How Much You Got 9-8-19

In this sermon, based on Luke 14:25-33, I explore a troublesome teaching from Jesus about the cost of discipleship. He asks for all that we have, implying that even that isn’t enough…and yet…there’s some good news in this difficult passage.

You can listen along to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/how-much-you-got-9-8-19

You can also follow along with the text here:

May the grace and peace of our Triune God be yours, today and forever. Amen

There is a character from a series of movies that, in my opinion, fits the bill for the quintessential title of dad who JUST wants to do the best he can for his family…and give them a great experience. And that character is Clark W Griswold Jr…played by Chevy Chase in about 4 or 5 different National Lampoons Vacation movies made through the 80’s and 90’s.

Now this guy, bless his heart…he tries hard…but in movie after movie…situation after situation…things never seem to go quite right…and that trend is established pretty quickly in the very first Vacation…in the midst of a cross country road trip…somewhere out in the middle of a desert…he misses a detour sign and promptly ramps his car right off the dead end of a construction site, messing up the car and blowing all four tires.

Following a few more hijinks…they finally get the car hauled off to a shop in a tiny isolated town…and when Clark goes to pay the bill…the shady shop owner asks him “How much you got?” (pause) They never actually say exactly how much the guy fleeces him for….but something tells me it costs him every dollar in his wallet…everything he has to give. (pause)

Now today’s gospel story doesn’t have any shady mechanics shaking someone down for cash…but in one similarity with the movie…Jesus is back on the road again.  We know he’s been slowly making his way towards Jerusalem…and at this point, we’re only about halfway through the whole travel narrative…and we continue to see Jesus moving around…sometimes hanging out in a community for a while…sometimes out in the wilderness…sometimes on the road.

And that’s where we find him today…on the move…and as per usual, he’s got a following.  I often wonder just what these scenes would have looked like…as the large crowds are following him around…listening to him teach…hoping for a healing…wondering what he’s going to do next. It stands to reason that the individuals in these crowds came from a wide variety of backgrounds…each with different expectations of what they think the Messiah is up to…

But in the simple act of following along… there’s an expectation being implied…to follow a teacher…or a rabbi…or a messiah, whatever term we want to use for Jesus…the person who takes this action also has a name…a disciple…and to be following along means that they are engaging in discipleship.

Now discipleship’s not easy…it might seem easy at face value…but there’s way more to it than just walking down the road behind someone.  To be a disciple means you carry an openness to what they can teach you…and with that comes the expectation of change…and change isn’t always easy is it? Because the things that need to change aren’t always something that we want to let go of.

In short…the idea of discipleship seems to indicate cost…it will cost us something…but if that’s true…and I think it is…then the next logical question is…what’s it gonna cost me?

And that’s the topic that Jesus is talking about today. Now admittedly…Jesus’ statements make me kind of uncomfortable today…maybe you as well…because he’s not really painting an overly pretty picture is he? (pause)

Anyone who do does not hate father or mother…spouse and children…siblings…even your very life…cannot be my disciple. (pause) What? You mean we have to be willing to sacrifice our family?  The people that love and care about us…that support us? That connect us into our communities and into our culture…and Jesus seems to say…yes. (pause)

Anyone who does not carry the cross and follow me…cannot be my disciple. (pause) What? You mean we might risk civil disobedience? We might have to stand up to the government, risking our freedom…maybe even death…and Jesus seems to say…yes. (pause)

Anyone who does not give up all your possession…cannot be my disciple. (Pause) What, we have to be willing to give up everything we have?  You don’t mean everything do you Jesus? Everything?  And Jesus seems to say…yes. (Pause)

I don’t know…this is pretty heavy Jesus…I’m not quite sure I really understand what you’re saying here…but HEY!!!! He tells a couple brief parables right? I bet those will shed some more light on just what he’s REALLY trying to teach us.

A man plans to build himself a tower…but before he does so he sits down to calculate the cost…making sure he has enough resources…enough to spare…enough to give or trade so that this project will come to completion and fulfillment…because on the flip side…holy cow…if he lays his foundation and then runs out of resources…well then there’s physical evidence of this guy’s inability to do it on his own…and everyone will mock him….hmmmm.

Well maybe the second one…what king…as he plans to go out and meet another king in battle…will he not first sit to determine if its possible with his 10,000 fighters to defeat the other guy…who’s marching up with 20,000?  Well that makes sense right? 2-1 odds?  Pretty sure this first king is gonna end up dead, or in the very least disgraced if he tries that…better to do the alternative…and send out a delegation to ask for peace right?  (pause) Or is it? Because in that scenario…king number 1 is at the mercy of king number 2…and whatever deal they strike to keep #2 from laying waste anyway is probably gonna cost #1 pretty dearly…so maybe neither alternative is really all the great. (pause)

And so…with these two illustrations, we consider Jesus’ teaching…his rather blunt statements about the cost of discipleship and it leads to the obvious conclusion of (Long pause)  WHAT?

It kinda seems that Jesus is telling us that discipleship does come with cost…and in all likelihood…it might be more than we are willing to give…because discipleship…following Jesus might just cost us absolutely EVERYTHING we have…and even that might not be enough…and if his parables are to be believed…it almost seems like Jesus is saying “if you aren’t willing to give what its gonna take…you might as well just stay home and not…even…try.” (pause)

I don’t know about you but that strikes me as a pretty tough pill to swallow.  Isn’t Jesus the one who tells us “come follow me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light?” Isn’t he the one who teaches us over and over again that all are truly welcome and included…even the ones who have pushed so far to the margins that we forget about them?  Isn’t he the one who calls all who are weary and he will give us rest?

Yes…all of those things are true…but in this difficult teaching from Jesus it seems like discipleship is asking more of us than any of us are willing to give…and maybe even more than any of us are even CAPABLE of giving. And if that’s the case…then what do we do with it?  It is a lost cause?  Are we a lost cause?  Should we just throw up our hands and go home and figure “Well we gave a shot, I guess that wasn’t enough?” (pause)

Here’s the thing…when we zero in on single aspects of scripture…single teachings…single verses or ideas or concepts…when we do this…all too often to try and prove point to someone we disagree with…we miss the bigger picture…context matters…overarching teaching matters…and the larger message of Christ matters.

And so…in order to try and make some sense of this oddball teaching from Jesus that sounds like “all is lost.” I looked ahead to the next chapter…anyone know what happens in Luke 15? (Pause) Jesus tells some more parables…about a shepherd with 100 sheep who leaves 99 to go find 1 that’s lost…and then a woman with 10 coins who searches diligently all over her house until she locates the one that went missing…and then a father with 2 sons, both of which go wayward in one way or another…and that Father looks longingly…for them…until they are brought back in. (pause)

The gospel teaches us that we have a God who made ALL of this…and even though we’ve done a REALLY good job of screwing it up in just about every way imaginable…this same God does not see us as a lost cause…and this is why Jesus was here in the first place.

Whatever it was that God was accomplishing in the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus…it seems that God was paying that cost that is too great for any of us to manage on our own…that somehow…God was offering a way to overcome that brokenness and division that exists in our reality…peace in the face of that which has divided us from one another and even from God. (pause) That’s what those three parables coming up in the next chapter reveal to us…that we have a God who will defy all logic and sense and do what we are incapable of doing on our own…of finding us when we are lost.
That’s what caught me…and knowing that, I circled back around to today’s difficult teaching to find the good news in a passage that seems devoid of it.

When the king realizes that he can’t do it…a delegation for peace is sent…but the gospel tells us that the one who actually sends the delegation is not the weaker king, its the stronger king. (pause)  Jesus was sent into the world to bring about peace on our behalf…knowing that we are unable to achieve it. (pause)
And now here’s the take away…especially today as we kick off another program year…what is it that we are doing here at church if not engaging in opportunities for discipleship? It takes on many forms, but its here…this chance to gather with one another and learn from the one who calls us, and asks for our entire selves.

Its not just a call to bring our kids and drop them at the front door…or to sit and listen to me jabber for 15 minutes once in a while, or to drop a couple bucks in the offering plate on occasion.  This call into discipleship asks for everything…and it might cost everything…we don’t know how all that’s gonna shake out.

And so what do we do with that? Are we gonna be lukewarm about it? Because if that’s the case Jesus seems to be saying you might as well stay home. And that’s blunt…but sometimes we need to hear a blunt word to remind us that the creator of the entire universe looked at everything…and decided the universe needed one of you.  And not only that…but that same creator of everything has offered you the life changing news that you have been claimed as a beloved child, not through anything that you have done…you have not earned it…but it has been given to you freely…So let that truth permeate everything aspect of your being…and together let’s be willing to give all of ourselves…and see where God is going to lead us. Amen.

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