Pentecost 16, 2016

Pentecost 1616 – “Stewardship of God’s Gracious Gifts!”Luke 14:25-35

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.  The text for our sermon meditation is taken from the Gospel account of St Luke, the 14th Chapter:

“Whoever does not carry his cross and follow after me is not able to   be my disciple.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

We are living in the glow of Labor Day.  The summer break is officially over and students are back in school.  Vacations filled the months of June July and part of August.  It’s time to put the nose to the grindstone for another 8 or 9 months.  We are back to work.  Even if you are retired you remember these days of full-time employment.  For the Christian they are never retired and never employed only part-time.  Even on vacation we are still full-time servants in the kingdom of our God and our Savior Jesus Christ.

The Gospel reading reminds us that we are about work in the kingdom of God.  The work we are given, as with any work assumes ability to perform the tasks at hand.  Jesus helps us to see that as servants in God’s Kingdom we are to be mindful of what we are enabled to do.

How many people are able to step right into a job and know all the ins and outs the first day?  No one, unless you are God, is able to do those things or know those things.  In order to even apply for the job you need some type of education.  You go to college or learn on the job.  Even if you go to college you still have to learn the day to day workings of the job you take on.

If you listen to what Jesus teaches in the reading today, you will notice one thought that is repeated.  What word is repeated throughout the text?  The word repeated is the word “able.”  This helps us to understand the point of the parable Jesus speaks.  We might be thinking that the parable is about commitment, but it is really about ability.  Jesus speaks about the crowd’s ability to be become his disciples.  Jesus speaks about the man’s ability to finish building a tower.  Jesus speaks about the king’s ability to defend himself against a more powerful king.  Jesus speaks about the ability of those having ears to hear.

What is the reason Jesus spoke this parable?  It is the crowd that gathers to hear Jesus.  They are enthusiastic and perhaps committed to following Jesus.  But Jesus assures them that they do not have the ability to follow him.  They do not have the ability because they are not prepared to do what it takes to follow Jesus.  Jesus makes this quite clear when he turns around to address the crowds that gathered.

“If someone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, even his own life, he         is not able to be my disciple.  Whoever does not carry his cross and come after me, is not able to be my disciple.”

This is very blunt.  Jesus is being very direct and discerning as he looks out over the crowd.  He sees the hearts of every person in that crowd and he reveals exactly why they are following him, and what they have not taken time to do.  The parable tells what every follower of Jesus Christ must do.  You must count the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.

How many people would sign a blank purchase contract?  How many people would let a bank fill out loan or mortgage papers after you signed them?  How many people would take a trip without knowing what the trip will cost?

I needed to buy a vehicle a couple years ago.  I visited one used car dealer to see what they had available.  I settled on a couple vehicles and went inside with the salesman to discuss the prices.  We sat across form each other and he pulled out the information on the two vehicles and we began the negotiations.

I asked him how much the vehicles cost.  He asked me how much I wanted to pay each month.  I asked him again how much each vehicle cost.  He repeated his question to me asking how much I wanted to pay each month.  I stood up and walked out.  Why did I leave and why did he not make a sale that day?  He did not count the cost of making the sale.  He was not willing to provide the information needed.

Jesus gives us all the information we need to understand our ability to be his disciples.  You have to hate your family and friends, be willing to give up your possessions, hate your life and bear your cross in order to follow after Jesus.  Many people think they can do these things but reality reveals something else.  This seems ungodly and out of character for Jesus to teach such things.

We know that God is a God of love and compassion.  Why would Jesus suggest such things and demand such things from his disciples?  Hate is such a strong word.  Why would Jesus want us to hate the people we are supposed to love?

Jesus is teaching us by using a negative example.  What he seems to be saying is how we will seem to be living and thinking regarding the people and possession we enjoy.  The way we are to live as Jesus disciples is one of degrees of love.  Certainly we are to love our family, friends and possessions, but we are to love the Lord more.

We are to love the Lord more than we love our parents.  We are to love the lord more than we love our siblings.  We are to love the lord more than we love our possessions.  We are to love the Lord more than we love our life.  Jesus sums it up with his exhortation to bear the cross he gives and to follow him.

Have you sat down to count his cost?  Have you learned that you do not have the ability to love the Lord in the way he expects?  Have you taken up the cross which Jesus gives you and had to lay it down because it was too much to bear?  Have you realized there is more to life as Jesus disciple than first meets the eye?

Jesus uses the man building the tower to help us understand his work in the world.  What does it take to build a tower?  There are bricks to be purchased, mortar to be mixed, labor to hire and time to be spent.  All these things come with a cost attached to them.  If the building is to be done right, the cost must be counted and the commitment true.

Jesus is building more than a tower.  He is building his heavenly kingdom, and if we are to be a part of that kingdom we are called upon to live in an extraordinary way.    The extraordinary way of life is marked by a cross.  Jesus life was marked by a cross.  He fully expected to feel the cross and experience the cross and to suffer the cross in order to build his kingdom.

From early on Jesus knew what it would cost him to build this kingdom.  As a youth in the Temple, Jesus told his mother and step-father that he was to be about his heavenly father’s business.  When he taught in a house so full of people that his mother and brothers could not come near, Jesus called those around him his mother and brothers and sisters.  Jesus did not love these people more than his family, but he had greater love for the kingdom he is building.

Jesus imparted this same calling to you and to me.  We are set apart and enabled to continue in the work of building the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  When you were baptized into Jesus kingdom you were baptized to bear a cross in following your Savior.  On your own you would not even touch this cross let alone pick it up.  Yet, Jesus came to you in that holy washing and transformed your heart and mind to see and love that which is greater than what we have or see in this world.

This is difficult for us to understand and accept.  Many people will be turned away by Jesus telling us to hate what we love so much.  It is only through staying with Jesus that we learn the meaning of His words.  This is the first task Jesus gives his people.  Learn my words and will.  Study my words and meditate upon my words.  Your eyes will be opened for understanding.  Your heart will be enabled to love what you have but to love your salvation more.

When Jesus says, “The one having ears to hear, hear!”, this is an exhortation to be in His word, to study his word, to hear his word as it is taught by his faith teachers and pastors.  This is a reminder that your education in the Word of God never comes to an end on the side of eternity.

People give all manner of excuses for not attending Bible Study.  The class is for the older people.  I have to watch football or basketball.  I have to go to brunch on Sunday.  It’s soccer, swimming or golf season.  Pastor uses the wrong translation of the Bible.  I have heard these and many more.  If we were being honest we would simply say “I just don’t like to go to Bible study.”       Such attitude is in need of repentance, confession and absolution.

This weekend is appropriately named “Labor Day” weekend.  We rejoice in the day to day “labor” by which God supplies our daily bread.  We work hard at our daily vocations in the community to build up and maintain the standard of living in our community.  We train our hands and minds to better serve our neighbor and perform our daily tasks.  We truly “labor” to be faithful in these earthly pursuits.  If we are blessed we truly love the work we do.

As we labor to receive our supply of daily bread, we need to see the other side of that same daily bread coin.  For daily bread may also be understood as the bread of life that God gives through the study of His Word.  As we labor in our day to day work, we are to labor in the pursuit of faith and salvation.  There is a prayer in the church which reads that we read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Word of God. This is the “labor” of the redeemed child of God.

Through this “labor” in the Word of God we fulfill our calling to grow in God’s grace and in the knowledge of His will.  Our Lord opens our eyes to see and believe the cost of our salvation and the value of the blood which Jesus shed upon the cross for our forgiveness and eternal life.  When we gather before the altar of the Lord to receive this body and blood of Jesus and taste our salvation the value of Christ’s life given will be the gift we seek above all gifts that God will give.  This we will seek to exclusion of all else, for Christ is truly our life and salvation.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen