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Pentecost 13C Sermon
Luke 14: 25-33
September
8, 2019

 

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Luke 14:25-33

Now large crowds were travelling 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. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

I am sure that you have heard the phrase, “If you have to ask the cost, you probably can’t afford it!” Usually that is heard by someone shopping for a car, house or other high-ticket item. The front of your bulletins has the phrase, “The Cost of Discipleship,” along with the citation from our Gospel reading and three crosses. I thought about that saying when I read our Gospel this week. Jesus’ status has been growing and will continue to grow as he nears Jerusalem. We have sometimes referred to it as, “Rock Star Status.” Remember when the Beatles first came to the USA in 1964? People were going crazy, meeting them at airports, crashing their hotels, and screaming their lungs out. When I ushered at Nationwide Arena for a few years, I always grabbed earplugs when acts like Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers and The Cheetah Girls played concerts – not because I didn’t like their music or that it was too loud, but the screaming of (mostly) the girls in the audience was at times deafening. That must really stroke one’s ego to have that many people screaming for you night after night.
It seems to have been happening to Jesus. While I can’t imagine folk were screaming like they do for Rock Stars, we are told that Jesus looked around and noticed these large crowds that were travelling with him. And looking at them, he must wonder what their motivation is for doing this; knowing what will happen to him when he reaches his destination, he must wonder how far these people will go with him before they turn on him … which he also knows will happen. So, he basically tells them that if they have to ask what discipleship costs, then they really cannot afford it … because it is costly. It might just cost you the relationships of your life that are important, and it may even cost you life itself.

As Jesus walks toward the end of his life and the redemption of all of God’s creation, he is teaching this throng of followers that being a disciple is an identity, not a hobby, job, or passing fancy. And as disciples of Jesus, our primary task is to love God and our neighbors in such a way that they are as close to us as our own biological families. This may cause those people to turn on you, even hate you, but our call is to love without bias because in God’s eyes everyone is worthy of love. Last week a group from the Westboro Baptist Church spent their Sunday morning protesting with their signs and slogans in front of two downtown Columbus churches … St. John UCC, and Old Trinity Lutheran Church. The reason … because both of these congregations participated in the Pride parade last year to demonstrate this kind of love and were targeted by that hate-filled group because of it. Now some members of our congregation have marched in that parade over the years with the other ELCA congregations of this area, and some would not ever do that, but regardless of your stance on this or other issues, my hope is that you can love those who demonstrate differently, whether it is peaceful or hateful. I was glad that the response of those congregations was to not engage those folks, and I trust that somehow the Holy Spirit will move all of us in love toward each other and God. In his book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When we judge others, we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” Laying aside judgement and opening ourselves up in love will not make us popular - just ask Jesus! As the crowds of people to whom he showed love grew, they must have looked around and started judging others, questioning their worthiness of the love and grace that they themselves had been shown. This judgement continued to blind them to their own need for grace until they were left vulnerable when they finally arrived in Jerusalem.

Then these same crowds who may have cheered in joy at the miracles of Jesus earlier were crying out in fear and anger when the religious leaders wanted him crucified. The cost was too great for them. The cost is love, and none of us can afford that cost. Not me, not you, not even the most venerated saints.
And that is why this grace is so costly. If it was cheap, it would not be so powerful or life-changing as it is. Another phrase thrown around when a person is shopping is, “You get what you pay for!” Cheap is not only an adjective describing the cost of something … it is also an adjective describing the quality of something. So, the discipleship to which we are called is not cheap, because it is founded upon the grace and love first shown to all of us as members of God’s own family in Jesus Christ. If discipleship was not costly then we are easily distracted by wealth or hobbies, or even family. All sorts of things will continue to vie for our attention, giving us excuses for abandoning our discipleship. That is why it is so important to continue to prayerfully ask God and each other the question, “What does it look like in my life to love God and all of my neighbors above all else?” We know what it looked like for Jesus, and it included a cross … but it ended with an empty tomb and with new glorious life!! What a wonderful free, but costly and never cheap, gift that is!

Returning to our friend Bonhoeffer – the German theologian who stood up to Hitler’s hatred and suffered death in the gas chamber; he said it best so, I’ll just get out of his way and close with his words, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a person will go and sell all that he or she has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a person will pluck out the eye which causes him or her to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a person must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a person his or her life, and it is grace because it gives a person the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” Amen!