Summary: Jesus, the one who taught us love and forgiveness, tells us that we need to hate our parents! ...
Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish. Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:25-33)
Today’s gospel reading opens with a scene that captures my imagination: "Now large crowds were traveling with him" (Luke 14:25)
I must confess that I don’t pray for many things that most people would class ’miracles’ nowadays, but I do constantly pray for this miracle – that one day I might turn around and indeed find that "large crowds are travelling with us."
I regularly have a dream that our church building is full of people. In this dream I am generally fussing around, not able to find my cassock or something like that, and so things are going desperately wrong, but the backdrop to the dream is always this wonderful miracle – large crowds are travelling with us!
I imagine that this was a dream-come-true for many of the disciples too. They had worked hard to make Jesus’ ministry tour a success, and they must have shared in the pride of seeing the bountiful results of their work. They had left everything to throw in their lot with Jesus, and it is only to be expected that they would have felt validated in their decisions, to some extent, by the surge in popularity that Jesus was enjoying.
Things got off to a rather shaky start in Nazareth, but now, as the ministry progressed, and as people really started to absorb the message of Jesus, they were beginning to see the fruits of their labours. People were coming. And not just the riff-raff any more – not just people who had nothing else to do but hang around and listen to the latest alternate voice. No. Prominent people were starting to listen to Jesus – people in authority, people of influence, people who could really help push their cause forward.
I envisage one of the disciples coming up and patting Jesus on the back and saying, "Lord, whatever it is you’re doing, keep doing it! You’ve obviously got it right!"
And you can hear the crowd saying, "Did he say hate I thought Jesus was all about love? Did he really just say that you’ve got to hate your parents, and life itself? Did he really say that?"
And you can see some of the disciples trying to interpret – "people, when Jesus says hate, he doesn’t mean hate, OK? He’s talking about perspective here.He’s talking about putting your family commitments and your spiritual commitments in proper perspective, OK? But no, he doesn’t really want you to hate anybody!"
But Jesus, meanwhile, is on a roll! "Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."
And again you can see some of the disciples in damage-control mode – "when Jesus says cross, He doesn’t mean that ugly instrument of torture that people are executed on. He means … He means … what He means is …"
But Jesus hasn’t finished: "So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.… Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"
And the chapter ends at this point, but I think we could add another verse; "large crowds were no longer following Him."
I had a look at the Diocesan mission statement last night. I’d forgotten the exact wording of it, so I thought I’d better look it up.
I knew that there was a goal of 10% growth, which I figured we could accomplish pretty easily. Growing at a rate of 10% per annum, in our case, really only means coming up with four or five new people each year, providing that we don’t lose too many through death or something worse (eg. poor preaching).