”Discerning the Cost”
September 8, 2019 – 13th Sunday after Pentecost – Year C
In the movie “Lion King”, there is a concept called “koona-me-tada”. It basically means, don’t worry, be happy, do your own thing. Simba, the lion cub, discovers this when he leaves home after he becomes convinced that he must kill his father.
Off on his own, he takes up with a wart hog and some other creature, and all they do is eat grubs and play. A long time later, he is discovered by his friend, a female cub he used to play with. Simba tries to explain this concept to her. She says to him, “But you were called to be the king.”
Finally, with the help of the monkey who is kind of like a priest in this movie, Simba decides to go back. “If I am going to be the king, I have to go back and face up to what I did. I have to face up to my community, my family, and be responsible to them.”
That’s what discipleship calls us to. We roll around with the grubs and the wart hogs, or we answer the call to be what God calls us toward.
In today’s scripture, sayings on the cost of discipleship are addressed to the large crowds following Jesus. He was on the road to Jerusalem, aware of mounting tension, and travelling with many who did not realize the implications of following him on that path. The saying about “carrying your cross” reminds us that both storyteller and listeners know the outcome of the story and are aware of what this might mean for those who choose to be his disciples.
Jesus’ followers are told they must hate their family if they want to come with him. The Greek word that is translated as “hate” is miseo. It does not carry a sense of anger or hostility but rather is an indication of priority. If a choice has to be made between discipleship and family loyalty or discipleship and possessions, Jesus’ followers must be prepared to let their attachments go. Like the examples of the tower-builder and the king going to war, the saying about family is about considering the demands of discipleship before making the commitment. Jesus wants those who would journey with him to give heart and soul to the enterprise.
If our yearning for and accumulation of wealth has been the organizing passion of our life, a recalculation is required to enter a community, characterized by Luke, as one sharing possessions. Jesus is all about truth-telling and this is some of his best material. He speaks the hardest truth of all – that even the people we are closest to can hold us back from achieving our best potential.
About 20 years ago I had the privilege of offering support to a devoted Mennonite woman. Over the course of numerous weeks, I came to learn about her pattern of faith-filled giving to her church. If she made a discretionary purchase, she also gave the same amount of money to her church. If she gave a gift to her children or grandchildren a corresponding monetary gift was given to the church. These financial gifts were over and above her weekly 10% tithe. When I asked her why she was so generous, she paraphrased today’s scriptural text. She reminded me that she is called to place discipleship above possessions.
As we hear today’s passage it sounds as if Jesus was losing patience with his more insistent fans. Maybe he too was plagued by Paparazzi! He turned to the crowds and told them off. The sharpness and tone seemed designed to shock them, to cut through fan club adulation.
Jesus himself did not, apparently practiced what he preached. His mother was at the cross. One of his brothers succeeded him as leader of the Jerusalem church. That doesn’t sound like a family divided by hate. Instead they are loyal followers of Christ.
The rest of the reading says, “Read the fine print! Don’t follow me unless you understand what I expect of you.” Do a cost-benefit analysis. Know what you’re getting into. Then- and only then – commit yourself to this cause.
The cost of discipleship is complete surrender to Jesus and a willingness to put God first, above all else.
Today’s stewardship theme is PAR – Pre-Authorized Remittance. We have heard our friends and neighbours tell us why they prioritize the church in their financial management. One of the ways that one can ensure that their ongoing donation is received is by signing up for PAR. On the 20th of each month the designated amount is withdrawn from your bank account and credited to the church. Even if you are away for a period of time, the church receives your offering. You save having to write cheques. And a steady flow of money comes into the church account. It makes budgeting easier for our finance committee.
One church I am familiar with in Central Ontario has done an educational campaign about PAR and now has every member on PAR. It is a church about our size, and it has limited financial worries due to the commitment of its devoted members.
I encourage you to consider enrolling in PAR if you are not already. Forms are available on the welcome table.
I have heard it said, and I am sure you have too, that a Minister should never preach about money. If that were true, a significant part of scripture would be eliminated. Jesus was certainly not afraid to talk about money. Money is no more or no less important a topic than faithfulness, discipleship and grace. Did you know that there are 2,000 verses in the Bible that talk about tithing, money and possessions? A full 25% of Jesus’ words deal with Biblical stewardship. Nearly ½ of the Gospel parables deal with money and possessions. And a final statistic for you – 10% of the verses in the Gospels talk about money. So, it is no wonder that Minister’s preach about money. If we didn’t there would be little else left to preach about.
So, my friends, we have examined a difficult scriptural passage. We have been challenged to put our money where our faith is. We have heard about the value of PAR and have been gently encouraged to participate in that way of giving. I close this message by inviting you to examine your priorities. Is discipleship 1st in your life? That is Jesus’ call to each one of us. May it be so. Amen.