ours today. Today, we live in a country which believes that there is nothing free in life. And everything that is said to be free, we are told that there are strings attached. So, when we hear these words from Jesus we might first declare, “See, I told you so, there are strings attached to being a Christian.” Well, let us see if that is really true, or if there is more to this than meets the ears.
First, we might remind ourselves that we are saved by grace, that is we are saved, we have the gift and promise, we have the hope and certainty of eternal life only because Jesus gave His all, even His life for ours. Jesus did not simply contribute something to save us, He gave His all to save us. As we were reminded last week and the week before, and many times, Jesus is God and as God, He was enjoying all that glory that was His in heaven, and yet, He gave up the glory that He was enjoying. Because of His commitment to us, His children, the commitment He made back in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned, He gave up all the glory that was His in order to take on human flesh and blood, becoming one with us, one like us except without sin. He humbled Himself, being born of a woman, being born and placed in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. He humbled Himself, coming, not to be served, but to serve. He came to give His life as a ransom for all. He lived perfectly, for us, in our place, because we cannot. He took our sins upon Himself and suffered and died to pay the price for our sins. He rose from the dead, showed Himself beyond a doubt to be alive, and He promised to send the Holy Spirit. He also promised that He would come again. He ascended into heaven from where He came and now, along with being everywhere present, He is also in heaven watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us.
Jesus came to give His all and He did. And He continues to give to us. Now He gives to us all His good gifts and blessings: faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. And He gives us these blessings through His means of grace, His Word and Sacraments. Jesus gives, and we are given to, no strings attached. But what about our text and its demands on discipleship?
Again, let me say that Jesus demands nothing from us and yet, while Jesus demands nothing from us, He instructs us in appropriate ways in which He directs us to respond to all that He has done for us and given to us. Our response of faith, not our way of working for salvation, not our way of paying off what He has done for us, but our response of faith is, with His help and by the power of the Holy Spirit, to live lives of faithful discipleship. We are not our own, we were bought with a price, the price of Jesus’ life. Jesus loves us with a complete love. He counted the cost and He paid the price. And His offer to us is to work in and through us through His means of grace so that we might be His disciples.
If you have not figured it out by now, one of the reasons the world despises Christians and the Christian faith is because the Christian faith is an exclusive faith. There is only one way to heaven and that way is through Jesus and faith in Him, alone. This means that we are not sure and confident of our eternal well-being simply by being associated with a church or a family of Christians. We may be confident only as the Lord gives us faith, strengthens and keeps us in faith through His Word and Sacraments, reminding us of the importance of making regular and diligent use of these means.
Whenever I sit down to look at a text in order to preach on it, one of the first things I do is to look at the text and in one sentence say what the text means. As I looked at this text, the sentence I used to state the main idea of this text was this, “Although there may be many who would associate with a Christian church today, simply for social reasons and the like, Jesus continues to warn that true discipleship costs one’s life, that is that one is willing to give their life to follow Him, as He has given His life for us.” My prayer for each one of you is that the Lord would continue to work in your life, through His means of grace, as you make regular and diligent use of the means, to give you, strengthen you and keep you in such faith until Christ comes again, at which time we will gather with all the saints and say, “to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake,” Amen.