Going Deeper 9-9-19

From our Gospel reading, these words: 25Now large crowds were traveling with [Jesus]; and he turned and said to them, 26“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. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple... 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
I am a little nervous.  This morning I am going to try to proclaim the truth of what Jesus is telling those who would be his followers, the truth about just how radical his claim upon our lives ought to be.  And I am quite certain that this might very well make you uncomfortable, just as it does me.  But I need to step out of the way and simply teach what the Word proclaims.
In the previous section of Luke 14, Jesus has proclaimed the limitless and inclusive nature of God’s grace.  Those who recognize they have fallen short and who humble themselves— those who acknowledge and confess their sin— will receive absolution.  They will be covered by God’s grace and included in the Messianic Kingdom.  Remember that!  Our salvation is based on grace, not on the adequacy of our discipleship.  Got that? (keep this in mind as we go on…)
Now Jesus turns His attention, and ours, to the cost of discipleship, of truly following Him.  Luke tells us that large crowds were following Jesus at this point.  They were undoubtedly impressed by His miracles and intrigued by His teaching.  Those who felt confused about their religion and its expectations, who felt rejected by their religion and its leaders, seemed to resonate to Jesus’ teachings and were attracted to His message of grace.
But now Jesus is going to lay out for them, and for us, His expectations for those who would follow.  In these words we hear what our response to the Gospel of grace is to be all about.  Here we hear of the cost of discipleship.  Salvation is free; discipleship is costly.
First, Jesus proclaims that following Him supersedes even our family relationships, and even life itself.  Most of us are blessed to have families who support our faith.  But especially at the time of Christ, and for some people now, family can put pressure on them to not believe, or at least not fully respond to and follow the Gospel and Jesus’ call to discipleship.  
When that happens, Jesus says we are to “hate” (which means to separate from) father, mother, brothers, sisters— even life itself—if their claims upon us draw us away from following Jesus.  Again, by “hate” Jesus means we are to make their claims upon us subordinate to the claims of Christ and his calling.  Even if it costs us those important relationships!
Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”   In other words, don’t be fooled: there’s nothing easy about discipleship.  If your or my discipleship is fairly easy, then we better stop and give it some serious thought.  That is the message here.
Giving our discipleship response to God’s grace some serious thought is exactly what Jesus addresses next, and I would think that those who have ever done so, would say that Jesus is stating the obvious.  You had better think it through!  You better count the costs and make sure you will have enough before you even think about starting to build. Similarly, a leader who is contemplating war better consider the costs in advance.  Otherwise there will be big problems. There’s no sugar-coating this.  What Jesus is saying here is clear. 
And what Jesus is saying here is radical: “none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”   I cannot ignore this statement… and neither can you.  We hear the Scriptures teaching this seemingly all of the time.  Just last week we heard this in our Epistle text: “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.”  What am I supposed to do?  What are you supposed to do?  Ignore this?
I simply must be redundant… as redundant as Jesus and the Scriptures.  Following Christ means we are to undergo a radical shift in our thinking about everything… including-- and perhaps especially-- our possessions.  It is that clear.  We are to come to an understanding that we really do not have any possessions, and that God is the owner of all things.  We are called to manage the time, talent, and treasure God places in our hands in such a way as to reflect the love of Jesus through our caring for others.
I feel compelled to spell this out clearly.  If God is only getting our leftovers, then something is radically wrong with our response to his grace.  If we are only giving up whatever time we may have left over after doing all of the other things we want to do, or feel that we have to do, then something’s wrong.  And you know that I’m talking about a lot more than going to church.  
While I do believe it is vitally important for us to gather here on a regular basis to receive and celebrate God’s grace, grow in our faith and in our love for one another, and in our individual and collective understanding of our mission, it is more about being the church than going to church.  But how can we understand this, how can we be inspired and empowered together,  how can we follow Christ’s call if we do not gather to hear and consider what that calling is?
And, of course, this applies to talent and treasure in much the same way.  Each and every member of the body of Christ has been gifted in ways which are meant to make the whole body stronger, and its mission more effective.  If parts of the body are inactive, the whole body suffers.  And if the members of this body see managing money as being dropping in an offering plate whatever we can afford without a whole lot of sacrifice, then we are falling far short in terms of making the kind of impact in the name of Christ we are capable of making.
There… I said it.  Well, actually I have tried to step to the side and let Jesus speak to you.  If you think what I am proclaiming here reflects what Mark Gabbert thinks and not what Christ proclaims, then ignore it.  Go about your business and give it no thought.  But if you think it does reflect the mind and will of Christ, then not only think about, act upon it.  Pray that the Holy Spirit of God will lead you to follow in ways which reflect what the Scriptures teach.
Now there is something else that I must repeat before we close.  I would assume that these hard teachings have made you feel as though you have fallen short, just as I have.  I fall far short of this kind of whole-hearted commitment to discipleship and stewardship.  And that is why we must always proclaim—and claim—the sufficiency of God’s grace. Where we have fallen short, God’s grace covers us.  It always has, and it always will.  
What we are considering here this morning is how we will both receive and respond to God’s amazing grace from this point forward.  And, please hear this final word: what Jesus calls us to is not easy, but it is good.  It is better than good.  It is the best and most fulfilling way to live our life.  Love is behind all of this!  There is nothing better than serving as the means through which God graces and blesses the lives of others.  And that is a fact.  Amen.