Cost of Ripple Discipleship

Let’s rewind for a moment.

The Gospel of Matthew has two, separate commissioning narratives.

The initial commissioning was to the Israelite people alone, specifically noting to NOT interact with “those” Samaritans and Gentiles. However, the second or “Great Commissioning” sent the disciples forth specifically to “those” Samaritans and Gentiles originally prohibited. This demonstrates a truth in our Holy Scriptures that God’s inclusion, grace, and love is an ever-expanding ripple effect until all people, all creatures, the entire earth, and the whole universe is included.

I encourage you to remain mindful of these ever-expanding ripples of inclusion, grace, and love despite our return to the initial, limited commissioning story.

The disciples have now been drawn more deeply into Jesus’ earthly ministry and co-partners in his mission. The disciples had previously left behind their employment and careers, their homes, and their families. However, discipleship is even more costly than that, as they are instructed to be completely vulnerable without the resources of extra clothing, food, and money; thus, requiring their complete dependence on the generosity of those encountered along the journey.

Discipleship is NOT easy.
Discipleship is costly.
Discipleship can cost you EVERYTHING.

I question our desire for the Prayer of the Day to come into being.
Do we truly desire to serve, to give, to fight, to toil and labor BUT without counting the cost, without heeding the physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds, without seeking rest, and without asking for recognition or reward.

Jesus warned that his earthly ministry and mission, which they and we are co-partners, will lead to conflict. As Martin Luther wrote: “Peace when possible. Truth at all costs”.

In our baptism and its commitments, we have become Jesus’ partners in ministry and mission that remains costly. Our shared Christian vocation to proclaim Christ in word and deed, to seek justice, to act with compassion and mercy, to love and serve all people in those ever-expanding ripples will lead to rejection from loved ones, social circles, and communities who are comfortable in the current status-quo or benefit from the injustice, oppression, and dehumanizing of our vulnerable siblings.

This discipleship will lead to division, but peace without justice is false, sinful, evil, and does not reflect Christ or the Kingdom to Come.

This discipleship will lead to frustration and righteous anger.

This discipleship will lead to the spiritual, daily death of all looking towards the resurrection of new life in Christ. But, it will lead to physical death for some.

Again, this is the high cost of discipleship.

It was a high cost for our prophet Jeremiah, who shared his experience with significant social isolation.

It was a high cost for our Palmist, who wrote of being mocked, teased, and hated.

It was a high cost for Jesus’ disciples, particularly the inner-circle of twelve, who were imprisoned and often put to death.

It was a high cost for the abolitionist and those sympathetic to the cause of ending slavery through advocacy and the Underground Railroad, who understood those expanding ripples and that humankind is not free until ALL of humankind is free.

Despite President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January 1863, it was not until 19 June 1865 in Galveston Texas that the last black slaves were freed; and thus, we recognize Juneteenth (June 19) as a day of liberation and freedom.

It was a high cost for Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American civil rights activist. His American citizenship did not prevent his 1942 internment, but fought such until the Supreme Court. The court ruled against him, noting the internment was not racial motivated but the men, women, and children were held on suspicion of acting as spies. He was convicted for being in violation of the executive order for forced relocation. Although he was released at the end of WWII, his conviction was not overturned until 40 years later in 1983.

It was a high cost for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran theologian and pastor. Although living in the United States, Bonhoeffer received orders to return to Nazi Germany in military service. He was captured and imprisoned for breaking their law by assisting in the safe escape of Jewish persons. Afterwards, it was discovered that he participated in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler, for which he was executed.

It was a high cost for Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist pastor and civil rights leader, who spoke prophetically about the injustices that our vulnerable black siblings were and continue to endure. He spoke about the oppression of our vulnerable black siblings, while providing a hopeful vision of the future ahead. He was assassinated.

It was a high cost for Cesar Chavez, a Latino American civil rights activist and labor union leader, who organized vulnerable migrant farm labor and other immigrants in their continued struggle against injustice and oppression, rooted in Roman Catholic teachings. He was heavily criticized by the opposition.

It was a high cost for the Emanuel Nine, those murdered five years ago this week, while attending worship at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Caroline. Their murderer sat in prayer with them for over an hour before opening fire, martyring these nine siblings in an effort to start a ‘race war’. Unfortunately, he was a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adding to our laminate for their loss of life and our lack of diversity.

It is a high cost for Nathan Philips, an Native American activist, who remains involved in social concerns for Native persons and lands, including Standing Rock. He is heavily criticized by the opposition.

We stand in the shadow of their witness.

We are called into discipleship that stands in the light of truth, at all costs.

We are called into discipleship that proclaims Christ in word and deed, speaking truth to power.

We are called into discipleship that seeks justice for the most vulnerable, at the dismay of the oppressors.

We are called into discipleship that acts with compassion and mercy, despite the ‘worthiness’ of the person or persons.

We are called into discipleship that serves all persons but specifically the most vulnerable, not those with privilege, power, and authority.

We are called to love ALL peopleā€¦
the Samaritans and Gentiles, the immigrants and refugees,
Persons of Color, the LBGQT+ community, and etc.

Paul, in our Romans text, reminds us that God’s amazing grace is radical.

Paul’s gracious inclusion of persons, including those Samaritans and Gentiles, led to accusations of his moral anarchy. It was not moral anarchy but rather those ever-expanding ripples of God’s inclusion, grace, and love that has and will continue to encompass ALL, and I mean ALL people, all creatures, the entire earth, and the whole universe.

Jesus was never criticized for being too exclusive, but rather too inclusive.

May we do the same.

May we accept the high cost of discipleship.

May the Holy Spirit continually offer us the needed courage, strength, and
energy for said costly discipleship. Amen.


Scriptures Jeremiah 20:7-13; Psalm 69:7-18; Romans 6:1b-11; and Matthew 10:24-39.
Originally preached on 21 June 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

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