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Sunday, September 05, 2010

The real cost of discipleship: whatever - and all - that it takes

To-day's Gospel reading for the 23rd Sunday in the Green Season, comes from the good doctor, Luke, Chapter 14.25-33.  The story is told below in contemporary language from The Message by Eugene Peterson.

Luke 14:25-33 (The Message)

Figure the Cost
 25-27One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one's own self!—can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple.  28-30"Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn't first sit down and figure the cost so you'll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you're going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: 'He started something he couldn't finish.'
 31-32"Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can't, won't he send an emissary and work out a truce?
 33"Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple.

The words of this passage can be counted among the hard sayings of Jesus.  

We are asked to count the cost befor embarking on the journey.  To give up or run out of puff before journey is complete is foolish.  But how do we know what cost is required for this journey?  The future is not held in our hands.  We cannot see far ahead.  Except.... except that Jesus has told us ahead of time that the cost of this journey, this enterprise, will take all that we have.  

There is a corrollary to this.  If this journey does not take all that we have, if we are not prepared to pay the cost in full but only in part - then we are not in the right place, nor are we on the right path.

In the time we live in, we hear much of the prosperity gospel and what - so some say - we can expect God to give those who serve him and follow him.  Yeah?  Really?

What did Jesus get? 

He got poverty, ridicule, exclusion, and, finally, suffering and death.  Jesus asks us to remember his words:
Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you' - John 15: 20 (a)

Discipleship does not exist in an aura of prosperity; froth and bubble; nor in a meek and mild Saviour.  Discipleship is where the rubber hits the bitumen.  It is gritty stuff.  It is not lovey-dovey.  Nor is it soft and cuddly or happy-ever-afters.

It is serious business that Jesus demands we consider seriously - before we make the discipleship decision.  That is not the end of it, though.  Discipleship is an on-going process of submission; a case of continuing commitment renewed day by day.  Are we up to it?  Some will be.  Some, sadly, won't be.  Time will tell.

"Mercy there was great and grace was free."

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