Monday, September 9, 2013

Hating Church

When I was a teenager I hated Church.
I guess I enjoyed seeing my friends, but in general I thought the whole thing was a waste of my time.
I found it to be boring.
I would have rather slept in, ate brunch, listen to my Motley Crue records, watch football.
I never said it out loud, but I am sure I thought on more than one occasion that I hated my parents for dragging me out of bed and making me go to this awfully boring place.
I don’t think they cared.
Church was just what we did on Sunday morning.
When I would protest that I wanted to do other things.
My parents would ignore me and tell me to get into the car.
Truth is that going to Church cost our family something.
My parents were regular givers, we spent lots of our time and energy at church.
I am sure that we could have done other things with our time, energy, and money.
When I think back on it I see it as simply my parents living out their faith.

Jesus this morning says some pretty shocking words.
“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 disciples.”
What are we going to do with such words?
Here we are at the start of Sunday school today is a good day for our congregation.
We all love to see the kids in worship this morning.
We all love to have a busy and active Sunday school.
We all love to have fellowship with one another at our Barbeque.
This message just seems out of place.
Especially in our day when everything in our culture and world tell us that nothing is more important than “family values”.
That the most important thing any of us will ever do is raise kids, or be a partner to someone.
That family is the center of our lives.

I was living in New York during the presidential election of 2004.
That year George W. Bush won another term as president mostly because of people that pollsters were calling, “value voters”.
They were mostly Christians who voted for Bush because he seemed to be defending “family values”.
I don’t know if that is true, but that is what the press was reporting.
The Bishop of the Metro New York Synod went on the radio to be interviewed about this and he reminded the listeners that there are other values in the Bible beside “family values”,
That Jesus was also concerned about lepers, the poor, the sinners, the outcast, the prostitute.
Perhaps part of what we can take away this morning from Jesus words is simply that even though our family and friends are, and should be, important to us they are not the only thing that we should be concerned about.
That sometimes we even have to defy them to serve God and neighbor.

However, I am not sure that really answers the question fully as to why Jesus would use such strong language.
I want to give a two disclaimers about Jesus words.
The first is that Jesus often times uses hyperbole to prove his point.
I like this about Jesus because I often do this too.
Throughout the Gospel Jesus says outrageous things to get our attention and help us see the point.
This is good for us because we often already think we know what will be said in the Bible by Jesus.
We think Jesus is only about making us feel good, or giving us positive affirmations about our lives.
A verse like this will make us stop and think, and question.
Second, the word hate in Jesus time does not have the same connotation that it has today.
When we think of hate we think of a feeling that we have toward something or someone that is negative.
When Jesus uses the word it has nothing to do with how we feel about that person.
The word means to turn away from, to detach oneself from.
Jesus call here is to put God above all else…family, and even life itself.

I am always cautious not to preach about coming to church as the only sign of our commitment to God and neighbor.
I know there are other ways to do both these things that are outside these walls.
I also know that forcing your children to come to church is not easy, and it does not always get the required results.
My story that I share with you this morning is just that, it is my story about me and my family.
I lift it up because I think that it shows the struggle that we face today to be active disciples of Jesus.
My parents had to turn away from me, and detach themselves from what I wanted because that was what they felt called to do.
The kind of hate that I felt toward them and the church was merely the emotional reaction of a teenager.
I want us to see that being a disciple of Jesus does cost us something.

I guess that is what I want us to think about this morning as we start our program year.
Have we thought about the cost?
What does it cost to be a Sunday school teacher?
It means giving up other things that you might want to do in order to be here for the kids, and help them grow in faith.
It means giving up a part of your life for the sake of someone else.
What does it cost to be a kid who comes to Sunday school?
It might mean not sleeping over someone’s house on Saturday, or not playing on a certain sports team.
What does it cost to follow Jesus out of these doors into our daily lives?
It might mean that people will misunderstand our commitments to God and others.
To count the cost is to take stock in what really matters in your life and then to live out those values.
What will it cost to be confirmed, or have first communion?
What will it cost us to go to Bible Study on Wednesday night?
What is it going to cost us?

Jesus gives these words as a warning to those who want to follow him because they saw him heal people, or feed people.
Because Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and that means death.
It is interesting that our Gospel today starts with large crowds traveling with him.
I wonder how many stayed on for the rest of the journey?
A couple of weeks ago I preached that Jesus in this part of Luke is always trying to convince people not to follow him because the cost is too high.
Here is another example.

I cannot leave it here this morning.
Because I think about the cost, and any adding up of what is lost versus what is gained has to take into account the entire journey of Jesus.
What about those that stuck it out with Jesus?
What about the women who went to the cross with him, and then who went to the tomb on Easter morning?
Was there some things lost?
But what was gained was even beyond their wildest dreams.

That is what I hope for us at Concordia Lutheran church this program year.
That the journey we take in worship, Sunday school, confirmation, first communion, Bible study, adult forum, outreach to the poor, spreading of the Gospel, will be beyond our wildest dreams.
That when we sit down and count the cost we will see that the journey is well worth it because we have gained so much more than what was lost.
Sure we won’t be able to sleep in our Sunday morning, but we have gained hope, joy, love, and faith from coming here and together discovering the wonderful amazing grace of God.
We will experience in our lives resurrection, healing, and a whole new insight into our selves and the world we live in.
So let us leave knowing that it will cost us something, but it will be worth every penny.

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