Summary: What if today you could choose between life and prosperity, death and adversity? What would you choose?
Sermon for Luke 14:25-33
September 9th 2007
What if today you could choose between life and prosperity, death and adversity? What would you choose?
Today’s gospel reading is quite interesting. It begins with “Now large crowds were traveling with him.” When I read the text for a given week, I like to place myself in the shoes of the characters and imagine what might be going through their heads.
What if the disciples noticed those large crowds and thought, “Wow! This is great! Look at the crowds! Do you remember not too long ago when we couldn’t get anybody to listen? We spent most of our time going through conflict management with the religious leaders. But now, this is what it’s all about. Huge crowds, 5000, maybe 10000! We gotta be doing something right!
I can hear their minds grinding away, thinking like, “So what do we do now? How do keep the momentum going and get the word out in order that we can have even larger crowds.”
I know what if we put an inspirational, uplifting message on WJOB brought to you from the “Good people at Gloria Dei.”
Or what if we run a full page add in the Times like one I saw for Willow Creek that says, “A place where all your needs are met!”
Better what if we place large billboards throughout the region that read, “Gloria Dei, the friendliest church around.” Think this would work? Think this might drum up some more crowds?
But when Jesus begins to speak to those crowds, I can imagine the disciples cringing and thinking to themselves, “Oh no! Jesus don’t tell them that! Give them something they want to hear.
Don’t launch another assault against those things we hold most dear. Our family! Our possessions! Our life!
Yet that’s exactly what Jesus does. He says, not me, Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father, mother, wife, and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. None of you can become my disciple if you do not say farewell to all your possessions.” Ouch! I bet that got rid of the crowds.
So what if we contact WJOB and advertise, “Hate your father and mother? So do we! Come join us for worship.” Or what if we run that full page ad a little different, by stating, “Come to Gloria Dei Lutheran in Highland IN Sunday at 10:00AM and be crucified!” Better yet, what if our billboards throughout the region should read, “You have enough stuff! Give it up! Come to Gloria Dei and we’ll take it off your hands.”
What if that’s what Jesus is trying to get across? I sure hope not!
But what if Jesus is not too concerned with the crowds as much as he is concerned with making disciples. What if Jesus doesn’t care about luring in many with little or no commitment. What if Jesus is warning the crowd of tagalongs looking for an easier way of getting through life, that discipleship may not be the easiest route? What if, however, it is the only route that leads to life and prosperity?
Odd uh? Martin Luther writes that we see things opposite as God. He claims what we call good is evil. And what we think of as evil can actually be good. Odd uh? But what if Luther is right?
In the first lesson of Deuteronomy it reads, “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.” We as human beings are given the gift of choice. We get to choose between life and prosperity, and death and adversity. What if the problem is we see things opposite as God? What if in our minds we associate the life and prosperity that God teaches as death and adversity?
And what if the death and adversity Jesus talks about, which blows our little minds, what if these could actually bring life and prosperity. What if we basically have the two reversed, or see things opposite as what God sees.
According to God, life and prosperity come from loving the Lord, walking in his ways, and observing his command. According to Jesus, life and prosperity come from being a disciple with conflicts among family, giving up our possessions, and self-sacrifice—to the point of death. Yet what if we consider these teachings as death and adversity that take away from life and prosperity?
What if Luther is right and that is why Jesus words to us today seem so out of place? What if Jesus knows that we mortals think in opposites and so today Jesus is going to give those crowds, crowds that he may never have another chance to reach, something to think about. What if Jesus is going to use a type of shock therapy to jolt their brain/our brains into moving closers to the way God sees things?