Emmitsburg Council of Churches

 

The Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 14:25-33

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 14:26 "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. 14:27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 14:28 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? 14:29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 14:30 saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 14:31 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? 14:32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 14:33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. The Gospel of the Lord! Praise to You O Christ!!


Bearing the Weight of Faith

Now this is serious business the Lord is challenging us with! Jesus is not mincing words, neither is he beating around the bushes anymore. If we are going to be serious about Following Jesus, there's a price to pay. To be a disciple of Jesus takes the breath out of us. But to truly walk and live and find ourselves in Christ is also Heavenly, Affirming and Life Giving!

When Jesus Names the Difficulty there is in following him . . . the cross! Can we remain his disciples?? Will we listen and begin to walk in his ways? Or will we desert him and look for an easier teaching? Teacher? Maybe we'll decide to make our own religion of "Ourselves." The "ME" faith, it's all about "Me" and about how I feel or what "I" want. Or perhaps we view ourselves as Self-made persons, "I can make my own way," which is another way of saying, "God, I don't need you!" Many who follow this path destroy themselves or others along that way. Sometimes we can become so ashamed of Jesus and his WAY that we join the adversaries and fight against the King of Glory. In this case, persons who fight against God or Jesus do great damage to themselves and society, because to fight against the God who has given life and light is to create death and darkness this is truly evil.

Indeed, we ought to be soberly reminded of those other words of our Lord when he said "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." (Luke 11:23)

Certainly anyone who has walked with Jesus for more than the span of their childhood faith understands that there is a COST associated with being an authentic (or genuine) Christian. In fact, sometimes when we are faithful, there is a price to pay either from our neighbors or as God deals with us.

Does it surprise you that God, God's-Self, might deal harshly with a follower of his Son?? It should not, because God would have every one of us who proclaims the Name of Jesus to be our identity to be formed in the image of Jesus. He wants for us to be more and more like Jesus in our attitudes, our actions and in our thinking. If we are going to be the true followers of Jesus then we have to be willing to endure the Weight of the CROSSto Bear the Weight of Faith.

Imagine if you will, a building that was not designed to carry the load of it's own weight . . . this building could never remain standing, let alone how could it possibly endure the weight of all the furnishings, the people and the stresses and strains of WIND or ground shifting?? Such a poorly designed building would be a certain failure, and even if it could stand, it would present a terrible risk to everyone in it or around it.

Consider the life of the Christian who is not fully committed to Jesus . . . .

If you or I were to be only "half-heartedly" committed to our faith . . . Then we could be compared to that Building that was poorly designed, destined to fail with catastrophic consequences!! Jesus is telling us that we cannot be half-hearted in following him. He wants our full attention, He wants our lives abandoned to his teaching, his life and his death. Jesus wants us to find our lives completely made up of his and God's. We can use the terms godliness or sincerity to describe this life. But I like the idea of being spiritually authentic. What I mean by this is that our spirit or soul is attuned to Jesus and God through the Holy Spirit. We seek to live and find ourselves In Christ" and we find that our human spirit is at peace.

But how can we know if we are "In Christ"?? Or, how can we build ourselves up in faith so that we will be able to endure weakness of faith (unbelief) or our moral weakness when we are confronted in matters where we ought to Shine for God????! Here I would like to share the lesson of the fruit trees in my backyard. Some of you have noticed that the branches of my trees don't have any Fruit on them. But instead, Like Charlie Brown, (!!) "All I got was a rock!!!!"

My trees don't have any fruit on them this year because I made a mistake with the tree spray program (that's another story!), but I don't want them to become WEAK in their ability to bear fruit next year. So I tied on these extra weights, the rocks, so that they would not become complacent with bearing no fruit!!

What about your life or my life?? Have we become complacent with doing nothing for God??? Are we barren of any fruit provided for God's glory?? Are we spiritually weak, because we have dismissed every prompting by God's Spirit to take on a new task like speaking kindly to a neighbor or sharing our faith story with someone who needs encouragement??

This is serious business, and I'm serious about wanting for you to get this message: God has been prompting many of us for many years to get on with sharing our faith story with others, but instead of our expending the effort to share, and I mean verbally communicate how God has been at work in your life, your testimony is the most authentic witness to your faith. Or do you feel God has done nothing in your life? Consider that before you even born, God knew who you were or would become. Will you not share what God has done in creating you?? Don't let the prompting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit go unanswered!!!!! Don't be like weak branches with no fruit, and not even prepared to bear any next year!

Like my trees, if I had not placed those rocks on the branches to "teach them" to lower their limbs, to strengthen their collars (the little area where the branch meets the trunk) and to get used to carrying a load . . . if I had not disciplined them this year, then next year, when they really are going to bear fruit ("cear lord I pray!"), then the branches would not have been in the proper position to receive adequate sunlight, neither would they have been conditioned to hold the weight of the crop.

Our lives are like these trees in my yard we are also in need of being spiritually and physically conditioned so we can become productive vessels for god! If you have not exercised physically lately, then you know what it's like to get back into the routine of fitness. It's hard and you'll be real sore if/when you go back for even a small work out. The spiritual life is the same. Jesus wants for us to bear the cross of pain and glory. He needs for us to be spiritually hardened so that when the temptations come or when we are challenged to speak the word . . . be it at work, or in our own homes, or by our actions and attitudes . . . Jesus wants you and I to be prepared to bear the fruit!

If you take this challenge of Jesus, "Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" then you will be ready and willing to share your story of faith. When you are not ashamed of your own faith, then you are willing and able to share what you believe, not in an "in your face" way, but with true devotion to Christ and love for others. "This is what Jesus does for me every day," you might tell a friend. "He'll do the same for you, just begin to believe, just begin to read the bible, just begin to pray, just begin to get involved with church, worship god!"

All of the disciplines of our faith and devotional life can be like the rocks hanging on the trees out there. We can take up the cross of Jesus and follow him. We can do the works of god. And in this we will find ourselves caught up in God's Glory. We can see the world become a more peace-filled place. We can transform our relationships within our own families and in the lives of others as we Open ourselves to the Cross of Jesus as our discipline, our faith and our guide. May it be so in your life and in mine to the Glory of God. Amen

Let us pray,

Lord Jesus, On your Cross, you suffered and died that I might be freed from sin and death. You suffered and died and became the Savior of the World for all time. By your Holy Cross you have set us free to be the children of God bearing witness to your love and life in the world. Help me to bear Your Cross daily, even when no one else around has faith in things beyond this world. May my Faith stand strong as I proclaim your death and resurrection active and alive in my life. Amen

Read more writings of Pastor Jon