the one about the risk...
September 9, 2019, 7:42 AM

Sermon from September 8, 2019

Text: Luke 14: 25-33, Philemon 1:1-21


Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, these past few weeks hearing from Jesus has been tough hasn’t it? Jesus talks about bringing division and not peace, always being ‘at the ready,’ humble yourselves, skirt the established rules, and more. Jesus hasn’t been as ‘warm and fuzzy’ in our gospel readings lately. He puts us on edge, he makes us think, he might (perhaps he should) make you feel a bit uncomfortable.

This morning, we hear Jesus say, “Hate.” Hate your parents, your spouse, your children, your life. If you don’t do that, then you cannot be one of my disciples. That’s hard to hear. That’s just about enough to make me pack my bags and just about leave this whole faith thing behind.

Why on earth – would the one who proclaims and exclaims of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness – why would the one who shatters the barriers and tumbles the walls we’ve put up between ‘us and them’ in the world – why would the one who crosses cultural and physical borders – why would that one talk about hating family to be a disciple?

Jesus talked a lot about hating the things that we love in order to follow him and bear our cross for the world. But, I want to assure you – I don’t think Jesus is saying that we should ‘hate’ out of anger or hostility. As a former professor of mine in seminary would say, if there is a problem in the translation, it is usually the English’s fault. I think this is the case here in the 14th chapter of Luke. However, though the English cannot quite convey the correct feeling of what Jesus is getting at – it doesn’t mean it is any softer or easier.

But, before we get into that, a question for y’all. Who here has ever committed to something without knowing the extent of what you’d be required to do?

Perhaps you volunteered your services as a coach, or a board member, or with an organization. You walked into those moments in your life thinking, “This is going to be easy-peasy.” But, you quickly realized how wrong you were. Where you concluded that this new venture would require more time and effort than you initially thought. It might have resulted in tough decisions, fretful nights, and awkward conversations.

Depending on the decisions you made, it very well could’ve jeopardized your relationships with family and friends.

At the end of it – you realized it was much more difficult than you could ever possibly have imagined.

If you knew all that going in – would you have still done it?

If it’s something you truly believed in, then probably yes. But, if it was something you were lukewarm about, you probably wouldn’t want to jump into all the fuss.

We live in a world today that wants to convey a message of faith that is more digestible, it is easier to live in, doesn’t contradict what the ‘powers’ of the world gives. Whether those powers be political, cultural, or religious. That the Christian faith saddles up rather nicely with all things.

But, when we get down to it, when we look at scripture, as we read the words of Jesus’ lips and life, we come to the realization (hopefully) that there is a lot in this world that doesn’t cozy up with Jesus at all.

We have things like the false proclamation that one people is ‘better’ than the other solely based on the color of their skin or where they were born. We have things like the false proclamation that wealth is the number one determination of standing in the life of faith. Meaning that if you have ‘more’ than you’re ‘better’ in the eyes of God.

But, there are the little things that fly in the face of what our Lord proclaims, too. The things that we’re more apt to casually follow without thinking about it. Our adherence to organizations and people that constantly hurt others with their words and actions. Our ability to sweep away sins because of ‘who that person is and where they come from.’ Our immediate reactions on a person’s life based solely on where they live. Our ability to sustain the status quo, when it is definitively hurting someone else because, ‘that’s just the way it is or the way it was.’

When Jesus tells us that we should ‘hate’ family, friends, and life itself in order to be his disciples, I think he means to tell us how serious he is about our commitment to God. That not one thing stands in the way of our commitment to God and God’s kingdom, love, grace, and beauty. Not one thing should be used as an ‘excuse’ to live into God’s call upon our lives.

I think we see that lived out particularly well in our second reading as Paul writes to Philemon about Onesimus.

Based on context clues, we can determine that Philemon (and the others mentioned with him) are powerful people. He has clout, wealth, and respect. It also appears that (because this is the time in which it occurred) that he had slaves as well. Namely Onesimus being one of them.

Now, Paul writes on Onesimus’ behalf that Philemon should welcome him back, but not in the way he knew him before. That because he is now a believer like him, he should be welcomed as a brother.

The relationship has changed. Onesimus’ status has changed. He isn’t a slave anymore, nor should he ever be again. That’s not what the Body of Christ does with and to one another.

But, here’s the rub. What is Philemon to do? If he follows Paul’s call to him, what will his colleagues think? How will he be viewed in the community? Will he be seen as soft, weak, a push-over? One of those youngins’ who doesn’t respect the past and tradition? Welcoming Onesimus back into his life and community as a brother and not as a slave can possibly have dire consequences for him. He might be shunned, ostracized, kept out of the inner circle of power that he’s enjoyed so far in his life.

Yet, if he welcomes Onesimus as a brother, what has he gained? A new relationship. A deeper love. Living life more in step with God. Being a model of how faith changes us completely and unequivocally.

Y’all, this life of faith is not easy. God’s call to us can be very hard because it stands so firmly against many of the things we take for granted. God desires our commitment to grace, mercy, forgiveness, and acceptance.

When it is written that God so loved the world not only did that include you, but it included the one you’d never expect. And if God is able to love them, then perhaps we too, should be able to love them.

And if we love them, then we wouldn’t treat them – whoever they are – in the ways that we always have, or the world says is ‘ok.’

There is a cost to our discipleship. It changes us. It changes how we interact not only with the world, but how we interact with those people around us, the ones closest to us. Jesus wants us to know that that this commitment to discipleship isn’t easy.

Following Jesus isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires something of us. Are we willing to take that risk? Taking the risk means putting God first. Taking the risk means following through with commitments even when a better offer comes through. Taking a risk means admonishing words of hate and actions of injustice. Taking a risk means standing up for the poor and vulnerable. Taking a risk means losing friends who disagree. Taking a risk means following the one who knowingly walked toward his death.

We won’t always get it right. We won’t always succeed. There may be times that we flat out refuse to follow in the ways of God.

And yet, even in those moments. God still calls us. Because Jesus bore the cross for us. Jesus was victorious upon the cross over sin and death for us.

It doesn’t mean we get to do whatever we want because Jesus still loves us, God still has redeemed us. But, because of the commitment that God has given to us, it compels us to be more fully committed to the one who loves us. With our whole selves. Our whole lives.

We do this – this life of faith – because of God’s love for us. We are able to do this – even badly – because of God’s love for and commitment to us. We live our lives to God because of what God has already done.

It isn’t easy. It comes with trials, it comes with risks, it comes with ridicule to follow Jesus.

But, it’s worth it. It’s worth it to see God’s love lived out for others. It is worth it to share God’s love with others. It is worth it to know that no matter what God is here with us.

We measure the cost of discipleship, because it is worth it. Always. Amen.

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