Summary: This sermon based upon Luke 14:25-33 is my adaptation of a sermon original given by Richard J. Fairchild. My adaptation challenges those who are nominally Christian to take seriously the call to radical discipleship, abandon illusion and embrace the cros
Most of us do not think of Christianity in terms of what we must give up in order to follow Christ. Most of us think of Christianity in terms of what we receive—the blessings of community, the blessings of assurance at times of difficulty, the blessings of material and social prosperity. We celebrate getting along with everyone, we defend the rights of whales, we preach tolerance toward all persons and defend the rights of pagans, we advance the cause of pluralism, we break bread with Moslems and meditate with Hindus. Who among us is willing and prepared to give up these blessings of community, these illusions of peace of mind, these dogmas of pluralism and the lack of risk and minimizing of conflict that comes from standing for nothing! And yet in today’s Gospel lesson Christ seems to suggest that such sacrifice is the narrow path to which Christians are called, a path strewn with the crosses of those willing to embark upon it.
These words of Christ are largely ignored today. Very few Christians are willing to become true followers, true disciples of the Lord. Very few Christians are willing to become true disciples by giving up self-rule allowing God to rule instead, for such a thing is no easy thing to do. Very few Christians are willing to become true disciples by giving up their resentment against those who call us to turn away from secular culture and toward the Lord. And very few Christians are willing to be become true disciples by placing their entire trust in the Lord rather than in their transactions with the society in which we live.
Discipleship is what today's passage from the Gospel according to Luke is all about. The discipleship - the following - that calls us to love God - to love Jesus - above all other things, to love God more than our mother and our father, more than our wife and children
more than our brothers and sisters, more even than our own lives. God first—everything else second.
Such an attitude has an ever worsening reputation today. Our culture has made it so. For every biography of a truly devoted Christian disciple there are a hundred novels condemning what is portrayed as religious fanaticism. I remember a United Methodist District Superintendent telling me years ago that the church didn’t need my Messianic ideas and attitude. I’d guess so. That District Superintendent was more into the culture of the world than the culture of the kingdom. Having the title Christian or District Superintendent or even Bishop doesn’t make a person a disciple. Disciples do have irritating Messianic ideas in relationship to the secular culture in which we find ourselves. We are called to be like the Messiah—to witness to the truth of God and to carry a cross even as the Lord did. The broad path of getting along with everyone demands that we put down, ignore and discredit those who seek to live by God’s rules. But relaxing the control of civilization over its malcontents, and saving the whales rather lost souls doesn’t make someone a disciple of Christ (not that such people are truly seeking to be a disciple of the Lord). On the contrary, taking up the cross that follows speaking out against those who love the board road, and narrow and as lonesome as that path may become, is the path that true disciples must follow.
What is the commandment - the commandment that comes to us from the Covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai - and which is lifted up by Jesus for us as the greatest of all of God's commandments?
Is it not the greatest commandment "Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength"?
How we talk about love is most interesting to me - and I am sure it is to you as well. I know people who love the views that they can get from the top a mountain, and who love the feeling of community achieved by incorporating aspects of non-Christian religion into their worship. It is true that there is nothing quite like the feeling of standing on the mountaintop. But - I ask myself - what if that easy highway up to Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smokey Mountains wasn’t there. What if there were no trail at all? What if the only access were by hiking up that mountain on an unmarked path requiring the breaking of a new and difficult trail? How many would make the trip? And what if instead of the mellow tones of a foreign gong being brought into our services we were to visit the lands from which these foreign religious practices originate and were to be confronted by the hatred, the ignorance, the bigotry and the hostility toward Christians that mark so many of these non-Christian lands. What then would be felt? Would foreign religions then seem so beautiful and sublime? Would people feel the shared heartbeat of community imagined in so many of our churches today We have all heard the reassuring beatitudes of our Lord. But I think that Satan has his own set of beatitudes that lull the perception of the multitudes and foster support of his corrupt kingdom by lulling his many victims to sleep. Satan’s beatitudes might go something like this: