Grace, mercy, and peace be
from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
Brothers and sisters, you saw
someone rise from the dead this morning before your very eyes. Very
small is she, but you saw her rise from the dead, and from this point
forward her entire life, as your life already, is a life where you are
daily pushed to choose life and not death, to be a child of God and
not a child of Satan, to honor and fear the Lord more than we honor
or fear any other human being no matter how close and tight we may be
It’s exactly what Moses told
the people of Israel because He is their God and they are His people.
No different than you are His people, and now we have another one a
part of the family of God. He is our God.
Jesus brings this point home
very clearly in His gospel reading when He speaks of the cost of discipleship…discipleship
meaning to be shaped as one of His followers. Every time you and I come
here, every time we crack open our Bible and read it, every time we
sup together as a family and are knit together in the one holy Christian
and apostolic church, the Holy Spirit is working mightily like a fine
technician within your person continually bringing reconciliation to
the life we live and the faith we profess and believe to be true.
He brings about this reconciliation
to what comes out of our lips and what thoughts pass through our minds
between our ears and what has been given unto us here because all of
us know the disparity between the two. All it takes is a reminder from
someone we love or a pained look in their face when we realize, I
too am that person where it’s not reconciled the way God has intended
it to be.
He desires us to be hearers
of His Word. That is what we are about today…hearing His Word so that
the Spirit can continually bring this reconciliation to choosing life,
and yet in our life outside we live a life that is always sometimes
at disparity to what we’ve been baptized into.
We are always learners, always
students, always catechumens. For the public school kids this week we
began confirmation with pastor downstairs in the parlor, but confirmation
is not the end. Being a catechumen means you are a learner for life,
a student for life, a disciple for life, sitting at the feet of the
Master who proclaims to us, “Choose life, not death.” Be His
child, not an illegitimate child.
A part of that is the three
things our Lord mentions in this gospel reading, the cost of discipleship.
The first is hating anyone or anything that keeps us or hinders us in
our life in Christ. This is not speaking in terms of hating them in
the mindset that you and I from an emotive level hate. That is sinful
indeed, isn’t it.
He is really getting at love
Him and what He brings to us more than we love anything else in this
world or anyone else who is a part of our life, loving Him more than
loving anything else. That is what He is getting at in that first part
of the text. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father
and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and
even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”
That is really one of the reasons
we’re gathering together in those cottage meetings regularly, to lay
out before us all this concept of being Christ’s disciple. You and I
witnessed the resurrection of the dead for Lorelai, and in that she
was brought into a new family, a family bound not by blood, except Christ’s
blood, but by water.
You’ve heard the old saying,
“Blood is thicker than water.” Water needs to be thicker than
any blood of any human relationship in this world because there are
a lot of things in this world that wish to pull us away. The sirens
are out there, and they sing beautifully, and we love to hearken to
their voice and not to the voice of the Shepherd.
Jesus made it very clear. His
disciples, or one of His followers, said, “Jesus, Jesus, Your mother
and brother and sisters are here.” His mother Mary. Jesus says,
“You who listen to My Word and do it are My mothers, My brothers,
and My sisters.” Our Lord Himself makes the delineation between
the family of faith and any blood family.
Most of us know not what it’s
like to grow up in a family where mother and father were not believers,
and yet there are people who are a part of this family of faith here
at St. Paul who I can assure you grew up in a family where mother and
father were not believers and look upon their involvement in the church
to be ridiculous and absurd.
It is a great cost to be a
part of this family. That may not be an issue in your life. Maybe it
is. Marriage, raising children, the challenges you know and have already
fought. Many of you know the great cost.
The second thing He mentions
is a death sentence…the carrying of the cross. For those of you who
love little factoids, this is the only place the cross is mentioned
outside of Christ’s mentioning His need to carry the cross is His disciples
to carry the cross. It’s a death sentence, meaning a death to whom?
Ourselves, our desires, choosing life, not death.
What an interesting paradox
that to choose death really is choosing life in this world, but death
in the end. Choosing life really means death to this world, but life
in the end. Your mind that has been shaped by your faith, it says, “That
makes sense to me,” but to the world, it’s utter ridiculousness
and absurdity, and yet to carry the cross means we are continually saying
no to ourselves and yes to our Lord, and therein is a struggle and battle
between flesh and spirit, between life and death.
Finally, He talks about possessions
being left behind. Possessions are those things that never stop singing
your name and my name in this world. They don’t have to be necessarily
material possessions to be singing your and my name. They are all sorts
of things that tie us in to this world and to this very myopic view
of this world and this life. For to do so and to yield to that leads
This leads to life, and it
is a daily struggle. It is not one that we make once and we’re good
to go. It is a daily struggle. All of you know it. All of you have experienced
it. All of you have felt its bite. All of you have nursed deeply at
the great balm God has given us as He receives us back.
In order for these three things
to be driven home, Jesus gives three short, pithy parables…the first
one, counting the cost to build. As you and I grow older, God willing
we can look back and say, “You know, there were many things in
my life as I look back that I was so enthralled with, and in the end
it left me very thirsty and hungry and not satisfied.”
We talked about that in Bible
class, and we’re studying the book of Ecclesiastes, and that is a recurring
theme there. The things that seem to be important to us in this life,
how they get us all wrapped up…our pride, our ego, how we’re viewed,
what our stance is, how people perceive us…again worrying about these
things and not what our Lord thinks and perceives of us.
Counting the cost to fight
the battle. Brothers and sisters, you are not a solo Lone Ranger or
Zorro in this fight against your flesh. If you think so, you will fall.
You and I are bound up into a family, bound in that water in which we’ve
just received another sister in Christ. This family around which we
gather here to eat at the family table says we are doing this as a body.
Where we sit in the same pew
next to people whom we know their faults and they know ours, and we’re
here, we’re sitting with other hypocrites whose life is at variance
with what they believe, and we’re still here to be received again by
the Father who has claimed us as His children.
Finally, the last parable that He
speaks of is saltiness. The most encouragement that I continually receive
is from someone who has far less hair than I do and far more wisdom
and years than I do who reminds me, “Mark, this life is not all
that there is. Simply because you’re a pastor is not all that there
is. Your health can be taken from you, your wife can be taken from you,
your own mind can be taken from you, but the faith God has given you,
that is your saltiness. Know who you are and know what you are.”
Lorelai, you have been made
salt in that gift, just as you and I have been made salt in that gift.
That is who we are and what we are, and God is using us as salt in this
world. And we will go to our grave wondering, Did we do it enough?
God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
This life is a cruciform life
for you and me…this cross-bearing life. And there is one last important
point I do not want you to forget here, nor do I want you to misunderstand.
Listen. Don’t get wrapped up around yourself in all of this as if your
cost is of some great founding thing of your life in this world. Quit
worrying about counting your cost because Someone had to pay the cost
of your discipleship, and He did so for you. That is what you and I
are to fixate upon.
We are already curbed in enough
upon ourselves. We don’t need Satan’s help to keep us curbed in here.
If you’re wondering about counting the cost, He paid the cost, and He
brings you the result of that cost…the prize and the gift. There is
your saltiness. There is your battle won. There is the church built
and will not be torn down, that Christ counted the cost and Christ paid
the cost so you don’t have to.
In the name of Him who has
paid all for you, the salt, Amen.
The peace of God which passes
all understanding keep your hearts and minds on Christ Jesus to life