16 Pentecost Proper C18
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 14:25-33 Sermon
September 8, 2013

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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
246 "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty"
425 "All Depends On Our Possessing"
305 "Soul Adorn Thyself With Gladness"
50 "Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing"


TEXT: (vs. 28 & 33) “28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” 

            Last week I had to do something I dread having to do.  I had to go tire shopping, and it was Saturday.  There are 18 inch rims on the car, so the tire size isn’t easy to find in everybody’s stock room.  Usually the tires have to be special ordered; and once you do find them, they aren’t cheap.

            But I didn’t have any real choice in the matter.  My right rear tire had been patched a number of times, and it would no longer hold air.  I was riding on my doughnut spare, and that couldn’t last very long.  I had to do something, because the next day was Sunday and I needed to be here, and afterward at Holy Cross in Goehner.

            So I began telephoning various places.  I got quotes that ranged anywhere from a little over $600 on up to over $900.  I had some calculating to do; but most importantly, I needed to find someone who actually had the tires on hand.

            Oddly enough, the cheapest place I found was the Ford dealer in Beatrice.  The tires were about a hundred dollars cheaper than anyplace else, and they had them on hand too.  And they were exactly the same brand and type tires that originally came on the car.  It didn’t take too much for me to make up my mind on this.  So last Saturday morning, you could have found me sitting in the waiting room at Beatrice Ford getting a new set of tires.  I counted the cost of the tires and the 40 mile trip to Beatrice, and I reckoned it was worth it.  That was the bottom line for me.

            Buying tires isn’t normally a huge deal.  It’s part of the price of driving a motor vehicle.  We might get stressed out a bit, and we might grit our teeth and say “ouch” when we have to shell out for them, but it is necessary.  We can’t drive around on just the rims.

            In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus is giving us some common sense advice.  He’s telling us to count the cost, and to look at the bottom line so we know exactly what to expect.  He wants us to be prepared to be one of his disciples.  Common sense tells us to look at all the various angles and to plan accordingly.  He wants no unexpected surprises for us, so he clues us in on what that cost might just be for us.

            Some years back, this couple I knew received a cash settlement for something over ten thousand dollars.  And what did they do?  Well, they bought themselves a new television, a new sound system, and a new computer, plus the associated furniture.  And then they traded her car and his pickup in on new ones, complete with two brand new car payments.  They never stopped to figure the added insurance expense, the higher license and taxes, and of course the car payments themselves.  There was no way in the world they could afford this.  The car salesman even used the oldest line in the book by telling them, “Well, you’ll always have a car payment.”  That’s one of the biggest lies a car salesman will use to get people to sign on the dotted line and get them to ignore the real bottom line.

            So it wasn’t very long before all the money was gone.  The new pickup was repossessed, and they were in severe danger of losing the car as well.  They just didn’t think.  They didn’t count the cost.  They didn’t look at the bottom line.

            Back in the early days of Christianity, discipleship sometimes came with a rather hefty price tag.   Christians in the first couple of centuries were often persecuted and even put to death, not because they were religiously minded, or zealous for their faith, but because they were considered atheists.  Now as strange as all this sounds, this is what actually happened.  Since they refused to worship the heathen Roman gods, they were accused of worshipping no god at all.  Any person could accuse another person of being a Christian. The accused would then be arrested and most likely sentenced to death for being an atheist.

            In Smyrna around 150 A.D. there’s an historian who witnessed these persecutions. It all began when a group of Christians were brought before the authorities, and all of them refused to worship the heathen gods. Under the cruelest of tortures they remained firm, we are told, because: “resting in Christ they scorned the pains of the world.”  

            When Germanicus, who was an elderly Christian, was brought to trial, he was told that he should take into account his old age and recant, rather than submit to torture and death. To this, he responded that he had no desire to continue living in a world where the injustices that he had just seen took place.  And, to show how deeply he meant his words, he called the beasts to come to him and kill him.  His act of courage further aroused the anger of the mob and they began to shout: “Death to the atheists!”

            So here we are, and all of this seems so distant and foreign to us.  We are gathered here for worship without having to fear that someone might kill us for being here.  Our sign out front and our advertisements tell people that our worship service is on Sunday at 11 am, that we’re conveniently located on Highway 15, and we openly ask people to come and join us.  We can sit here with our doors unlocked without having to fear storm troopers with automatic weaponry.  Essentially we are free to worship and practice our faith as we choose without fear of retribution or harassment.

            Being a Christian today in this country, there is very little physical threat to those of us, who, by God’s grace, choose to confess and believe in Christ as the Saviour of the world. In fact, even with all of our complaints about government intrusion into our lives, we are still relatively free to practice our faith as our conscience dictates.  We are certainly blessed.

            As we look at our Gospel lesson for today, one thing we need to realize, is that Jesus is speaking in front of a large crowd of people. Jesus seemed to always attract quite a following—perhaps they were waiting for another miracle. As crowds go, there is usually a sense of “group enthusiasm” that builds, and often this type of enthusiasm is quite shallow. When a person is a part of a group, it’s easy to go along with the crowd, so to speak; but when it’s a one-on-one type of thing, that enthusiasm can quickly wane.

            Jesus needed to teach a lesson that would sort of shock the people back into reality. And so he teaches the lesson in our text for today, which actually contains three requirements for discipleship.

            The first requirement is to “hate father and mother,” etc. Jesus needed them to realize that absolutely nothing could come before him or instead of him in the life of a disciple.  This word “hate” is a strong one, and I’ll explain it further in a little bit.

            The second requirement is to carry the cross. By carrying the cross, this doesn’t refer to the various trials and hardships that the average person experiences.  Rather, it means a complete self-denial and a sacrifice of one’s own human will for the sake of Christ.  It also means that we might have to accept some sort of suffering resulting from our sincere commitment to Christ and his kingdom. This happened with the early disciples, who even experienced death because of their commitment to Christ.

            The third requirement is to be willing to give up our earthly possessions. This isn’t as easy as it might sound either. When a rich young ruler approached Jesus in Luke 18, Jesus told him this fact. But the ruler couldn’t accept that, because he had many possessions and didn’t want to think about parting with them. So he went away sad.

            Jesus gives these conditions of discipleship for a very good reason.  We need to look at the proverbial bottom line.  There needed to be a mature, prior self-examination before joining the crowd of people who were tagging along after Jesus.  Being a disciple of Jesus called for renouncing family, self, and possessions. Unless this happens, the disciple will be like that builder who can’t finish his tower, or like that couple I knew who foolishly lost their vehicles because they didn’t count the cost.  Because when the going would get tough, the half-hearted followers would start dropping like flies. A half-hearted follower with a tenuous commitment just would not do.

            A few moments ago, I said that I would explain the word “hate” in a bit more detail.  In the Bible, the word translated “hate,” is the Greek word, “mi-SE-oh.”  The Bible doesn’t have any lukewarm words, for example just “liking” someone.  It’s either love or hate.  If we want to be a disciple of Jesus, if we follow him, then we love him.  If we don’t follow Jesus, and if we head down some other track, then we hate him.  The only two choices we are given are to either love or to hate.

            Let's look at another love/hate comparison Jesus makes.  In Matthew chapter 6 verse 24 he says:  “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

            In this instance, Jesus is talking about the love of money; but of course it can be expanded far beyond that.  Our Gospel for today does that very thing.  If there are those things that stand in the way of Jesus and threaten to lead us away from him, those are the things we are to hate, or to avoid.  By loving such things, we are, in fact hating Jesus.  When it comes to him, divided loyalties just won’t work.  Such things threaten the very Gospel, which unites us in love to our God.

            If we look at our relationship between God and ourselves, we can see how we are all sinners and part of the sinful human race.  Sin separates us from God.  Dare I say that God might even hate us?  We know he hates and detests sin.  But what about people like you and me?  If we were to be judged according to our sins, then that hatred of sin would be carried out in us.  We would be punished for our sins and subsequently suffer eternal perdition.

            But the Bible tells us that God loves us; he hates the sin but loves the sinner.  Therefore we look to Jesus to see the example of that love.  God doesn’t want us to experience eternal punishment, but eternal life.  God doesn’t want to punish us as our sins deserve, but forgive us our sins out of pure love, which is something we don’t deserve at all.

            That’s why Jesus is the object of our faith.  Jesus comes to us as the supreme act of God’s love for us.  Out of love he took those sins away from you and put them on himself.  He took the bondage of the law and freed us from it.  Through faith in Jesus, we are no longer under the curse of the law, but the freedom of the Gospel.

            So what is the cost of our discipleship?  For some people today, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ can mean certain death, especially in some non-Christian countries.  But for a lot of people, the issues they face probably aren’t that drastic.

            The cost of being Christ's disciple is something that differs from individual to individual.  Nobody goes through exactly the same thing.  Even so, there is still a cost involved; and as such, we will be continually asking ourselves, "Is it worth it?  How much is it going to cost me?"

            I don't think I'm much different than anybody else when it comes to buying something.  I'm always looking for the best deal, which is the reason I got on the telephone when I bought my tires.    I'll always ask the question, "How much is it going to cost?"  That's being practical.

            When we are Disciples of Christ, we don't go shopping around for the best deal, because we already have it.  The cost of discipleship might not be easy, and it certainly isn't cheap.  But the freedom we experience in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is definitely worth it. 

            So we love Christ and follow him.  We love him because instead of hating us, he loved us.  Being our Saviour cost Jesus his life on the cross.  This is the price Jesus paid for our forgiveness, which is ours through faith alone.  It cost Jesus everything, but it costs us nothing.

            Therefore, let us always remain true disciples of Jesus.  We know without a doubt that when we exchange our sinfulness for Christ's righteousness, it is the best deal there ever was or ever will be.  And we can be assured that whatever our discipleship costs us in earthly terms, the bottom line will always be worth it.