"The Weight of the Cross"

Jeremiah 18:1-11 and Luke 14:25-33

08 September 2013

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

West Walworth: Zion and East Rochester United Methodist Churches

Luke 14:25-33

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “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. 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? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 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? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

Prayer:

In our lesson from Jeremiah (18:1-11)

God commands His prophet to go to a potter’s house

and observe his work.

“The vessel he was making was spoiled in the potter’s hand,

and he reworked it into another, as seemed good to him.”

“Can I not do with you, O house of Israel,” the Lord says,

“just as the potter has done?”

A potter reworks the clay until it become perfect.

The potter isn’t afraid to start over from scratch;

in fact,

it is better to begin again

than to live with that which is forever flawed.

The work of the potter is that of transformation;

transforming a lump of clay

into the perfect creation of the Divine eye.

God, as our potter, takes our lifetime

to mold us and shape us into God’s living vessels;

reworking us as necessary,

time and again,

each time

until we are fired in the kiln of death

and perfectly cast into our eternal form.

It is a beautiful metaphor, isn’t it?

We like the thought of God molding us and building us up.

But rarely do we consider the times when God breaks down and destroys,

reducing us to a lump of potential

with which the potter begins anew.

Love it or hate it; the life lived in the hands of God

is a life in a constant state of transformation;

of change,

of being built up

and being brought down,

but always

with the goal of Divine perfection.

Is it worth the cost?

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.  Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Jesus had large crowds of people traveling with him

seeking transformation.

Problem is,

they were seeking the transformation of their political reality

while Jesus was addressing the transformation of their spiritual reality;

to put down their swords

and to pick up his cross.

The political reality of Jesus day

was armed occupation by Rome,

who developed an elaborate syndicate

with Jewish organized religion

to maintain the peace and

extract maximum money

for Rome’s insatiable empire building appetite.

Judaism was a puppet of Rome.

As long as the Temple extracted peaceful cooperation from the populace,

Caesar's soldiers would keep organized religion afloat.

Destabilize the peace

and Rome would bring the whole network down

(which is exactly what they did 40 years after Jesus

when they burned Jerusalem to the ground).

The political reality of Jesus day

was armed oppression

and the people saw in Jesus

the potential that he could be

the revolutionary solution

to their misery.

Jesus had an abundance of volunteers

to support their delusional dreams.

Plenty of people lined up

to become the modern day equivalent of

suicide bombers,

creators and planters of IEDs,

and launchers of rockets from occupied territories.

Problem is

this isn’t the transformation Jesus desires of his followers.

“Put down your weapon

and pick up the cross,”

Jesus told the crowd,

just as he is telling us today,

“and come, and follow me.”

The transformation that comes from the sword

may be intoxicating and euphoric,

but it’s benefits quickly fade into the mist.

Power and violence takes a king to the top of the mountain,

only to await to be bested by a new king rising.

Force and might are characteristics of this world,

whose deep roots writhe their way back to the Garden’s original sin.

A life lived by the sword

is one that ends in a grave.

Lay down your weapons,

pick up your cross

and come and follow Jesus.

Is it worth the cost?

I ask again.

Is it worth the cost

to reject the tempting transformation this world offers,

to place ourselves in the potter’s hands

and to accept the transformation Jesus offers?

Before one commits to Jesus,

before one re-commits to Jesus,

consider the cost,

the weight of the cross.

A builder totals the costs before they begin.

A ruler weighs the cost of battle before they start a war.

Shouldn’t we weigh the cost of discipleship before we hitch our wagon to Jesus?

What then, is the cost of discipleship?

First, it is to become vulnerable.

Lay down your weapon,

and you make yourself vulnerable to one who has the weapon.

Pick up the cross of Christ

and your witness

will return from upon the waters

multiplied with abundance.

Weather it is God’s love and grace

working through you

that overcomes the aggressor,

or, if necessary,

your martyrdom,

you will become an eternal witness to the Christ who claims us.

Second, the cost of discipleship is to be hated by family.

When Jesus uses the word “hate” in today’s Gospel,

he is not talking about emotional hatred.

Hatred, as it is used here,

is a Semitic way of expressing detachment,

or turning away from.

Show me a family where everyone has picked up the cross

and I’ll offer to sell you a bridge I own down in Brooklyn.

Sadly, some members of your family may turn away.

Be well assured,

the cross of Christ

always trumps the idolatry of family

especially as it is worshipped today.

Thirdly, the cost of discipleship is that Jesus wants everything.

Jesus doesn’t just want ten percent,

he wants it all.

“None of you can become my disciple,” he tells the crowd today,

“if you do not give up all your possessions.”

If it isn’t family

money and possessions become the focus of idolatry

and Jesus won’t have it.

He wants and demands our complete and undivided attention.

All of our money and possessions were here before we were born

and will remain of this world after we die.

God created wealth

and gives us the freedom to exercise good stewardship over it

while we are here.

Use it all, Jesus implores us,

to lift of Christ

and promote His kingdom.

Lastly, the cost of discipleship,

the weight of our cross

that we must consider

is this:

are we prepared

to stretch out on our own cross

and to be crucified

just as our Lord was crucified on Calvary?

Are we prepared to die,

even as Jesus did,

confident in the fact

that we, too, will step forth from our empty tomb

and walk into God’s heavenly glory?

So, you’ve weighed the cost of discipleship

and have decided to follow Jesus?

Wonderful!

Be about the business of sharing Christ with the world.

You’ve weighed the cost of discipleship

and have decide to pass?

That’s okay for the time being.

There are seasons in everyone’s life

on God’s potter’s wheel.

Just keep an opened mind and a receptive heart

for God’s next movement, mold, shape and sculpting.

Leave yourself open to God’s time.

It is all God’s time.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.  Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Amen.