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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Sep 4, 2016  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this 16th Sunday After Pentecost, Luke 14:25-35. There we read these words:

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. "Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters. he cannot be My disciple."

I do not know about you, dear friends, but these words have already knocked me out of the game. I cannot love Jesus more than I loved my family. I have never once laid my hands on Jesus and have never once had Him touch me, but my family, at least when they were younger, were constantly around me, filling my arms with hugs and sprinkling my cheeks with kisses.

When I was on the road, away from home sometimes for two weeks at a time, I in-wardly longed to be back in the presence of my four favorite people in the whole wide world, and I often complained about this longing to those with whom I travel.

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters. he cannot be My disciple."

It is not that you must literally hate your family-Jesus' use of the word "hate" here is simply for emphasis. You must love Him so greatly-you must so fear, love and trust in Him above all things-that your love for your closest relatives will appear cold and heartless by comparison.

It is because of this, that I must say to Jesus, "Forgive me, Lord. I cannot love You that much. I am an idolater. I cannot be your disciple."

And then Jesus makes it worse, instead of better: "Yes, even his own life," He says, "Who ever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple."

Stained Glass Baptism Window

Imagine the picture here: The crowds following after Jesus understood very well the horrors of crucifixion, because the Romans performed plenty of them in Israel. Every one in that crowd understood the harsh demand Jesus made in commanding that each person carry their own cross.

Essentially, Jesus said, "You must offer yourself to be paraded through the streets and mocked. You must choose to go to your own execution, without anyone forcing you to do so. You must volunteer to have your body stretched until you suffocate to death."

My friends, I might be in the business of helping other people carry their crosses and of comforting them under the weight of their suffering-but I do not want any of my own. I love my life; I cannot hate it. If I were to choose my own cross, it would be the lightest, easiest, and most convenient cross ever created. But I know that crosses do not come that way. Crosses are designed to kill you-and to do it slowly.

Jesus says, "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." To this I reply, "Forgive me, Lord. I cannot willingly carry my own cross. I cannot be your disciple."

As for counting the cost of following Jesus, forget about it! Jesus uses two illustrations in today's Gospel to warn you and me that we better know what we am getting into before we commit to being His disciple: "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, "This man began to build and was not able to finish." Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

With these words, Jesus wants you and me and each disciple to sit down and figure out whether we have what it takes to go the distance. Do you have the strength to follow? Do you have the nerve to remain faithful? Do you have the courage to suffer everything- even death-rather than to turn away?

"Dear Jesus," I must say, "I do not even know what tomorrow will bring to me. How can I possibly count its costs or determine whether you will someday demand a price that is too great for me to pay? There are too many variables and too many unknowns for me to bid the job."

But Jesus answers, "Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple." With these words, my Jesus has painted me into a corner.

"Forgive me, Lord. I cannot be Your disciple. I do not have the love it requires, for I love too much these people whom You gave to me." "I do not have the courage for a voluntary death. " I cannot count the cost, I do not know how.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

You said it Yourself, Jesus: 'Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored.' "I am salt that has lost its saltiness. I am not useful even for fertilizer. You are right: I should be thrown away."

Dear Christian friends, there is one thing your God loves from you more than anything else: He loves it when you hold Him to His words. That is to say, your God loves it when you make demands on Him on the basis of His own promises; when you turn the tables on Him and change His tone of voice for Him.

"Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple."

If I am to follow you, I will need to rely solely upon your doing, and not my own: "I cannot love God more than I love my family, so I will trust in You, Jesus, and in Your loving God more than You loved Your own family. You turned away from Your family (Luke 8:19-21) to atone for my inability to turn away from mine.

"I cannot volunteer to take up my own cross, Jesus, for I lack both the courage and the strength do to so. I will trust in Your carrying of Your cross, instead. You denied Yourself, You hated Your life unto death, and You took up Your own cross precisely because I could not, cannot do the same. By Your dying, You purchased my forgiveness, even for my unwillingness to die.

"I will not count the cost of following You because I cannot count the cost. I will trust instead that You counted the costs for me and for my salvation. You judged the price of this holy house called the Church and You knew the strength and power of those evil forces that aligned themselves in battle against You."

"Do You want me to renounce all things to be Your disciple? Fine! I renounce any ability I might have to love You as I ought. I renounce any shred of strength that might be used to follow You. I renounce every good intention and every desire to do what is right. I will claim to be nothing other than salt that has lost its saltiness, 'of no use, either for the soil or for the manure pile. I renounce all these things, Jesus. Because I need you to be for me my everything."

Today's Gospel makes it clear that you cannot be Jesus' disciples, but you have been made His disciples nevertheless. What you cannot do-what you refuse to do-Jesus has done for you.

"Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be [Jesus'] disciple."

Do not allow such Words to chase you away, dear friends! Allow them to do for you the divine work Jesus intends for them. Allow these harsh Words to draw you closer to Him, for He alone has made you His disciple. He alone has loved you where you cannot love Him, and He shall never fail.

Christ Is Risen.

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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