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09.08.19 Luke 14.25-33 Beyond Belief Sermon Summary

by on September 9, 2019

Jesus didn’t call us to be fans of his. He called us to be followers. And he knew how to separate the two.

The way to separate followers from fans is to introduce hardship. Jesus did this when he said to the crowds following him, “You cannot be my follower unless you take up the Cross, give up all your possessions, and hate your life and everyone in it.”

This is a stark contrast to the Jesus who merely saves us from sin and hell and delivers us to heaven. This is a Jesus who is interested in much more. He wants it all: our private devotion and public life; our mind in belief and body in service; our weekend worship and weekday vocation. The “sinner’s prayer for salvation” isn’t enough. It makes lots of fans, but not many followers.

Jesus offers two parables to illustrate. The first about a person who starts building a tower but can’t complete it for lack of funds. And the second about a king realizing he can’t win a battle and so sends a delegation asking for terms of peace.

From these parables two questions emerge for would be followers: “Can I finish?” and “If maybe not, What can I do?” Practically speaking, these are parables about prioritization. Matthew’s version of the accompanying sayings makes this clear. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (10:37-38)

Luke’s language of “hating” is much more vivid. But in the Bible, “hate” really means “to not choose” The two most famous places where God is said to hate are in Malachi 1:2-3 (repeated in Romans 9:13) and Malachi 2:16. There God says, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated,” and “I hate divorce.”

But God who is love does not hate the way we typically understand that word. God just doesn’t choose. God chose Jacob over Esau, and chooses faithful marriage over painful divorce.

Understanding that these sayings and parables from Luke are about prioritization, we can say that fans choose their own path, but followers non-choose (“hate”) their own path and instead choose Jesus’ path. Put another way, followers make Jesus a priority.

Followers choose forgiveness over vengeance, caring for needy over avoiding them, welcoming the stranger over locking them out. For followers, Jesus is their preferred choice. They choose generosity over greed, peacemaking over saber-rattling, economic justice over discount pricing, and stewardship of the earth over exploitation.

What the Tower-builder teaches us is if you can’t choose Jesus, then don’t begin to follow Jesus. And we need to take our time to figure this out. When I was in high school, there was lots of pressure to “become a Christian,” and I knew lots of others who made a fast decision and followed Jesus only a short time. I took my time and I’m still following Christ the best I can.

“Best you can?!” you may say. “God doesn’t allow ‘best you can.’ You can’t leave half a tower and call it your best!”

But that’s what the King going to war teaches us. This king reasoned that he couldn’t win at this time, so what could he do? Jesus here allows for a progressive effort. This is why we encourage everyone every year and throughout the year to serve in the church, to serve in the world, and to financially support the church. You may want to respond the first time we invite you but you can’t. So you do what you can. Then later you can do what you wanted.

Being a follower of Jesus is a matter of priorities, a matter of stewardship, not just of money but of our entire lives. “None of you can become my disciple unless you give up all your possessions” Jesus said.

What’s a possession? If you have it to give, it is a possession. Followers give up their possessions. If you have it to give but you can’t give it up, you don’t have a possession, you are the possession. And unless you begin to change that, you might end up just a fan.

Why do some people end up just fans and other remain followers? Why do fans end up choosing their own way while followers continue to choose Christ’s way? It might be that followers choose Christ first because they understand God chose them first. Fans don’t get this deep down. Followers do. They trust God’s first choice and so they can trust God when the hardships come. Fans choose their own way when the hardships come because they aren’t sure if they can trust God.

This is the message of Communion, where Jesus “took” the bread and “broke” it and “gave” it to the disciples. As that bread was his body, and as we are Christ’s body today, so Christ takes (chooses) us, breaks us (in the hardship of following him), and gives us to the world as witnesses of his presence.

When we come to the Table, we respond to God’s choice. We trust God with our hardships. We bring what we can until we can bring our whole lives, for that is what Christ is calling for.

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