Here are two, slightly different sermons...
Year C Trinity 13/Proper 18 - Luke 14:25-35
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 31 "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. 34 "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Last week we saw the compassion of Jesus. The humility required to come into his kingdom. And the selfless hospitality that Jesus requires.
This week we look at three elements of being a true follower of Jesus. Each of them beginning with C. First of all we have...
A Continuing Commitment.
Jesus was speaking to the large crowd who were travelling with him to Jerusalem. Some of them may even have considered themselves to be followers of him.
Read verse 26.
Surely this goes against the fifth commandment that we should honour our father and mother ? Was Jesus going against the Old Testament law here ? What was he talking about ?
Jesus' listeners would not have been shocked by this. The word translated 'hate' doesn't have quite the same meaning as it does in our language. It is talking about priorities. So Jesus is saying, 'Your devotion to me should be so great, that it makes the devotion you have for your families, and even yourself seem like hate in comparison.'
We do not have to literally hate our parents, our families, ourselves as Christians. We do need to give Jesus priority over everything else.
Jesus' words were addressed to disciples who would face opposition from within their families. Some families would betray them because of their allegiance to Jesus.
Today there are Christians who face problems within their families from relatives who do not share their commitment to Jesus. Jesus is not saying that we are to love them less. Jesus is saying that we are to love him more. To put him first. This may not be popular, painless or easy, but Jesus never promised that following him would be any of these things.
We see this when Jesus underlines the commitment that is involved in following him in verse 27. Read.
Today the cross is often an ornament in gold used as a piece of jewellery, or a symbol of the Christian faith. Yet people do not wear a gold gallows or electric chair round their necks !
In Jesus' day the cross was a symbol of a long, painful, public, humiliating death. Carrying one's own cross would have shocked those to whom Jesus was speaking. Remember, even Jesus' closest disciples did not realise that he had to go to the cross.
To carry one's own cross was something that the man who was to be crucified was forced to do. It was a one way journey. He was on his way to execution. There was no turning back.
Jesus was saying, 'Are you committed enough to die for me ?'
Last week we saw how Jesus had compassion and healed a sick man on the Sabbath. But coming to him involves more than just wanting to be made well. Last week we also examined the challenge of what it means to be humble and hospitable. It is a continuing response day after day. Year after year. The love of Jesus draws, no demands more and more commitment from us.
C for A Continuing Commitment. And C for...
Counting the Cost.
In Barcelona is the Church of the Holy Family. From the distance it appears to be a magnificent building. cf pictures. It was started in 1883 by the Spanish Architect Antonio Gaudi who lived from 1852 to 1926. After 1910 he devoted himself to the project, even living on the site at times. He died after having been hit by a tram, forty three years after he was commissioned to start the Cathedral. It is still unfinished, one hundred and fifteen years after it was begun.
Jesus warned about the perils of deciding to follow him without realising the cost of discipleship.
When I made a commitment to Jesus twenty years ago I am sure that I was typical of most Christians in that I did not realise the wide reaching consequences that would flow from this. I am not just talking about the commitment to minister for him full time, but the need to put every element of my life under his control. I am sure that most of us never really knew what we were taking on when we first accepted that invitation. As we go on in our walk with Jesus we have to face again and again the need to put Jesus before everything, and everyone else. Yet God is gracious and will give us the strength and the guidance we need to live for him, and forgiveness when we fail.
We must be prepared to give everything. Failure to do this ends up with a faith which is lukewarm and joyless. Indeed, it is really no faith at all. Faith involves trusting Jesus. Relying on him. If there are areas of our lives that we do not allow him into, or where he does not have priority then we should not wonder that our faith weakens. The commitment that Jesus calls us to make is costly, yet it is one that will bring blessings. Both in this life and in the one to come.
2 Corinthians 5:10 says, 'For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.'
We can be encouraged by this. That God sees our endeavours for him and will reward us.
We can be challenged by this. That God will hold us responsible for the use of the things that he has given us. Our time, talents, job, money, possessions, family, relationships, energy, emotions, and so on.
In verse 33 Jesus says that whoever will not give up everything he/she has cannot be his disciple. Is there something that we have not given over to Jesus ?... Let us not hold anything back.
Jesus is loving and forgiving, but also uncompromising in the commitment that he calls his disciples to make. He is kind in that he does not want us to be caught unawares by this. He warns us of the need to give everything back to him.
So as disciples of Jesus we should be continuing our commitment, have counted the cost and should be...
'He who would valiant be 'gainst all disaster, let him in constancy follow the Master'. We will sing this later. Constant, according to my dictionary, means, ' fixed, unchanging, steadfast, continuing, quality that does not vary.' This does not mean that we should not be growing in our discipleship. It does mean that we should retain the essentials of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. To live a distinctive life. That is what Jesus was talking about when he said that his disciples are to continue to be salty.
The salt in Jesus day was found in the rock near to the Dead Sea. It had impurities and, because of this and chemical reactions the outer layer was often useless. The layers underneath were used for preserving, adding taste, and as a fertiliser. Even these layers were not as pure as our salt today and could lose the saltiness.
We are to continue to be salty. To continue to be distinctive, purifying, useful. Therefore, there should be no room for taking a back seat, relying on what has gone. Otherwise there is a danger of losing our love, our enthusiasm and our fruitfulness. Paul encourages us to press on like a runner in a race. This has to involve us in self-discipline, and self-denial so that we can be fit for the purposes of God.
A soldier was brought before Alexander the Great to be court-martialled for desertion. 'What is your name ?' asked the Commander of the Greek Army. 'Alexander' was the reply.' Change your name or mend your manners' replied the Emperor.
The soldier had to live up to the name he shared with his commander. We are called to live up to the name of 'Christ-ian'. To try and live like, and for our commander.
True discipleship involves continuing commitment, counting the cost, and keeping constant. Let us pray that in the power of God's Spirit we may live our lives this way, and commit ourselves afresh to being disciples of Jesus.
Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen
Annual Church Meeting : Luke 14: 25-35
Think about an investment. Pensions or savings. What does it cost ? Is it safe ? What returns will it bring ? Investing in Jesus : 3 c's costly; careful; continuing.
Costly. Verse 27, 'And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.' Cross, place of shame, disgrace, suffering, & death. Jesus' life challenged others, hence cross. Ours, too, expect problems.
Verse 33, 'In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.' Said we must give him everything. Not give left-overs. Not what it suits us to give. Everything.
Careful. Jesus' compares following him to building a tower. This requires careful planning and costing. Someone who starts and runs out of money lays themselves open to ridicule. Thoughtless. Wasteful of resources committed to it. We need to review.
Salt metaphor. Salt used for seasoning, preserving, fertilising soil. Yet impure, lose saltiness. Useless. We need to continue being distinctive, purifying, feeding.How?
1) Following Jesus teaching. Giving everything for him. Only by doing this will we show that we are true disciples.
Involve death to old nature & way of life. Ridicule, rejection & revulsion from those who reject God's ways.
2) Involve serving him in the church.
Invest in something if we have a goal, a vision. Pension to buy a retirement home, incentive. Savings to buy a car, pay for a holiday, send child to university...
What vision do we have for this church ? Do we want to be reaching out with the love of Jesus, being part of the body of Christ, worshipping him, & growing in knowing Jesus. If so we need to look at what we are prepared to invest. Jesus says that being a disciple involves continuing to give everything to God.
This should involve our time, energy, and talents. Encouraged by those who are involved. Mentioned earlier. Yet rely on few. No place for spectators in God's kingdom. e.g. give out books, read/pray at services, help with refreshments, do brasses, pray... honour existing commitments.
Should involve our money. The Reformer Martin Luther said, 'There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, mind and the purse.' Our giving has decreased since last year. If it continues it will be £1,039 less than last year. Last year our fees increased by £1,500 and we cannot assume that this will be as high this year. So we could easily be facing a £2,000 to £2,500 shortfall. Please pray, and consider own response.
Investments. Today in : shares - can crash; building society - rates fall; relationships let down; pleasures - disappoint; possessions decay, break down, get stolen, need maintaining...
Invest in Jesus. Be best friend, never let down, endure for ever, bring joy, & eternal life.