The following is a reflection on Luke 14:25-33, the Gospel lesson appointed for Proper 18C according to the Revised Common Lectionary.
First of all, if anyone can get me the address of the lectionary compiler whose great idea it was to have the “hate your father and mother” and “give away your possessions” Gospel lesson hit on the first Sunday of the fall…that’d be great.
I mean, for real?
“Welcome back everybody, and especially welcome to all our newcomers today…now on to hating your parents…
…See you next week?”
Second of all, this lesson is amazing, because Jesus nails it.
The Anglican Church in Baghdad has been bombed five times in the last three years. (Their recent First Communion class remarked that they knew that Jesus was with them, because he protected them from terrorists.) Churches in Egypt—Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican—are being burned and bombed. Two Orthodox bishops in Syria have been abducted, and their fate is unknown.
Being a Christian in the western world may be challenging at times. (I mean sometimes people have the audacity to wish us “Happy Holidays.”) But, in many places in this world being a follower of Jesus comes with costs. Brutal costs.
For some of the earliest Christians, and in some places today, following Jesus means turning away from your family and having your family turn away from you. For most of the apostles, being a herald of the Resurrection meant they were hunted down and put to death.
Sometimes we make our faith out to be this thing where blessing after blessing just showers down on you. Like everything in life just gets “better” and “easier.”
I mean, it IS a blessing, but sometimes those blessings are hard to see.
It’s why our faith’s symbol isn’t the smiley-face, but the cross.
What Jesus is telling us in Luke 14:25-33 is that if we’re going to become a follower we need to first estimate the cost. If you were going to build a tower, you’d do that. If you were going to war, you’d do that. (?!)
If you were going to buy a new suit, start a new business, write a new book, or start a family—first you’d sit down and realize how hard it would be, if you could afford it, and whether or not you could withstand the moments of desolation that sometimes don’t seem to stop their relentless crush.
We estimate costs all the time. Is “this” worth the money, the time, the risk? We look at the positives and negatives, and then we make a decision.
Here, Jesus is saying that when we choose to follow him we shouldn’t rush to make a decision. We should first estimate the cost. Because while his grace and love are free—while salvation doesn’t cost us a dime—following him means taking up our cross.
And so, there’s something fitting about this passage hitting on the first Sunday of a new fall.
Welcome back. I hope the summer was good. If this is your first time here—if you’re a “prospective member”—or if you’re an old timer with your name on a pew…welcome. But, remember that this pew, this hymn, this life with Jesus at its center comes with a cost.