THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY March 2015
Text: Luke 14:25-33
Have you ever wished you had not decided to spend a week at cub camp, after all you promised, so you’ll go. But, now you wondered if you'd made the right decision.
The night before, you break into a cold wet --sleeping in a tent with 12 cubs -- it rains—tent leaks, your clothes get wet -- and you’ve been assigned to teach canoeing-- you don’t know a paddle from an oar-- it's a nightmare.
You go and much to your surprise—“you have a wonderful week.”
Well, that's how I felt when I read the gospel lesson for this morning-- my first thoughts were maybe I should take another Scripture-- something’s wrong this is not the Jesus I know. Panic sets in-- but as I studied the passage I start to understand it. I’d like to share with you is morning, the message I gleamed from this scripture lesson from Luke.
I call this message “The Essence of Christianity.”
And the very first question most ask is—“How do we become followers of JESUS?”
In our text, Jesus lists three requirements for being a follower.
1-hate your family 2—carry the cross 3—give up all possessions
Are we still game to be a follower--if that’s what it takes?
Jesus wanted to know if we’re serious or just having fun socializing with friends; joining the crowd.
So he wanted to wake them and us up—to realize what’s in store—and to be prepared to face the cost.
And so on the first week of our Lenten journey it seems appropriate to explore the scripture for some answers,
In Luke we catch up with a large crowd following Jesus to Jerusalem; everyone is wondering; why is he going to the big city? What’s going to happen in Jerusalem?
SOME THINK IT’S A CALL TO PROTEST! I’m sure some are imagining a big clash: poor peasants versus the rich elite-- Jews versus Romans-- Jesus against the establishment. The air is filled with anticipation. Most people say, “Let’s join the PROTEST and see how it ends.”
THERE ARE THOSE SAY IT’S A PARADE! Look they are having a good time laughing and shouting, The crowds swells, let’s just follow the crowd.
Suddenly, the Parade comes to an abrupt halt, Jesus senses that most of the crowd are tagging along out of curiosity, Jesus calls out:
“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. Are we hearing correctly?
(REPEAT VERSE) Truly this is not what Jesus means?
Some religions seem to interpret this verse to discourage their members from too much contact with members of other faiths--
They are discouraged them from celebrating family birthdays or take part in Christmas celebrations with their family. Surely this couldn’t be what Jesus meant—when he said hate your family??
If we turn to “The Living New Bible” it makes it a clearer:
Anyone who wants to be my follower must LOVE GOD more than their father, mother, wife, children, brother or sisters—yes even more than ones own life. Must LOVE GOD MORE...
Why would Jesus say this to the crowd?
In those days, “Family” was the most important structure in their culture. Every man was known as the son of his father. A mother was known as the wife of her husband. A woman was known as the daughter of her father until she married and became known as wife of her husband.
To Jesus this tight knit MALE DOMINATED family structure held the people in bondage; especially the women, they could never have God as head of the human family.
Jesus is saying, “Placing God as head of the family gives us the ability to love and respect everyone and honour all of creation.”
***That’s not all--Jesus, then goes on to tell the crowd,” "Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." Jesus doesn't mince words, does he? These are tough demands for followers.
I read a story of a man carrying a cross on the road. His name was Eddie Dickenson of Lamas, Texas. He has taken this verse literally, walking more than 3,000 miles through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. With a wheel affixed to the foot of the cross, he witnesses to people along his way while his wife follows in their motor home.
He was convinced that God called him to leave his job and hit the road carrying a cross.
To me, this verse, is all about TRANSFORMATION. It’s not carrying some heavy weight or wearing a cross; it suggests we need to die from our old ways and be born again; -- as Jesus went to his death on a cross and rose a new creation.
And on this the second week of our Lenten journey, Jesus invites us to follow his path that leads through death of the old you and me, and the birth of a new us---- a personal transformation.
Without this change, we are caught in a world of self-centeredness, —consumerism—of greed—petty jealousies-- prejudices and hatreds that hold us in bondage.
How can I change, I’m pretty good just as I am.
Jesus is saying to us, “If you don't want to change then don't follow me don’t join the church community because that’s what it’s all about—transformation—change our ways!” Jesus doesn’t coerce us, He wants us choose and Jesus doesn’t condemn those who choose not to follow.
Luke’s text began with tough words on family relationship and ends with difficult words about possessions.
“So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”
Back in those days, most of the people had few possessions so this was no problem for them. But for the wealthy, that’s another story!
Let’s face it, we are all pretty wealthy! Obviously, it is good to be wealthy, for wealth provided both comfort and security. To some it is commonly seen as a blessing from God that one has lived right.
So is wealth so bad? I wonder if Luke meant these words to be taken literally —or is it a metaphor about how we should USE our possessions.
** Imagine the conversation with Jesus going something like this:
Jesus says, “I offer all of you-- happiness, joy, peace, healing, security, eternity.” We marvel at such a life and we say, "I want this life. How much does it cost?"
Jesus replies, "It's too dear, too costly."---- "But how much?"
"Well, it's very expensive."----- "Do you think I could buy it?"
"Oh, of course. Anybody can." How much is it?"------- "It costs everything you have -- no more, no less -- so anybody can buy it."
"I'll buy it."--- "What do you have? Let's write it down."
"I have $10,000 in the bank." ---"Good, $10,000. What else?"
That's all I have."--- "Have you nothing more?"
""I have nothing else. That's all."
"Where do you live?"--- "I live in my house." ---"The house too."
"Then you mean I must live in the garage?"
"Have you a garage, too? That also. What else?"
"Do you mean that I must live in my car, then?"
"Have you a car?" "I have two." "Both become mine.-- What else?"--- "I have nothing else."
"Are you alone in the world?"--- "No, I have a spouse, two children.... "
"Your spouse and your children too. What else?"
"I have nothing else, I am left alone now." Nothing left!
Jesus says, “ Everything becomes mine: spouse, children, house, garage, cars, money, clothing, everything. And you too!!
Now you can have the use all those things here--- but don't forget they are mine, as you are. When I need any of the things you are using you must give them to me because now I am the owner." (1)
You see Jesus spoke of wealth as a source of bondage when we become obsessed with it, just like the family can become bondage, wealth too can become bondage. Jesus wants to free us from all forms of bondage.
I guess Jesus was being brutally frank about the cost when we choose to follow Him: 1-- have God at the centre of our lives 2-- to be willing to be changed to a new person and 3-- be willing to share all that we possess with those less fortunate.
THIS IS THE VERY ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY!! AMEN
(1) Adapted from an illustration found in The Call To Discipleship, by Juan Carlos Ortiz,