Sept. 4, 2016 Proper 18, C 16th Pentecost
So, did you enjoy hearing the Gospel today? Did you say, “Praise to you, Lord Christ” with joy and enthusiasm? Or, would you rather hear something else?
I wouldn’t mind preaching on something else! This is a hard passage to deal with—hard to hear and hard to preach on.
It is also not really different from what we have heard from Jesus in the past few weeks.
But there IS good news, so let’s find it!
First, few passages of scripture can be taken out of context. This is only a small part of what Luke has to tell us about Jesus, and it helps if we look at what Luke says either side of it.
Jesus has warned us about storing up treasures for ourselves and not being rich before God; he has told us to be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour—but he has also said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
He has healed on the Sabbath so we can see that being loving is what God wants, no matter what human law says. He has called us be humble, and to honor God by serving God’s people and not to expect anything in return.
In the weeks ahead we will hear more about being utterly dedicated to God. So today’s gospel is not a whole different story, just a more direct and forceful telling of it.
Three times Jesus says, “You cannot be my disciple unless you…” and he tells two short stories to illustrate the realities of the commitment of being a disciple.
The large crowd following Jesus has been caught up in crowd fervor—emotionally charged energy that takes on a life of its own. We can see this phenomenon in this election year—and at Fenway and in Foxboro, too!
Jesus already has a close band of disciples who don’t really understand what it means to be a disciple. He doesn’t need a crowd who follows him for the thrill but has no commitment.
Jesus is not a rock star, travelling around and gathering fans for fun. He lives the good news of God’s infinite love, and overflowing mercy and grace, and he lives what Scot McNight calls “The Jesus Creed.”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength, and love your neighbor as (you love) yourself.”
To the fundamental Jewish commandment to be single-minded in the love of God, Jesus added loving our neighbors, which we do because God loves each of us, and loving our selves, because God does.
This is how Jesus lived and loved.
Jesus is telling the crowd, and us, that to be a disciple we put God before family, life itself, and everything we have.
He says that following him means turning our back on our family, carrying our cross, and giving up all our possessions.
That is a tall order, and it’s easy to see why so many in the crowd just walked away.
One person who didn’t walk away was Frank Laubach. He was a missionary in the Philippines, and I perked up when I read that, because my God-father was also a missionary there.
The Episcopal Church does not have a long list of saints, but we do honor those holy people who lived saintly lives. Almost every day on the calendar is given to someone who lived to promote God’s justice and mercy.
Frank Laubach was such a person, and we remember him now because his birthday was Sept. 2nd. Even though much of his ministry was nearly a century ago, he can still speak to us today.
Laubach worked with the Moros tribe, and felt that he just wasn’t reaching them. He went up on a hill and had a talk with God—criticizing the Moros as “those people.”
God replied, and Laubach felt the words in his own mouth, “My child, you have failed because you don’t really love them. You feel superior because you are white. Forget yourself and think of how I love them and they will respond.”
They did respond, and Laubach’s time was a success in many ways. He said, “I chose to see them using God as my glasses.”
“Using God as my glasses” is how Jesus calls us all to see and live. That is how he wants us to love our families, our lives, and all that we have.
Laubach had a passionate personal relationship with God, and he expanded that to become a passionate relationship with people for God.
He was known as the “Missionary to the Illiterates.”
One of the things for which he is best known is a program called “Each one teach one.” As he helped people learn to read, he sent them out to teach at least one other person to read.
What a simple and transformative idea!
Like all the true disciples Laubach lived in and through God’s love—for himself and everyone else. Like all of us he had choices, and he chose to live this way.
That is what Jesus is telling the crowd. He is giving them the worst case scenario, the most difficult possibilities of being a disciple.
Jesus is saying that they are able to be disciples, but choose not to. He left it for them to choose.
He leaves it for each of us to choose.
When we choose to follow Jesus, life does change. We don’t have to hate our families, we just see them using God as our glasses.
The same is true of our lives and all that we have.
God’s glasses show us what Jesus shows us—that to God everyone looks the same. Paul wrote that there are no longer the distinctions that separate—Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free, all are alike to God.
God’s glasses show us that all our stuff is just stuff. Disciples give up relying on stuff for self-worth and rely on God instead. Then stuff can be used to help others. Each one teach one to share.
God’s glasses show us that the cross is not a burden, or the pains of life. The cross is God’s promise of forgiveness and new life. God’s glasses help us accept forgiveness and live it so that others can accept it, too. Each one teach one forgiveness.
Seeing through God’s glasses does take time. It takes prayer time and conversation with God time and time to learn to live as a disciple. It is a lifetime process, and, fortunately, we have a life time for it.
Jesus invites us to see through God’s glasses, so that it will be each one teach one to be a disciple.