Summary: Here is my adaptation of a sermon contributed by Tim Zingale, Sept. 2007, "The Rabbit". The focus of my adaptation is the declining vitality of the universal church resulting from having lost sight of Christ, the cornerstone of God's redemptive church.
This sermon is my reworking of “The Rabbit” by Tim Zingale, Sermon Central, Sept. 2007. The sermon is Tim’s with my editing for my congregation.
One day, a young disciple of Christ who wanted to become all that God had in mind for him visited the home of an elderly Christian seeking his advice. He had heard that this old man had never lost his love for Christ in all the years he had known the Savior.
The old Christian was sitting on the porch with his dog stretched out before him taking in a beautiful sunset. The young man asked a question:
"Why is it, sir, most Christians zealously chase after God during the first year or two after their decision to follow him, but then fall into the complacent ritual of merely attending church once or twice a week and end up losing their passion for the Lord?
The young man continued: “I have heard you are not like that. I’ve been told that you have fervently sought after God throughout your years as a Christian. People see something in you that they don’t see in most people who claim to be Christians. What makes you different?"
The old man smiled and replied, "Let me tell you a story: One day I was sitting here quietly in the sun with my dog. Suddenly a large white rabbit ran across in front of us. Well, my dog jumped up, and took off after that big rabbit. He chased the rabbit over the hills with a passion.
Soon, other dogs joined him, attracted by his barking. What a sight it was, as that pack of dogs ran barking across the creeks, up stony embankments and through thickets and thorns!
Gradually, however, one by one, the other dogs dropped out of the pursuit, discouraged by the course and frustrated by the chase. Only my dog continued to hotly pursue the white rabbit. In that story, young man, is the answer to your question."
The young man sat in confused silence. Finally, he asked, "I don’t understand. What is the connection between the rabbit chase and the quest for God?"
"You fail to understand," answered the older man, "because you failed to ask the obvious question—‘Why didn’t the other dogs continue on the chase?’ And, the answer to that question is that they were only joining the excitement of the group. They had not seen the rabbit. Unless you have actually seen the rabbit, the chase is just too difficult. You will lack the passion and determination necessary to keep up the chase."
And this brings us to an important question that arises out of our Gospel lesson for today. Have you seen the Lord? Do you realize and accept that he is carrying a cross. Do you understand what it means to be a Christian? In order to follow after him, the first prerequisite is that we actually see him and understand the call to Christian discipleship for what it is.
In this passage from Luke, Jesus is talking about counting the cost of becoming His disciple. Jesus is saying that it is not easy to be His disciple. Jesus is trying to tell us the price we must pay to be his disciple. He says, "If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple". In other words, all things, including love of family and self must be subordinate to our love for Him.
Jesus is saying we need to put in second place everything in our lives except him. He comes first. He comes before family. He comes before our friends. He comes before our own lives. As we let the impact of that statement filter into our hearts, we see that Jesus is calling us to a radical kind of life, a life which sets those who follow Him apart from the rest of society.
Jesus is asking if we are willing to pay that kind price to follow Him? Are we willing to turn the love we have for him into an action that will potentially set us apart from our friends and families, and separate us from our personal goals and ambitions? That is a big price to pay. Are you able?
Jesus is saying, if you want to be my disciple, if you want to follow me, here is what you are called to do. Place me first above everything else in your life and then before you say you are willing to do that, you had better count the cost, see if you are willing to make such a sacrifice for me, see if you are really willing to pay that kind of price?