Year C, Proper 18
“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. …So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”
Most of us will not be able to do these things. Most of us will not be able to take these demands literally. To be completely honest, our response to Jesus this time will have to be, “I can’t do that. I cannot hate my family for God. I cannot give up my life or give up all my possessions.”
Jesus knows we can’t do these things, but he also knows that the life he offers is worth sacrificing everything.
Jesus’ words are frightening and even offensive. Clearly he is using hyperbole to make a point. After all, he gives the first commandment as loving God and the second as loving our neighbor. And can neighbor be more important, more worthy of love than family?
Jesus is exaggerating to get our attention and to make an important point. Family and possessions can have a huge hold over us. We are willing to sacrifice for our families and for our possessions.
For better or for worse, we end up belonging to our families and to our possessions. We work long hard hours at jobs that we may not even enjoy so that we can have nice cars and a house of our own. When we get these things, we have to keep working those long hours to pay for them and maintain them.
Families can be the same way. We are willing to sacrifice for our families, again working long hours or spending our time taking children to sports or music lessons. We are willing to spend hours caring for elderly parents, or a sick spouse, or our struggling adult children.
These are not bad things we do. It is not a sin to sacrifice for your family or to work to afford a house or car. Family is worthwhile. Love shared in a family is Godly.
The rewards of sacrificing for family are security, love, and the satisfaction of living with purpose. Possessions, like houses and cars are great comforts. Imagine being without a home in the storms this past week. Our friends from Tent City 3 don’t have to imagine that, they have lived it.
So why does Jesus say we have to hate our families, deny our own lives and sell all our possessions?
We sacrifice for family and for possessions in order to live. We sacrifice in the hopes of achieving a better life. Jesus knows that we want and need more life and better life – and that is exactly what he offers.
Jesus turns to the crowds that are following him, and he turns to us here today and he says, “You want a better life? You want life that is meaningful, that has purpose and that brings peace, happiness and love? Then follow me. Real life is living in God’s kingdom.”
Jesus is not saying we need to earn God’s love. You are already saved. Jesus died for our sins. God loves us just the way we are, each of us, even with all our faults and shortcomings. God knows that you are basically a good person. You are nice. You are honest. God knows all that. That’s not the point.
There is more. More life. More peace. More joy.
There is more to life than being a nice, basically honest person. There is even more to life than having a good family and the right possessions.
If you want to experience more life, more joy, more meaning and purpose, then follow Jesus. But you will need to sacrifice in order to follow Jesus, just as you are willing to sacrifice for family and for possessions.
The cost of being a follower of Jesus is high.
Following Jesus demands new ways of living. Following Jesus demands adding Christian practices to your life. Christian practices like
- daily prayer,
- caring for the homeless and hungry,
- worshiping in community,
- forgiving others,
- reading and studying the scriptures,
- and yes, giving of your wealth and your time.
These are the sorts of sacrifices we make to follow Jesus.
Following Jesus is hard in so many ways. We cannot succeed alone, and so we come together as a congregation to support one another. We come together here to support each other as we strive to follow Jesus.
The life that Jesus offers is better life. Jesus offers us peace, joy and love that come from living in God’s kingdom, but that life requires real sacrifice. Each of us will have to ask, how much am I willing to sacrifice to know God’s love? How much am I willing to sacrifice to experience the peace and joy and love that come from following Jesus?
The more we are willing to sacrifice, the more we will experience, here and now, the rewards of life in God’s Kingdom. Generations of Christians have sacrificed to make it possible for us to worship here today. Generations of Christians have shown us how to teach and keep the practices of following Jesus.
Today we celebrate the beginning of another year of living in community as followers of Jesus. Today we are singing and enjoying special music, we are commissioning teachers for our children, we are worshiping and praying together, and we will have a wonderful picnic lunch together because we are celebrating the life that Jesus offers.
We know that we will have to make difficult sacrifices. We will have to humble ourselves,
give of our time,
give of our money,
and even then, we will be challenged to take on new disciplines of
We also know that the sacrifices will be worth the cost because we are already living the rewards. We experience the rewards in our
in our love for one another
and in our love for God.
The Rev. David Marshall
St. Dunstan’s Church, Shoreline
September 8, 2013