Devotional Message: The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 18C (9/8/2019)

Revised Common Lectionary Texts

 Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 1
Philemon 1-21
St. Luke 14:25-33

Semicontinuous First Reading and Psalm

Jeremiah 18:1-11
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 

Prayer of the Day

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace to those who are humble. Give us the humility of Direct us, O Lord God, in all our doings with your continual help, that in all our works, begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name; and finally, by your mercy, bring us to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

14:25 Now large crowds were traveling with [Jesus]; and he turned and said to them, 26 “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. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 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? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 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? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

St. Luke 14:25-33, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: Towards Jerusalem

You may (well, that might be a bit presumptuous: you quite likely may not…) remember that the Gospel lesson for Sunday, June 30, began with these words: “When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (St. Luke 9:51; NRSV) In my devotional message that week I wrote:

It is helpful to remember how this lesson begins: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus, cognizant of his fate, begins moving towards Jerusalem and the cross. This is the turning point of the Gospel. Everything he does from this point on will contain in it shadows of the cross. Jesus is aware of how important this mission is. He wants his followers to be aware, too.

When we read these Gospel lessons a few verses at a time, as the church tends to do on Sunday mornings, we run the risk of taking them out of context. This can completely change the conclusions we draw from reflecting on them. Remove this week’s paragraph from its context, and we easily could make the case that Jesus has very little interest in families or property. 

Jesus, in fact, is not encouraging us to have no regard — much less hate — for our families. He is not demanding that we give up everything we own. Numerous times in the Gospels we learn of his interest in marital faithfulness and the well-being of children. He makes it clear that what we possess belongs to God, and that we are to be faithful stewards of it all. No, in this passage he isn’t arguing for some sort of severe Christian asceticism.  

Instead, he is trying to put our relationships with family and possessions into a faithful perspective.

Luke 9:51 changes the character of Jesus’ journey. He is no longer wandering from village to village, providing his followers with a glimpse of God’s grace and mercy. He is now on his way to the cross, where he will invite people into God’s kingdom in the most dramatic way: through his suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. It will be a journey during which Jesus gives the ultimate sacrifice: his very life. It will be a journey during which those who follow him will more often than not do the same. Earlier in that ninth chapter, Jesus warns them about this, saying,“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (9:23)

And so, Jesus says, if you want to follow me you had better consider the costs. It will not necessarily be an easy life. There will be times when you’ll have to stand up for what is right and true, and pay the costs of doing so, whatever they may be. As Jesuit priest and social activist Daniel Berrigan used to say, “If you want to follow Jesus, you better decide whether or not you look good on wood.” A builder shouldn’t begin to construct a project, if there aren’t the resources to complete it. A ruler shouldn’t begin a war if there is no way to win it. And a person shouldn’t begin to follow Jesus, if there is no intent to keep going when the going gets tough.

The good news? The hard journey Jesus calls us to travel is the only one worth taking, because it leads us to God.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why does Jesus argue against making family or possessions the most important reality in our lives?

  2. How do these words relate to the challenge he gives to the religious leaders of his day in the previous 24 verses?

  3. What costs will his first century followers eventually pay in order to stay faithful to him?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. What costs have I had to pay for being a follower of Jesus?

  2. When have I felt torn between putting my family first and putting my faith first?

  3. How might a “faith first” attitude be better for our families in the long run?