SERMON ON LUKE 14:25-33 September 8, 2013
Folks here and the people that we know who breathe upon this earth, without exception, face the limits of time. For each of us there are only 24 hours in a day. Only seven days in a week. Only 52 weeks in a year. The minutes tick by, but they, too are limited, all half a million of them. So let me ask – who here has enough time? Enough to get everything done that you would like to get done: Work and rest and shopping for food and doctor visits. School for yourself or for your children. Time with your friends or with your spouse or to watch and play with your children or your children’s children. Time for yourself and that which brings you joy, comfort, renews you in mind, body, strength and soul. Time for God, for prayer and for serving, for spending time in God’s Word and meditating on it and pondering what the Holy Spirit may be calling you to do and to be. Time to witness to God’s love and God’s justice and God’s unshakable promise embodied in Jesus. Time to be still and to let the love and awe of God wash over us and fill us.
Who here has enough time?
Well, with respect to time, if what we have is all that we get, then there are several alternatives for us aren’t there?
We might cram more things into our finite day, couldn’t we?
Like packing a suitcase, we could just take all of the things that we have to accomplish and shoehorn them into our day, moving ever fasting, shoving in more things, multi-tasking to the max, like when one plans on going on a big trip with a suitcase that will fit in those ridiculously small overhead bins so we sit on top of our suitcase and bounce on it until we reach over and attempt to shut the latches. We can always try to cram more things into our day, but we might just find things falling out. Being forgotten. Being done so poorly that we might not even have bothered. There are limits.
Or with respect to time we could try to do less by prioritizing our day around certain criteria. We live with priorities, you and I. At dinner some folks eat their salad first while others eat the things that they like first and then see what they have room for after. Some folks sample a little of everything while others are all about the meat and so it goes. That is indeed how some order their day: we could do the things that we like first or the things that are toughest first or the things that will take the longest first or that will take the shortest amount of time to help us build up some momentum and feel like we have accomplished something, anything.
With a finite amount of time we could try to cram in more and sometimes that is just what we do to get through the day, but a lot, probably most of us, either consciously or unconsciously set priorities and then abide by them. We know what is important to us and then spend our time on those things and squeeze in or not the things that matter less. Isn’t this so?
So when we face a gospel text like this one from Luke chapter 14 we hear Jesus telling us that our priorities matter and that they are probably wrong.
Jesus is telling us that our priorities matter a great deal and that they are probably wrong.
What remains is for us to struggle with what we are going to do about it, you and I.
We heard read this morning:
Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, "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.”
The crowds have been building around Jesus. People listen with amazement at what he has to say and watch in wonder at what happens around Jesus: the lame walk, the blind see, the dead are even raised! Folks are talking, getting excited, inviting friends to come along and see this man of God and maybe this day will be a day of even more and greater miracles!
Then Jesus turns to the crowd who have been traveling with him; and says: "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.”
When it comes to priorities, Jesus does not mince words, here invoking the language of hate to both get our attention and to clearly define that there is a fundamental difference between our relationship with him and all other relationships and that our priorities must reflect this. Jesus wants us “all in” and not, to use one of his examples, leaving half finished towers on the spiritual resume of our lives; half finished towers that invite ridicule instead of awe and wonder about the power of God at work in our life.
And this is the point where everything can go horribly wrong.
Where a sermon on this text can the easy road of chastisement and guilt with a little exhortation thrown in to encourage a change in one’s priorities, to coax a little more time for God out of one’s busy schedule. I have no interest in simplifying Jesus’ message, watering it down, making it easier, more digestible, less confrontational. We hear Jesus telling us that our priorities matter a great deal and that they are probably wrong.
But wait, we tell ourselves. We’re here. How can that possibly be true if we are here and about to spend a few hours this afternoon on “God’s Word-Our Hands Sunday” doing God’s work with our hands. That’s our priority. This text is for the people who are not here!
No, it is for us. As soon as we begin to think that such a text that calls us in unflinching words to follow Jesus and follow so completely with our heart, soul, mind and strength that it is as if everything else in our life doesn’t matter (even though it does) - that this text is meant for someone else - we have robbed it of its power to change us. And whatever our current priorities may be; do any of us in our struggle to follow Jesus faithfully believe that there is no more room in our hearts and lives to honor God more deeply? Can we not find greater room to praise God in word and deed more passionately? Can we this day, as we commemorate “God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday, commit ourselves and surrender ourselves to the wisdom and power that the Holy Spirit brings so that we may live for Christ and die for Christ, that in all of our days and in all of our ways, we may be found only and always in him?
Will we commit ourselves and surrender ourselves to the wisdom and power that the Holy Spirit brings so that we may live for Christ and die for Christ, that in all of our days and in all of our ways, we may be found only and always in him?