Reading for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost: Luke 14:25-33
Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciples if you do not give up all your possessions.”
Jesus is free but he ain’t cheap.
A mother and her two children went to the Christian bookstore to buy those wildly popular WWJD bracelets. You know, bracelets that ask: What Would Jesus Do? They each wanted one but found when they got to the store, there were only two left. A father and son nearby watched as one of the children grabbed a bracelet and then the mother and other child started arguing over who would get the other. On and on they went, making a complete scene as they argued. As the father and son went by, the son just turned to his dad and said: “Gee, I wonder What Would Jesus do?”
It is easy to start thinking: Well this is what happens when Christian symbols become part of our pop culture. The cross is often worn by those who don’t have the faintest idea what it means. Now WWJD blankets the market on bracelets, T-Shirts, back packs, etc. But how many of us deep, deep down in our hearts really want to do what Jesus would do?
Jesus talked to prostitutes.
Jesus touched social outcasts.
Jesus hung on a cross.
Suddenly that bracelet doesn’t look so attractive anymore does it?
Do we really want to do these things?
My immediate answer is: No, we don’t want that. Are you crazy? This world is all about what’s in it for me, including one of those WWJD bracelets. GREED IS GOOD.
Not hanging on a cross. A bracelet is certainly much cheaper grace than a God of the cross.
You see I think we know exactly what Jesus is talking about when he tells us to count the cost of building a tower, or waging a war. We’ve counted and I think all we have to do is look around our community and our world to discover whether we’re willing to pay the price to follow Jesus.
You see while Jesus may be free to you and me and everyone else in the world, he ain’t cheap. To follow will cost us. How much?
Well, Jesus says we might have to hate our mother and father and brother and sister … well for some of us that wouldn’t be very hard, huh?
But just to make it clear Jesus says we must give up our life and all our possessions. I’m sure pastor frank will be happy to know when he returns from vacation we will all have sold all our possessions and given the money to holy spirit and we’ll all be living in a commune full of love and joy. He will know I was effective preaching this morning. You will do that for me, won’t you?
Well, OK, maybe you won’t. And that’s OK, really, because none of us is called to give up the same stuff. But we can help each other find the courage, compassion and commitment to make a difference in this world.
And hear this very important point. This giving of things is not about a nasty God who wants us to give up everything so we are miserable. This is about a God who wants us to live significant lives, fulfilled lives.
We are already going in the right direction at Holy Spirit, I believe. We have started to reach out to the community in wonderful ways. Helping feed the hungry. Providing school supplies for needy children. Giving our blood. Helping Haitians. These are seeds of hope we are planting in a too often hopeless world. WHAT A GREAT AND WONDERFUL MINISTRY.
Much of this wasn’t happening just a couple years ago. But guess what? Jesus asks us to do more, be more. Remember the scene where Jesus sits right there at the collection plate and watches what everyone puts in. And it is the poor woman who puts in less than a penny. Jesus turns to the disciples and says: This woman gave the most of anyone. And the disciples were a little confused. “How could this be?” they asked. “Because she gave everything unlike the others who gave out of their surplus,” Jesus replied.
How would you like Jesus to be watching the collection plate today? Well, guess what, he is … every Sunday and everyday he watches the collection plate of life. And no matter what we put in God loves us. Will always be there for us, always with an invitation to live more like Jesus. That is the beauty of our God!
But I believe something about us. Something that makes us better able to follow the example of Jesus. I believe God has made us all good, very good and deep down inside we want to make a bigger difference. We want to overcome our fears, our prejudices our greed. I believe we do want to live significant lives BECAUSE GOD HAS PLANTED THAT IN OUR HEART.
So how do we do that?
Well first we need to get a reading on the Jesus Meter. Bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as a Jesus Meter, huh? Answer these questions:
1. You’re pulling up to a stop sign and a woman is standing there obviously needing cash. You:
A. Look the other way and hope she goes away.
B. Open your window slightly so she can ask you for $10 to feed her kids and you give her $1.
C. Give her a $20 because it’s all you have.
D. Give her $20 and ask if you can give her a ride somewhere.
2. Your car’s air conditioning has just died. You:
A. Go out and buy a $30,000 car with everything.
B. Buy a moderately priced, yet sporty yellow Mustang at $17,000
C. Keep your old car cause you can live without air conditioning; they do in other countries.
D. Decide to use public transportation and walk places so you don’t pollute the earth anymore.
3. God appears to you today and says: Quit your job and go to seminary. You:
A. Think God is nuts and you ignore it.
B. Think you’re nuts and set up an appointment with the therapist.
C. Think about it but in the end decide it’s just not you because in just a few more years you’ll have a pension or because you bought the $30,000 car you have to keep working.
D. Drop everything and go.
OK, for everyone who answered D to all three of those see me after the service and I will tell you how you can donate all your possessions to the church and join a commune.
Answering D is not easy is it — even to just one of them. Too many days I am around the A-B level, with some glimmers of hope as I approach the C answers.
Seminary I struggle with the same stuff you do. After 10 years of skillful running from God’s call, I have miraculously applied and been accepted into seminary. I was elated for the first couple days cause my soul longs for this. I can imagine debating great principles of theology and helping people and living in Berkeley … and those of you who know me and Berkeley know this is about the only shot I have of fitting in anywhere. For example, they actually refer to God as mother as well as father! Imagine, God as a womyn!
But then after those few days, fear hit.
I started to hear that little voice. I am sure you know the one called doubt. It keeps saying: Are you crazy? Go to seminary? Leave your job making good money? Oh and don’t forget you need a new car … you’re going to have to get a PRACTICAL car rather than the sleek red sports car you long for. Really, you want to give up safety to follow some call from a God you can’t even see?
Now, I am not too proud of those thoughts but they are mine. I love the things of this world just like everyone else. Just like you. And I suspect every one of you is sitting there with a similar call to mine. Maybe it’s not to go to seminary but maybe it’s something equally trying for you. Maybe God is asking you to give more money and time to making a difference in this world. Maybe God wants you to forgive someone. Maybe God wants you to stop working so much and spend time with your family. Maybe God is challenging your prejudices against African Americans or gays and lesbians.
Whatever it is, you know it deep down. It’s not easy is it? Jesus just isn’t so cheap is he?
The mother in western Kentucky But remember God has created each one of us good. And when we start giving of our selves, God promises us life as one woman discovered long ago in western Kentucky.
It was during the time of pioneers and she and her husband had staked out a piece of land and planned to have a family. As it was back then, people had to travel days for supplies. And once the children arrived, it became easier for the husband to make the trip to get supplies alone.
He had just left on such a trip when the woman was tending the garden and got bit by a snake, a poisonous snake. She knew she would die but what was she concerned about most? Her children’s survival. So she ran to the house and started cooking everything in site. As she cooked, the heat made her sweat, a puddle forming at her feet. And she got weaker and weaker until she couldn’t stand anymore and she called the children over.
She gave each chores to do and told them where the food was and she said she would be going to sleep for a long time and to wait for daddy. Finally, the man arrives home and the children come running out: “Daddy, Daddy, mommy has been sleeping for a very long time.”
The husband frantically runs into the house and the wife is still breathing. He loads her and the kids up in the wagon and they head for the doctor who is days away, too. Before they reach the doctor, though, the woman regains consciousness.
The doctor explained it this way: All that cooking had made her sweat out just enough poison so she didn’t die.
Put another way, this woman’s concern about her children, saved her life.
This world is full of poisons and we can be like that mother if we want. You don’t have to look far for the toxins in our community. Poverty. Abuse. Addiction. Alienation. They all exist in Palm Beach County. In Juno Beach. In this congregation. In our lives.
But we have a choice today, we can buy a bracelet …. or we can start cooking up a storm.
Mary Warejcka attended the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas, where she served as spokesperson, and taught religion at Dallas College.