9/5/2010 -- Anne-Marie Jeffery -- 15th Sunday after Pentecost

posted Sep 12, 2010, 4:02 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Sep 12, 2010, 5:27 PM by Terry Brady ]

The Cost of Discipleship “Text: Luke 14:25-33


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.” (Pause and look up) Are you all still here?  I wouldn’t be surprised if you had walked out.   These words of Jesus are tough to hear, and believe me after I read this gospel, I took a close look at the Old and New Testament readings to see if they were speaking to me when it came to a sermon.  They weren’t, and so I came back to the gospel and to these words.  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. 


Can Jesus who teaches us about radical love really be asking us to hate our families?  Would Jesus ask us to give up the life-giving relationships to follow God’s call? These are tough questions and almost impossible to answer. However maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised by Jesus’ words, because they are not that different from what we have been hearing in Luke’s gospel in the past few weeks.  Last week we heard - Don’t invite your brothers or sisters or your relatives to banquet. Instead invite the poor the lame and the blind.  Two weeks ago before that we heard - Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!  But still this Sunday’s directions about family are especially hard.   How can Jesus ask us to leave our children?  I also must acknowledge that for some of us leaving our father and mother and brothers and sisters may sound like a great idea.  Families can be a place of pain.  However, most times we are encouraged by therapists to find ways to reconnect with our families, and I don’t think that kind of leaving is what Jesus had in mind. 


A point to note is that the word that is translated as ‘hate’ does not mean anger or hostility, but rather a conflict and that there is a choice to be made.  That helps some, but still we are left with the notion that if one has to choose between the demands of discipleship and family, then the demands of discipleship must take precedence over even the most sacred of human relationships.   However, we must remember that we are hearing Jesus’ words with 21st century ears instead of the first century ears that they were spoken for.  In the first century, family was everything.   Your family was your world and your only alliance.  For the first Christians, discipleship required a willingness to leave home and family, and travel with minimal provisions from village to village in order to proclaim the gospel.[1]  They were also becoming a part of a new community – a community that was not the community they knew and grew up with, but the community of the body of Christ that preached love, cared for one another and looked out for the poor.  This would have been asking a lot from people who were so family oriented.  


It is quite different for us. We, twenty first century Christians, for the most part minister in place.  We spread the love of God in our daily love at work, at home, and in our daily interactions with others.  Very few of us stay near where we grew up and are accustomed to going out and finding new communities to be part of.  But we must be careful not to dismiss Jesus’ words because most of us are not called to leave our family to go out to preach in the neighboring villages.      


The heart of Jesus’ message to us is that discipleship is costly.  Discipleship means making choices that may go against the usual sentiment.   Discipleship means not taking a job even though it will make us lots of money because the job does not fit in with our ethics.  Discipleship means speaking out even at great risk to say something is not right.  Discipleship means giving of our money to support the work of the Body of Christ when there are many things we could do with that money to make the lives of our families better.  Discipleship means giving of our precious time and talents.  Discipleship means getting up on a Sunday morning to worship with our fellow Christians even though we would rather be reading the Sunday paper because that is when our fellow disciples happen to worship. This is hard work that we have signed up for. 


As one commentary says – Do not claim to have not read the fine print. Our baptism is in the fine print written in water.[2]   The cost of discipleship is clearly spelled out in the promises we make at baptism.  Think about it – it is all there on page 304 and 305 of the Book of Common Prayer.  We promised to continue in the apostles teaching and fellowship, to resist evil and repent when we fall into sin.  We promised to proclaim the good news of God in Christ, to seek and serve Christ in all persons and to strive for justice and peace among all people.  Our message this morning is that discipleship is challenging. It is a good reminder to have because it is easy to forget that discipleship goes a step further than being a responsible human being.   And while we may not be putting Jesus’ words about hating mother and father on a banner outside the church for all going up and down Connecticut Ave to see, it is important for us to remind ourselves what this life of following God involves.    We must also teach new disciples about this aspect of following God’s call - that along with a relationship with God who loves us more than we can ask or imagine, comes a cost – having to choose the path that is not easy or the way that is not financially savvy.  


Knowing that there is a cost and is a part of how we prepare for discipleship although I don’t know if it is possible to be really prepared for discipleship as Jesus indicates we should be in the second half of the gospel with the parables of the man building a house and a king preparing for war.  Perhaps it will be enough to be reminded that we will face challenges along the way – kind of like a new parent who has heard that one gets no sleep when a baby is born yet doesn’t really get it until the baby arrives.   And like many new parents, who have told me that while having a child is one of the hardest things they have ever done, it has also been one of the most rewarding, I believe that discipleship brings us incredible gifts despite the costs. Through our baptism, we have embarked on an awesome and incredible journey. Let us pray that we be given the strength to face the challenges come with it and live into this amazing life that we have been called to.  

[1] NIB Luke 14:25-35. R. Alan Culpepper

[2] Ronald P. Byars, Feasting On The Word, Prop 18, Luke:25-3, p. 47.