Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Time to Count the Cost

This week I read an article sent to me over Facebook called, “More teens becoming “fake” Christians.”
The author says that teenager are being taught and sold Christianity as “divine Therapy”.
Instead of Christianity being about sacrifice and good moral behavior
it has come to be about God making us all feel good.
Reading this morning’s Gospel we see the problem.
Jesus call to us to follow him is radical.
“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.”
Wow! Did Jesus really say that?
What are we to do with this radical call of Jesus?

First of all I am guilty of preaching about divine therapy.
And I make no apologies for it.
There are times when God needs to be our comforter.
There are times when we need God to tell us that everything will be OK.
The message of the Gospel is that God loves us no matter what.
This is the message of grace.
As a Christian Lutheran it is the core of our message to the world and our part in the larger body of Christ.
This is why I am Lutheran and not a Baptist, Roman Catholic, or some other Christian denomination.
I find my spiritual food in the message of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
I don’t want to have to worry about my salvation or yours.
I am glad that God has already taken care of that through Jesus Christ.
It is good therefore that teens think of God as someone whom they can turn to when they are in trouble.

I think of a man who came to see me this week.
He was in a wheel chair.
He told me that his whole life he knew Jesus and that he had a hard life but because of Jesus he has made it through.
While we were together he prayed a beautiful prayer about knowing the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ.
And Jesus has to be that for us.
Jesus is our therapist in many ways the one we give our troubles to, the one we turn to when things look bad, the one who takes away our fear and grief.

But I agree that this cannot be all that our faith is about.
It is part of it, and a big part, but not all of it.
This morning we hear from Jesus about the other side of our faith journey.
It is the part that calls us out of ourselves into being part of something larger.
Jesus calls us to follow him, to be his disciples but cautions us about what it means to take that journey.
When we start to follow Jesus something does happen to us.
We begin to priorities our lives differently.
Things that once seemed the most important take a back seat to following Jesus Christ.
We begin to see the world as more then ourselves and our priorities.
Our lives are not merely about our families.
Because our families as good as they are cannot consume all of our time, money, and energy.
As good as they are Jesus calls us beyond our families.

Our lives when we follow Jesus become about more than our possessions and the things we have and own.
It becomes about taking up the cross and following Jesus.

And perhaps we have not thought enough in our lives about the cost.
We have not done what Jesus tells us smart people do before they set out to do something big.
We have not thought about what it means to be a disciple and to follow Jesus.
We have not taken into account all the costs.

I can tell you lots of stories about people I have known who are wonderful examples of what it means to follow Jesus Christ.
I have known lots of people who gave up lots of things in life to help others, to grow their church, to follow Jesus Christ.
I know many people in this congregation that give lots of themselves for Jesus.
Many of you put Jesus first in your lives.
I have seen it here over and over again.
I am so impressed that people come here right after a hard day at work or home and are still willing to put in the work to make sure this congregation is a place of God’s love.
I have been impressed that many people in this congregation think of Jesus and their discipleship as a priority in their lives.
I could tell you lots of stories about such people in this congregation.
But I wouldn’t want to embarrass or single anyone out.
So I want to tell you about a disciple of Jesus I knew from my internship church.
Even in that church I could have picked many people to talk about this morning.
But this morning I want to tell you about Ms. Rene.
I should say from the outset that in no way was she a perfect person no one is.
But what she had was this passion for serving Jesus.
She ran the nursery school at the church and she was the first one there at 6 am.
She often was at Church until 9pm.
She started a ministry of bringing food to the homeless that lived in downtown Philadelphia.
She insisted that we cook a full meal.
So once a month people would gather at the church and cook fried chicken, collard greens, corn, mashed potatoes, and pack it up and travel around Philadelphia handing out food.
She never asked for anything in return.
She was a quite person who did her work with dignity and respect of others.
She amazed me every day in the amount that she gave of herself for Jesus.
She taught me about discipleship about giving of oneself for others and the sake of the Gospel.
This is what it means to follow Jesus Christ.

Every one of us is different so we cannot all be like Ms. Rene.
We are all called in our own way to find out what it means to live with Jesus Christ as our priority.
What does it mean for your family to give up things it wants in order to pick up your cross and follow Jesus Christ?
What does it mean for our congregation to follow Jesus and give up what is holding us back?

I think it is crucial to have this conversation with our children and with one another.
Next time your family has a decision to make why not ask the question,
What is Jesus calling us to do?
Often times when I was a kid I would ask for something I wanted.
My parents would often stop and ask me this question.
For example, I once wanted to play football.
We had a discussion about what football would mean to our worship life.
My parents were clear that in our family Church came first and if football got in the way of church then I could not play.
Same thing happened when it was time for me to start confirmation.
I wanted to play basketball but my parents told me only if I didn’t miss confirmation.
Everything was in relationship to how it would affect our faith life.
I didn’t like that very much when I was a teenager.
But today I am grateful that they helped me count the cost.
My parents taught me to put God first (not that I always do it unfortunately).

I can’t tell you what it will be for you.
I can’t tell you what your discipleship will cost you.
But Jesus’ point this morning is that it will cost us something.
Maybe relationships, maybe sports dreams, maybe money, maybe our time.
Jesus words are meant to shock us, they are meant to throw our priorities into question.
What do I spend my money, time, and energy on?
If you know the answer to this question then you know what you value most.
And Jesus this morning is asking us to value him above all else.

So this morning let us go forth from here ready to follow Jesus.
Let us be hear the call to be disciple’s of Jesus.
Let us count the cost so we are ready to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

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