Sunday 8th September 2019
Luke chapter 14 verses 25 – 33
How much does it cost? That’s a question I am always asking and It is a familiar question we have all asked at some time in our lives. Whether it’s a product or a service we want, in the supermarket, at the petrol pump, a holiday deal or a new home, the bottom line is that we need to know the cost. After we discover the price we check our bank balances and consider our resources and ask ourselves an even more important question: “Can I afford it”. “Do I really need it.”Jesus Spoke the words, we heard in Luke, to a large crowd of people, many of whom, where on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration - the holiday they celebrated to remember when the Jewish people were released from their slavery to Pharaoh and Egypt. The people didn’t know that Jesus was making his final journey to Jerusalem, a journey that would take him to the cross. Many of the people following him heard and liked what he taught. They saw the love he had for all people, especially the weak and poor, and the outcasts and sinners. Jesus accepted them and more importantly he offered them forgiveness. It is these people that Jesus directs to count the cost of following him …the real cost of discipleship.
Think for a moment of the family in which we grew up in. Where was our place in our family? Were we the eldest; the youngest; the middle child, the only child; how much jockeying was there for position in our family? Did mummy love you best? Were you Daddy’s favourite? How many of us got caught up trying to justify our existence by trying to live up to impossible expectations? How many had a demanding father? Or how about the mother who can still make us feel like nothing with the words we can probably still hear: “Are you really going to wear that?” How many of us have spent our lives trying to live up to or reject the family expectations? How many of us replaced family expectations with society’s expectations and are still trying to measure up to some advertisers’ idea of the perfect person?
Here at St Greg’s we are called to a public role – disciples- in the midst of Sudbury, and the world – like all followers of Jesus. I believe we are called to involve ourselves in public life and public debate, not to hide ourselves away. We are called, quite simply, to be the Body of Christ – his flesh and bones, his words, his prayers – where he has called us, and where he has sent us. We should expect that that will involve sacrifice. This morning’s readings both challenge us to make ourselves over wholly to God. To be used as he chooses, to commit everything. To live the life God chooses for us is the best, and the most beautiful way to live. What is the purpose for which God formed us? What part has God chosen for us to play? Are we willing even to ask the question, let alone be ready to live it out with obedience? The question is put to all of us, each one – both individually and as a whole body of the church. How are we called to follow Jesus in our home and family, in our place of work, in our public role, if we have one?
How are we called to follow Jesus in 2019 in this church: and what are the consequences and costs of obedience, what are the consequences and costs of going our own way? Obedience may lead us through both beauty and brokenness. But going our own way, however briefly glorious, ultimately will only be a dead end-- a forgotten story rather than one that endures. The truth is that God’s ways are right not just for God – but for us and the consequences of serving ourselves is that we let not just God down, but ourselves too.
However, serving God can seem really challenging--- almost impossible. God calls us to put others first. We are so used to hearing this that it can seem almost clichéd. But if we look at our lives, where is the evidence that this is what we are doing? And why does it make sense? It only makes sense, if by putting others first we will thereby ultimately benefit.
Do we trust that our lives are more secure as part of a greater whole which is under the care and direction of God, than if we are taking responsibility for them ourselves, “making sure that I put me first – making sure that I am the object of my own future, rather than somehow hoping that in the end my future is more secure hand in hand with others? It’s called the Kingdom –“
To set out to follow Jesus is not something to do on a whim. When he teaches about the cost of being a disciple, he is talking to crowds – large numbers of people who have come flocking to him, wanting to be part of the latest thing. “Are you really up for this?” is the heart of his question to them. Don’t set out on the journey if you aren’t really committed to following it through. Stop for a moment, and count the cost of being part of this movement. I was just a little bit interested in whether there was a parallel here to be drawn with the debate – perhaps on either side – of the infamous referendum. Had those on either side really honestly counted the cost of voting in, or out: this decision was to shape theirs and their children’s future for generations to come. It was not just a decision of a moment.
Discipleships means discipleship: unlike ‘Brexit’, it does actually have a meaning. It means to follow Jesus: to go where he goes, to look on the world with his eyes, to hold the world with his hands, to love the world with his heart … and to give our lives, with his, for the sake of others. To be a disciple is to follow, with discipline, with courage and obedience, and discernment. So, Jesus says, we need to decide. To follow him will cost us everything. In our own lives, too, we will be familiar with the challenge of looking at our resources to see what we have got and whether we can embark on a particular project – or perhaps just find the money to keep going at all. Being a disciple of Jesus is the greatest project of all – but we’re not alone! The greatest project we can be part of is the project of building our own part of the Kingdom of God. When we sit down and pray and look at our resources – will we be able to follow through the particular task that God has set us? The good news is that Jesus will never call us – together as a Church, or individually – to commit to something we can’t do.
The harder news is that just as he knows everything we have to offer, all the resources which we can call on, even the ones hidden away for a rainy day – and I’m not just talking financial resources, but the things we are scared to bring out into the light, the things which when we have used them leave us saying’ I didn’t believe I could do that – I didn’t believe I had it in me!’ – that is exactly what he says it will cost to be his disciple. It will call on everything we have, and everything we are but the excitement is that it means nothing is wasted! So what should we do?
Each of us has a role to play. Many of us have questions to ask, so I say to you “Pause, Pray, Plan” – and then find someone to talk to about it. Cheryl, Tom, David and I will always find time to try and help you answer some of your questions. God is at work making and remaking the world.
What part do we have to play as this Church – and what part do we all have to play in that? Is our greatest desire to follow Jesus, the King of Kings, as he builds his Kingdom in our lives and in the world? It’s not a decision to make lightly, but neither is it a decision we will ever regret. Our commitment to him is the tiniest part of a relationship in which his commitment to us – captures all our smallest offerings and makes of them something beautiful. As St. Paul writes in Ephesians: “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever
Through Jesus we can bear the cost. When we look to him we fulfil all the costs of discipleship. Jesus becomes everything that is important to us. And in Jesus we have born the cross. With him we have been crucified, died and buried. In him we rise to eternal life. The cost of discipleship is not ours. The real cost has been paid by Jesus Christ.