Discipleship: Cost and Benefit

Again, the author of Luke presents us with a challenging text.

Jesus has recently ate with the honorable Pharisee and his honorable guests. Jesus taught about living into God’s kingdom as a celebration with food, drink, and seating abundant enough for all to be invited, welcomed, and have a seat at the table. This kingdom is here now, near, and not yet fulfilled.

Jesus continues to teach about discipleship and the kingdom to come, but he sounds like a honest salesperson cautiously informing us of the costs and risks of discipleship, in order that we are able to make an informed decision. He basically says:

Step on up! Boys and girls, men and women for all ages! 

I have a deal for you! God’s FREE and abundant grace!
That is right FREE, my favorite price. 

But, can I also interest you in discipleship? 

It will cost you your ego, pride, and social net-worth. 
It may also cost you family, friends, all your stuff, and even your very life. 

THAT is a hard sale, even for God Incarnate. 

Thankfully, Martin Luther taught that Scripture should interpret Scripture and our paired Scriptures are able to inform and interpret this sales pitch.

One, discipleship will cost us our ego and pride, in order that we may respond with compassion to those in need, especially the most vulnerable. Remember, C.S. Lewis wrote: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less”.

Two, discipleship will and should cost us our social net-worth. If our social net-worth is in part determined by who we keep company with AND Jesus’ teaching in word and deed is to keep company with the tax collectors, prostitutes, other sinners, the poor, the ill, and the other vulnerable then our social net-worth should be low. Remember, “Be like Jesus. Spend enough time with sinners that it ruins your reputation” (unknown).

Three, discipleship may cost us family and friends.
Jesus tells us to ‘hate’ our closest relations, but does Jesus want us to hate? No!

However, Jesus does demand discipleship, growing into discipleship, and dedication to the kingdom to come above family traditions and obligations. Therefore, if required, we should always choose our baptismal commitments of proclaiming Christ in word and deed, seeking justice, acting with compassion and mercy, and loving and serving all people, especially the most vulnerable, above and beyond family loyalty and social norms.

Four, discipleship will cost us resources of our time, energy, talents, and treasures.
But does that mean the author is anti-money? Do we have to sell everything? Again, No!

However, our resources of time, energy, talents, and treasures can be obtained unjustly and/or loved, hoarded, and misused. Those practices are not compatible with discipleship for it is contrary to the will of God. These resources are intended for the sake of the church universal, all people but especially the most vulnerable, and all creation.

Five, discipleship will require us to pick up and carry our cross to our non-physical death. Martin Luther, later echoed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, would write that we are to drown (or set aside) the “Old Adam”, or ego and self, in order that we, like the Phoenix, rise restored, renewed, and strengthened for our discipleship.

But Jesus, the earliest disciples, the martyred saints, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and others through out history know the risk includes physical death that may be embarrassing, brutally violent, and painful.

So,  what would be the benefit of signing on the dotted line of discipleship?
It is not necessarily a paradise in the clouds or a heaven that is light-years away.
It is happiness.

Happiness that is not a warm, fuzzy blanket to protect us from the anxieties, heartaches, challenges, and pain of our lives, our community, or our world. But, a happiness spoken of in our Psalm, which is a stepping forward on our faith journey, growing, developing, and forming into the disciples that God has, is, and will continue to call us to be.

This formation is not  through silent reflection on and easy acceptance of God’s teachings, but an active questioning, struggling, and wrestling with it. It is this active engagement that prevents wickedness, which for the author of this Psalm is not if someone looks, sounds, thinks, acts, believes, loves, or lives differently, but that are stagnate and unwilling to grow, to develop, and to evolve.

Those who are stagnant,  in accordance with Deuteronomy, are not choosing life. Life that is abundant and vibrate, engaging in relationship with the Triune God, reflecting God to all people and especially for the sake of the most vulnerable, and striving for the kingdom that is to be fulfilled not in the clouds or light-years away but in our midst, in our time and place.

May we sign on the dotted line aware of the costs and risks of discipleship,
boldly choosing life abundant and vibrate,
striving for the kingdom to come. Amen. 

Scriptures were Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 1; Philemon 1-21; and Luke 14:25-33.
Originally preached 8 September 2019 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).


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