Here Jesus warns of the cost of discipleship. That it will cost you a real way, in your relationships to follow Jesus. This is a hard text for me, when I would rather be nice and get along, then directly challenge people. And yet, my faith in Jesus calls for me to name and lament when gun violence is abhorrent and evil. My belief in Jesus’ justice tugs at my heart every time someone mistreats a member of the lgtbquia community. The radical, table-flipping ministry of Jesus Christ aches within me when we ignore the systematic racism that is implicit in the world of United States religion. And the love of Jesus Christ reminds me to practice grace when it’s easier to judge someone who is struggling: whether the struggle is with homelessness, addiction, disability or just not able to make good decisions.
Have I counted the cost of following Jesus? Am I able to practice saying yes to all people whenever possible when they need help, and yet cry out no when I see injustice? Have I looked at how many relationships might change if I act in the way Jesus prompts me to, (and am I able to make sure it’s really the voice of God I’m listening to and not some other self-aggrandizing voice).
Do we, as the church, truly understand the cost of things? Jesus talks about laying the foundation and making sure you have enough money, and going to war and making sure you have enough people. In my particular context it seems like all levels of the church are counting the costs all the time. We are very wary of entering into new things, because we don’t actually know how much money and people it’s going to cost. This is a text I would have to be very careful the accountant and fiscal type people in my congregation (and even denomination) do not hear too loudly in the always count the costs way, because if they hear this they might never try anything. Because it costs too much.
Or maybe it’s okay that they hear it that way, because what Jesus is saying is, go in eyes wide open. Jesus is here guaranteeing that it will absolutely cost too much, because here is the truth:
It is going to cost everything,
so we can try anything to help.
All the money, all the people, all of the relationships in your life. Be sure to know that following Jesus changes the way your look at everything. The way you spend your money will be different. The way you use your resources will be different. The way you confront injustices, navigate relationships, conduct yourself as a child of God will be different. Everything will be the same, yet transformed by faith.
There is a great wisdom going around that once you are woke to intersectional Justice issues, life is ruined. Once you are awakened to what is wrong in the world, there is no going back. It’s hard not to see the sexism in your daily work interactions, it’s hard not to see the racism that pervades policy, and it’s hard to enjoy entertainment because the tropes of movies, books etc. just accepts the world as it is, and that’s not entertaining.
To be Christian means to not accept the status quo. It means to live in real and visceral hope of something better and to do the hard work that is required to get there. Faith frees you to see and do the work that needs be done, but that freedom of being able to do the work comes at the cost of seeing what needs to be done: everywhere most of the time. And though, it might seem easier not to care, the possibility of a peaceable world full of grace and love is irresistible. I do not want things to stay the way they are, I want to be brave enough to imagine a better world. I want my life to be filled with this hope and purpose. For me, this is living life the apocalyptic way.
In many ways the cost is the same as the work.
And so when Jesus says take up your cross and follow, I do, because it’s worth the cost and work to be able to see not only how things truly are, but also how they should be, and I will do everything in my power to convince others that it’s worth it. Not through being judgy or doomsaying, but by proclaiming the love and the hope. Because that’s how I want my relationships to function, and I hope you do too.
How is your sermon going this week? Are there things your faith is costing you that you weren’t expecting? Are there costs that are expected, but are still causing you a lot of work? Let us know where you are this week as we wrestle with RCL and the Word of God from Luke.
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Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY for over eight years and blogs at firstname.lastname@example.org She is also the co-founder of the fledgling TrailPraisers inclusive Worship. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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