Sermon Notes 090422
Suggested Lectionary Texts
Jeremiah 18:1-18 , Psalm 139, Philemon 11:1-21, Luke 14: 25-33
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9 And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the LORD: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, 2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God 5 because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. 7 I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother. 8 For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, 9 yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love–and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. 10 I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. 15 Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother–especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “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. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
Go the Distance
The language of verse 26 is very troublesome to us if we take it at face value. You might be asking yourself, “Is Jesus really asking me to hate my family and even my life?” The use of the word “hate” is very different here than our current definition. Today, hate has very negative connotations and many parents teach their children that they might dislike something or someone, but hate is too harsh. In this context Jesus is using “hate” as a hyperbole, meaning that he is exaggerating his meaning so as to catch the attention of those listening or reading.
Sometimes it is too easy to gloss over less challenging words, but when a word like hate appears especially in regards to those we love, we stop and take notice. In Matthew 10:37 we read in a parallel translation, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
This is definitely a little easier on our heart, but the meaning is the same. We must put Christ first in our lives, and promise to follow Christ no matter what others might say. Remember the old saying, “Never discuss politics or religion in polite company.” More than one family has been split or torn apart over religious interpretation.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, potential followers had excuses to delay picking up the cross. In Luke 9: 59Then He said to another man, “Follow Me.” The man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60But Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You, however, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”… Again, this sounds so harsh, but this man’s father was not old or even sick. For the man in this parable, This is the equivalent of saying “I’ll follow you when I get time.”
In verse 27, we are called to loyalty. I am a great fan of sports, and I would say that I am a loyal fan. I grew up listening to Cincinnati Reds baseball during the era of “the big Red Machine.” I knew the players and their stats and I couldn’t wait to listen to their games on WLW radio. During baseball season, I went to sleep hearing the words of the color man, Joe Nuxhall, this is the “ol left-hander rounding third and heading for home.” Joe was the youngest person to play MLB at age 15. To be a loyal fan, you must be willing to proudly support your “team” in those wonderful days of winning championships, but also when things go wrong. It’s been a long time since the glory days of Cincinnati baseball, but I still call the Reds my team.
We know the “bandwagon” effect when a team wins the World Series or the Super Bowl and suddenly everyone is wearing the logo and colors of their “favorite” team. At some point in my life, I decided to become a supporter of the underdog, and who doesn’t appreciate a “cinderella” story when the underdog defeats the unbeatable team. This sounds a bit like David and Goliath doesn’t it.
Jesus calls us to pick up the cross and follow him. To follow Christ is not a casual relationship that we proclaim when it is convenient, but hide `when it gets in the way of other things: a friendship, a job, or a relationship. When we accept Christ we are entering into a covenant, a relationship with our Lord and Savior through whom we receive the gift of salvation.
Salvation in Jesus is not merely a transaction, it is not a box we check on a form. It is, at heart, a covenantal relationship. And no relationship lasts without loyal commitments and actions. Because the one who redeems us also calls us into costly discipleship, Jesus’ command to “Follow me” is both gift and demand.
The sports metaphors seemed to be filling my thoughts this week as I considered this week’s passages and opened my heart to what God was saying. One final baseball reference was lingering, “go the distance”. For those of you who watched the Kevin Coster movie, “Field of Dreams” you remember that Ray decides to plow under his perfectly good corn crop to build a baseball field. He is receiving messages in dreams and there is this underlying message to “go the distance.” Everyone thought Ray was crazy, but he listened and followed his conviction to the end: he let nothing get in the way of this dream: not name-calling, or not even bankruptcy make him reconsider. Ray was called to “go the distance” to mend a broken relationship with his father.
Jesus calls us to pick up our crosses and follow him: to go the distance and to mend our broken lives and as we connect/reconnect to our Creator. To do this we must give up everything: Let’s revisit verse 26: Give it up. Follow me. Carry my cross! (loyalty) Let’s consider what is hanging on that cross: everything: our sins, our family, and our own lives. Jesus is teaching us: “Don’t love them (your family) with your love; love them with mine. Don’t cling to people or things because they meet your needs or serve you. Receive them as a gift from the one you follow.”
“Go the Distance” isn’t just a sports metaphor. It is a call to keep our eyes focused on our journey to eternal life. Many are chosen, but few standfast in their journey as they face adversity. Our covenant with God through Christ promises that all who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior will be forgiven and our relationship with God will be restored when we turn our hearts to Jesus. Jesus Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant, and His death on the cross is the basis of the promise. Praise be to God!
Turn to p. 607 and share the Wesleyan Covenant prayer with me “I am no longer my own, but thine” (United Methodist Hymnal, 607). This is the challenge that Jesus is giving to us today. What must we give up to be his disciples?
Lord of the cross, you call us to follow you. We mouth a yes and nod an okay, but do we know what you’ve asked us to do? We’re to love you more than others? Some say that cross is too heavy. Still, you compel us to follow, knowing that this cross is too heavy for us to carry alone. Sometimes we squirm and say the cost is too great and the sacrifices too numerous. Still, you compel us to follow. The cross you ask us to carry is not nearly as heavy as the cross you carried for us. Nevertheless, we complain – and you listen. We search for an easier alternative – and you watch us. God, help us to admit when we get frustrated by the cost of discipleship. Extend grace and mercy toward us. Wrap us inside of your unconditional love. And patiently compel us to follow you again. Amen.
Let the joy and love of the Lord flood into your hearts and lives today. Let this day of discipleship be a day of celebration 1as you go into the world to serve God. Go forth in peace and joy in all that you do. AMEN.