Sunday, September 8, 2019
Lectionary 23, Year C

Prayer of the Day
Direct us, O Lord God, in all our doings with your continual help, that in all our works, begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name; and finally, by your mercy, bring us to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Readings and Psalm
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Walk in the way of life and hold fast to God
Psalm 1
Philemon 1-21 Paul says: Receive Onesimus as a coworker
Luke 14:25-33 Jesus says: Disciples, give up your possessions and carry the cross

Homily (shortened today for special liturgy.)
Title:  Hating, for the sake of Love and Life

What must you hate in order to follow Jesus in love?
What must you nail to the cross, so that you might live your new life in Christ?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great 20th century theologian and martyr in the fight against Nazism in Germany, knew how challenging these questions are.  That is why he titled his book The Cost of Discipleship.  In it he talked of cheap grace and costly grace.  Of course, God’s grace is freely given. But do we receive it cheaply, with no sense of its worth, no sense of what it calls us to be?  Or do we receive this priceless gift, and in response give up all that stands in the way of living into its fullness?

Perhaps our Lutheran ears were irritated by that first reading from Deuteronomy.  Those “If you do this…then you will be blessed” always get stuck in my ear.  Where is the free gift of grace in an “If, Then” equation?  Perhaps a different way of looking at it is that God’s ways are full of wisdom and life, mercy and compassion.  And if we live into those wise ways of God, follow Jesus in his world-changing way, submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit; if we care for our neighbor as much as we care for ourselves, seek justice for all people, assure that all have food to eat, all have shelter and clothing, that livable wages are paid, health care is assured, the environment is protected and well-managed , THEN everyone will truly be blessed.  Not as a reward from God for good behavior.  But blessed because God’s ways are the wise ways, Jesus’ leading is the way of compassion and love, the Spirit seeks to bind all people together as one.

It’s like that tower Jesus speaks of.  Oh, we could build a cheap tower, follow an inferior plan, use poor materials.  Go easy on ourselves.  Get it done fast, take shortcuts.  We could finish the construction and say “Look, I have built a tower.  I have reached my goal.  It is a success.”  But how long will that tower stand?  What good purpose will it serve?  Who will be crushed when that tower falls?  Because it is going to fall.  But when divine wisdom is our guide.  When the best materials are used.  When the best methods are employed.  When the best tower is built, then it stands not just as a blessing to us but as a blessing for others as well.

Jesus is the cornerstone, given to us and for us to build on.  God has indeed counted the cost and in love has proclaimed us worthy of that most costly grace.  Nothing is withheld, so that we might live.  God does not even protect God’s self from being sacrificed so that grace, mercy and peace might be proclaimed and given to us forever.  The gift of faith is the building material that is graciously provided for the building on that cornerstone that is also provided.

Yes, ALL is provided.  So, ask yourself once more – What must I hate in order to follow Jesus in love?  What must I nail to the cross, so that I might live this new life in Christ?

Jesus offered familial loved ones up as possibilities.  Showing just what priority our life in him must take.  If you consider the fourth commandment that tells us to honor our father and mother, one could almost suggest that Jesus is asking us to break the law for the sake of the life he is bringing to us.

But I encourage you, in pondering your answers, think outside the family – What must you hate?  Or another way to put it:  What must we value less?  Let go of?  Set aside?  Is it comfort?  Naivete?  Blissful ignorance?  Privilege?  Power?  Control?  Feelings of What’s the Use?  Feeling distant from those who need our attention and service?

Jesus says, get rid of everything and follow.  As any traveler will tell you, packing light is key.  And since Jesus is our all in all, what need we pack? What need we cling to? What need we love?  As if any of that will give us life.

The Rev. Mark Erson,
Pastor

 

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