Discipleship on the Cheap?

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost GS           Deuteronomy 30:15-20

ILT Chapel                                                                                    Psalm 1

Brookings, SD                                                                    Philemon 1-21

September 3, 2013                                                             Luke 14:25-35

“Discipleship on the Cheap?”

Greetings to you on this day that the Lord has made–a day for us to rejoice and be glad.  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Jesus said, “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” (Lk. 14:26)  Jesus delivers to you his version of first century, religious hate-speech.  Then, like now, the crowd had its informers.  Those useful and easily offended sycophants of the authorities no doubt reported this incident of hate-speech to them and they, being political correct, added it to the long list of things over which to indict Jesus at his anticipated trial.  The sycophants and their authorities realized the import of Jesus’ words:  remove the necessity of the vital relationships of this life—parents, siblings, self—remove people’s anchor and attachment to them and the authorities have lost an important element of coercion:  They’ve lost their hold on people.  Even though it wasn’t directed at them, Jesus’ hate-speech threatened the power of the religious and political elites.

The rumor mill went to work—or at least that’s how the gospel of Mark reports this incident… the rumor mill went to work insinuating that Jesus had lost his mind.  After all, who in their right mind would relinquish those vital relationships of family so necessary to ones’ sense of self if they were in their right mind. They’d have to be crazy.  In first century Palestine, you’d be nothing without family.  Family identified you, empowered you, located you, provided for you, and cared for you; without family, how could you exist as a person?  And Jesus says, “Hate mother… hate father… hate children… hate brothers… and sisters… hate life; yes, even hate your own life.  No wonder Jesus goes on to admonish the crowd to count the cost.  They’d be crazy not to.

Do not fall into the easy “hate” of emotion and feeling.  Jesus does not appeal to your affects, here.  No emotional masquerade of antipathy toward familial relations adorns Jesus’ disciple.  That’s the simplistic way of sinners wanting discipleship on their own terms.  Sinners like yourself are forever trying to psychologize discipleship into a particular set of attitudes or mental practices.  Jesus’ words will not permit you to psychologize.  Sinners like yourself are forever trying to fanaticize discipleship into a particular set of behaviors practiced zealously.  Jesus words will not allow fanaticism.

Sinners are always counting the cost and looking for bargain basement discipleship.  Sinners aren’t crazy.  They know discipleship is costly.  They just want to get it at the best price.  So sinners… sinners like me… sinners like you… sinners drive for the best bargain… they demand the most reward for the least effort.  So the psychologizing begins:  trade in the love of family for the love of Jesus:  check.  Deny ones’ self, receive affirmation of self from Jesus:  check.  Count the cost of a tithe or other offering, receive treasure in heaven:  check.  Bargain basement disciples always look to build the cheapest tower that will get them to heaven.  Discipleship on the cheap only takes on the things it knows it can accomplish, negotiating them down to manageable tasks and minimal achievements.  Sinners like me… sinners like you… we will always find some authority… someone in power who’s willing to define those achievements, assign those tasks, and properly reward us along the way.  This is the way of sinners.  Jesus has told you so, “For which of you,” he asks, “will not sit down and count the cost…” (Lk. 14:28)

The cost of Jesus’ discipleship is too much for sinners to bear.  Jesus’ discipleship is not counted in terms of emotional, psychological, fanatical, or financial cost; no, indeed.  Jesus’ discipleship is counted in one term… in one coin… in one cost… and that cost is Christological.  That is the price sinners… like me… like you… that is the price we sinners cannot will to pay.  It must be extracted from us… taken from us… we are relieved of it.  The cost of discipleship is Christological—that is, Jesus Christ becomes the one thing… the only something… of our lives.  Nothing else exists… everything else:  family, friends, even self, are nothing.  Christ is everything.  The words of John the Baptist are fulfilled:  “I must decrease and he must increase.” (John3:30)  Disciples have all things taken from them and receive only Christ in return… only Christ, not an affected psychology of discipleship… only Christ, not a fanatical religious zeal… only Christ, not some visible tower of progressive sanctification.  Disciples live by Christ alone… through faith alone… knowing only the cross and casino the one who hung on it… knowing only the one Christ and him crucified and him handed over at the pulpit, the font, and the altar.

Living by the faith of the Son of God, who loves them, and gave himself for them (cf. Gal. 2:20) is a cost too great for sinners who want discipleship on the cheap… the politically and religiously correct kind… the kind that receives Jesus’ hate-speech as a program for action… a plan to achieve… tasks to implement.  Living by the faith of the Son of God is not a cost sinners can will to pay; it must be taken from them… done unto them… done unto me… done unto sinners… until… until confession is wrung from our lips:  “I have been crucified with Christ!” (Gal. 2:20)

There!  There, is the disciple of Jesus Christ.  There!  There, is the one who bears the cross… not a cross of their own making… their own choosing… but the cross of Christ.  His cross has come to be theirs.

The cost of discipleship is Christological, not emotional, psychological, fanatical, or financial.  The cost of discipleship is not personal, it is only the person of Jesus Christ… knowing only him… knowing only Christ and him crucified… living only by the faith of the one who loved you and gave himself up for you.  Only the crucified with Christ… only they can confess that they no longer live but it is Christ who lives in them.  The cost of discipleship is to have all things taken away… even the consideration of yourself as a disciple… the cost of discipleship is to know nothing but Jesus… to see nothing… not yourself… not your relationships… not your practices or programs of discipleship… to see nothing but Jesus only (cf. Mk. 9:8).

Sinners who want discipleship on the cheap… sinners like me… sinners like you… sinners cannot will to pay the cost of such discipleship.  So the cost is extracted from us; it is done unto you; it is done unto me.  The cost of discipleship is done unto you at the baptismal font where the unwilling sinner is willed by God to be joined to the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ… put on his cross, placed in his tomb, and awaiting a resurrection like his.  The cost of discipleship is done unto you in the forgiveness of your sin without you doing a single, solitary thing to deserve it; your sin is forgiven because God wills it in Jesus Christ not because you will to be forgiven.  The cost of discipleship is done unto you when at the altar the one who was crucified for you, and by you, and in your stead… the one whose life sinners like you and me took… that one Jesus Christ is handed over to be your life… my life.  Now, done unto discipleship, we disciples live no longer, now Christ is our life.

Thanks be to God! Amen

© Copyright 2011 Societas Crucis - Site by Gnesio