The Pas Propers / Ordinary 23 – Pentecost + 13
8 September 2019
Psalm 1 pg 705
you call us to hate the life
that is an echo of death and a whisper of fear:
give us the courage to pass through shadows
and count the cost of a love beyond measure;
through Jesus Christ, the one who is fully alive. Amen.
What does it take to become a disciple of Jesus? What are you, am I willing to give up in order to become that disciple that Jesus talks about today?
We can look at this passage, today, as Jesus getting tired of the hangers on. Tired of those who are looking only for a free lunch, and, in a way, he puts his foot down in a ‘shock and awe’ manner in order to sort out those willing to commit to a life of discipleship, from those looking for the free lunch and the paces on their Fitbit trackers.
Or we can see this as Jesus telling it like it is, but as usual, in ways that we don’t expect.
When I applied for seminary, one of the gifts I was given, from my home parish, was a book entitled What to Expect in Seminary: Theological Education as Spiritual Formation, by Virginia Cetuk
Not really the book you’re looking at if you want an overview of the Palestinian countryside and all the bread and fish you can eat. Nor is it a book about how many meetings constitutes a week in full time ministry. But it is one that lets you know that seminary is going to be a bit more difficult than just sorting out essay information on ancient Chinese civilizations or learning how to parse dead languages that are only spoken in sacred religiously framed contexts.
Rather the process of becoming a pastor is one that has the ability to make you doubt absolutely every aspect of your life, your life of faith, and even your sense of call, of vocation in following this particular path.
It is truly a route that can only be completed by following where God leads, and without that, only disaster ensues. At the same time, the role of attending seminary and becoming ordained members of the clergy isn’t for everyone.
It can be seen, instead, as one end of the discipleship scale, to which we are all called, by the grace of God, and through our baptismal promises, while others are called to fill out the rest of the scale.
Today’s gospel tells us: “25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:25-27)
And really, these sound like harsh words, but discipleship isn’t ‘a fly by night’ act. It’s not just showing up on a Sunday and warming a pew throughout the year, but not allowing your attendance on Sunday to make any discernable impact on your life from Monday to Saturday. Rather discipleship is your Monday to Saturday and the Sunday is the day to recharge with the other disciples at the feet of Jesus.
And we are able to see this with the younger people who are looking for demonstrable life of action in and for the issues that affect us today – care of creation, care of each other, and care for the future. After all, a life of faith, a life of Christian discipleship is one of action not just one of contemplation.
Jesus points out that this pattern of discipleship is a whole life, whole body commitment to following where God leads, and where God, where Christ leads us is to the cross.
So, to make his point, Jesus uses the words of needing to hate what is being left behind. He wants us to realize that if what is left behind has the ability to distract or to pull us away from the tasks set before us by a life of faith, then starting the journey isn’t going to be successful.
And if that’s the case, there’s obviously something better out there for your time and attention than a concept of discipleship.
And really, discipleship has, once again, become a buzzword of Christianity.
In some cases, it’s being pulled apart so that we can become disciples of this, or of that, and go home feeling we’ve had a good impact on the world. But this isn’t true discipleship, nor is it actually good stewardship, either.
Discipleship isn’t an armchair exercise. It’s a full body contact sport out in the world that will make those necessary changes for tomorrow.
Jesus points out that its not a pulling apart of our efforts to make change, to bring the love and compassion of God to the world in which we live, but rather a whole package deal.
We are unable to compartmentalize ourselves without causing damage to our lives, our hearts, our sense of identity, and Jesus talks about this in his examples of the person wanting to build a tower, or a monarch wanting to wage war upon a neighbour. Jesus reminds us that “33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be [Christ’s] disciples.” (Lk 14:33)
So, as much as we’d like to see Jesus as being metaphorical, as using ‘shock and awe’ to sort out who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’, in regard to contemplating discipleship, he’s out of the gate and he’s being incredibly blunt.
We, the disciples of Christ, need to have the stick-to-it-iveness to put God first in all things, at all times, no matter what tries to tear us from that commitment, from that focus, from that discipleship.
“Turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:25b-27)
And this may sound simple, but I guarantee that it isn’t. it calls for a complete reorganization of the way in which we view our lives, our actions, and our contributions in all areas of life.
And this is what today’s youth are looking for as well. They’re looking for those concrete expressions of faith of Christianity that better model what Jesus is calling us to embrace in the models of discipleship. And, really, such models have the ability to change the world, and us with it.
So, for as much as we’d like the younger people amongst us, we want them to lift that table, or haul that box. We’d like them to mow the lawns, and remove the snow, because we’re unable to do that, ourselves, any longer. And this is stewardship of this land, but it doesn’t serve the wider world any more now than it did yesterday.
And this needs to be addressed in each of our lives, in the face of Jesus call to discipleship, today. Jesus calls us to do what we’re capable of doing, not just for us, not just for this church building but for the improvement of the world in God’s pattern rather than in the pattern of humanity.
One of my favourite prayers is “Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hands is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Maybe the time has come for us to embrace what Jesus is telling us, here, when he tells us that discipleship isn’t ‘a fly by night operation,’ rather it’s something that takes commitment, and planning, and discipline to carry out in our day to day lives.
He reminds us: “28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” (Lk 14:28-30)
The tower begins as a good idea, but if the planning, the cost analysis, the construction effort, and the follow through isn’t done then the idea comes to nothing and discipleship can be like that.
If we approach it from the understanding that we want to become disciples but figure we can fit it into 15 minutes every other Wednesday. Instead Jesus calls us to adopt a whole new lifestyle that declares to all that we are not just followers of Christ, but disciples in every aspect of our lives, openly, and in full view of the world.
Today Jesus encourages us to look seriously at the questions of what does it take to become a disciple of Jesus?
What are you, am I willing to give up in order to become that disciple that Jesus talks about today?
Are we willing to allow God to reorder our lives, our priorities, and even the very way we view the world in which we live?
It’s not a ‘flash in the pan’ solution, rather it’s a way we live our lives. It’s not something that we do today and set aside tomorrow, it’s a change in focus within each of our lives from the world as we see it to the world as God wishes it to become.
Discipleship does require us to refocus our lives from the earthy to the divine. It requires us to be willing to pick up stakes and move on when God deems its’ time to move on.
There’s a periodically seen post that talks about whether to exercise the joy out of life or “to live life to the lees” as Tennyson describes.
It says: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!”” (https://www.scrapbook.com/quotes/doc/11236.html)
And discipleship can be the same kind of ride.
It requires us to look at the world around us and, every day, find a way to make God’s love known, Jesus teachings be revealed, as the Holy Spirit guides us to go where only God knows the ending, but “woo hoo, what a ride!”