It is not unlikely that your first response when hearing Jesus’ words of the gospel lesson brought about a bit of uncertainty. Who must we hate? Why must we hate them? This is quite the challenge that Jesus has presented. However, it may be easy for some as family relationships may be strained already. Jesus appears to be speaking some pretty harsh words to those that are following him in the hopes of being healed and experience what others have been talking about for sometime. Instead he comes to them with a message of what is required for discipleship. Sacrifices, if to be taken literally, seem nearly impossible. These sacrifices require a renunciation of those things that get in the way of our relationship with one another and more importantly, God.
Jesus may be exaggerating a little when he speaks in hyperbole this morning, however, there is also a truth to it that we seem to be ignoring today. We have allowed ourselves to become so wrapped up in our cultural and consumer mentality that the meaning of personal sacrifice does not resonate with us at times. We have become accustomed to making our requests known and being able to satisfy them within a fairly short amount of time. We can go to the store, or even online, and can purchase about anything we want. You name it and you can have it within a couple of days. If you are lucky enough to live within a major market for Amazon, then you can have it delivered to your door within hours.
Jesus’ teaching continues as he discusses the building of a tower and not thinking of the costs ahead of time. This is a requirement if you want to get any type of loan from the bank. You must have all of your costs figured out as you apply and have a plan of action in place to build. There is a cost involved in everything that we do in our lives, and becoming a disciple is not any different. The cost is what we give up to acquire, accomplish, maintain, or produce anything. Whether it is a tower that we would like to build or whether it is becoming a disciple and building a relationship with Jesus. This is the point that Jesus is making as he speaks to the large crowd following him.
Jesus says in a way, “If you truly desire to be my disciple, then you must be willing to sacrifice those things that get in the way of being my disciple.” Does Jesus truly expect us to leave our families behind and follow him? No, he doesn’t. He does expect us to fully commit to a walk with him that puts God first in our lives and at times that may require us to leave certain relationships behind that get in our way of our relationship with God. Remember, there are those things that we must renounce as we come to be in relationship with Christ. One such instance is during our Service of Baptism as we renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God; we renounce the powers of the world that rebel against God; and we renounce the ways of sin that draw us from God.
For some of us, those renunciations may come harder than others. For St. Francis, as he was called to serve and rebuild Christ’s church, he took this renunciation very seriously. As he was called by Christ, he went and sold all of his things and many of the fine textiles his father had to fund the reconstruction of the church at San Damiano. Needless to say this did not make his father very happy. He summoned him before a court and Francis’ response was that he had given up all things of this world and only responds to God and the church, he therefore, will not submit to this request. His father’s response was then to summon him to appear in front of the Bishop. To this, Francis could not deny. It was at this hearing that Francis stripped bare and gave up the rest of his worldly possessions and his relationship with his father because his call to God was much greater.
In that moment, Francis leaves with what he came into the world with and a much deeper relationship with God. Now, I am not asking you to follow this literal example. However, are you willing to lay yourself bare for Christ? Are you willing to open your heart and lay out all of your anxieties and insecurities so that Christ can come in and cleanse and heal them?
We are all called to discipleship, one way or another. Meeting with our Outreach Team earlier this week and hearing of the many wonderful things we are already doing. It is a sign that we are working on our own discipleship at Trinity and yet there is room for many more people at the table. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The call to discipleship is a gift of grace and that call is inseparable from grace.” It is in that grace that we meet Christ.