Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sermon -- 16th Sunday after Pentecost (September 13, 2015)

LUKE 14:25-33

In the name + of Jesus. 

     One of the harder sayings of Jesus is spoken in today's Gospel: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)  One of the reasons this statement is so hard is because we teach our children that it is wrong to hate anyone.  To hate someone means that you wish harm and disaster on that person, whether you take it upon yourself to inflict that harm or you simply smile to yourself when you hear that that person has suffered loss.  However, Jesus is not saying that the 4th Commandment has been abolished and that you should now wish evil on your parents.  He is not saying the 6th Commandment is suspended so that you no longer love or honor your husband or wife.  Rather, Jesus is speaking in hyperbole here.  In any case, Jesus has your attention here.
     Jesus wants you to count the cost of discipleship.  If you would be a disciple of Jesus, you cannot live with divided allegiances.  Jesus is not abolishing the Commandments with his statement, but he is emphatically declaring that the First Commandment is the first one for a good reason.  You shall have no other gods. (First Commandment)  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)  Count the cost of discipleship.
     There were large crowds who were following Jesus at this time.  Not everyone came to Jesus for good reasons.  Many came because Jesus did miracles.  Jesus was the popular story of the day, and people wanted to be there for it.  Jesus was not interested in collecting fans.  Jesus called people to be his disciples.  A disciple is a learner, a student, and one who imitates his master.  Jesus was no deceiver; he wanted the crowds to know what they were getting into.  He urged them to count the cost of discipleship.
     So, when Jesus declared, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26), he was hitting close to home.  In fact, he is hitting us in our homes.  If Jesus had said, “If anyone does not hate television” or “will not renounce chocolate, he cannot be my disciple,” we could probably go along with that.  But Jesus tells us that our loved ones should not be so exalted by us.
     Now, God gives us family and friends for our good.  Such people are there for us to love and serve, and they love and serve us.  We gain support and stability from each other.  But understand this: Your family is a gift of God.  Your family does not replace God or take priority over him.  It is God who decided to whom you would be born.  It is God who determined what children you would have.  You did not get to choose your family any more than you got to choose your own birthday.  Your family is God's gift to you, and you are God's gift to them.
     Even though your family is arguably the most precious gift God gives you in this life, it is still just for this life.  Everything in this world is temporary.  That is a hard lesson to learn.  Some things we don't miss if we lose them.  I remember having a blanket I had carried around when I was little.  It was a treasured possession then.  I can't remember what color it was now.  Other things in this world we know are only temporary.  Every meal, every oil change, and every bouquet of flowers are only good for a short time.  Even our families are temporary blessings—precious blessings, nonetheless temporary.  That lesson is learned only with bitter tears and mourning.  We will some day bid farewell to those people who provided support and stability for us, or they will bid farewell to us.  For as much as we love our families, and for all of the good that God gives us through our families, they dare never take priority over God.  That is idolatry.  The First Commandment always comes first.  Count the cost of discipleship.
     The problem is that our sinful flesh always loves itself first.  The flesh just wants to be happy.  And so, we do what makes us happy.  We encourage our families to do what makes them happy—even when it is at odds with God's word.  And when we are confronted by these sins, we take our family's side.  We fear the wrath and rejection off our relatives more than we fear God.  When you see your family neglect or defy God's word, do you admonish them?  Or do you defend them because at least they are happy?
      Satan lies to us and tries to convince us that the best we can do is be happy.  In some instances, we see through the lie.  Children are not happy that they have to eat vegetables.  We make them eat them anyway.  You would be happier at Disney World than at work.  You go to work anyway.  You do these things because this is what your family needs.  These are important.  The only thing that God gives you in this world that you could see in heaven is your family.  If you want to spend eternity with them, then you need Jesus.  You need his word and sacraments.  You need to be in church—regularly.  Your weekly attendance is your confession: This is important.  This matters.  Jesus comes first.
      Count the cost of discipleship.  This is especially hard for us because we want to cling to all of the temporary gifts God gives us—as if God is incapable of giving us anything else or anything better.  Jesus said, “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)  We brought nothing into this world with us, and there is nothing that we will be taking with us.  There is nothing that you have in this world that will vouch for you at all at the final judgment—not your parents, not your spouse, not your children, and not even your own resume.  That is why Jesus calls you to renounce all things.  The only thing you truly do need is Jesus.
     Jesus Christ did count the cost of being your Savior.  He knew exactly what he was getting into when he left the glories of heaven to live among us.  He came in weakness, submitting himself to the pains and sorrows of life.  He came to suffer, to be slandered, accused, and mocked, to be spit upon, beaten, and flogged.  He came to die—nailed to a cross, executed for crimes he did not commit, forsaken by his Father, and tormented by hellish pains meant for devils.  Jesus knew all of this when he came to earth, when he was baptized in the Jordan, and when he prayed in Gethsemane.  He counted the cost, and he paid the price.  He did it for everyone, knowing that most would not care.  But he did it perfectly, and he did it for you.  This atoning sacrifice from this perfect Savior is all you need.  In Jesus, you find the complete forgiveness of your sins.  Your shame is covered by divine blessing.  Your grave is but a resting place until the resurrection of the dead.  And your final judgment is in: You are heirs of everlasting life.  Nothing on earth can buy this.  Only Jesus supplies it to you.
     Count the cost of discipleship.  Jesus supplies all you need for your eternal salvation.  But he does not leave you alone either.  It has never been God's intention that we live alone.  Just as he has given us families to support and encourage us in our daily lives, so he has brought you into a family of believers.  Your brothers and sisters are the ones who are sitting next to you.  And it is much more than just an hour a week bond.  You are going to be spending an eternity together.  You get to pray for each other, cry with each other, rejoice with each other, and feast with each other as you receive God's greatest gifts together.  Though you may lose family members, you never lose the Church of God.  You never lose the Savior who suffered and died to give you gifts that have everlasting value and a kingdom which endures forever.
     Count the cost of discipleship.  You need not feel as if you are sacrificing everything for Jesus.  Whatever you think you may have lost, Jesus gives you more and better and eternal.  Jesus sacrificed everything and gave himself as the cost for you.  The Triune God supplies all your needs for this world and the next.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.