Sunday, September 8, 2019

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

"Counting the Cost"

Rev. Kealahou Alika

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

I managed to lose my pair of glasses somewhere in our buildings or on our church grounds. It was not a good way to begin the week.

The following day, I packed up my things as well as what I call Koa’s dog-bag with his lunch and toys and poop bags. As we left home and I closed the door behind me, I realized I had locked my keys in the house.

Thankfully, I have a secret way of getting back into the house through a window. It requires some careful maneuvering. I have managed to fall into the house on more than one occasion.

A few days later, I was off to Honolulu for a Friday evening meeting. I left Koa with Loretta, one of our church members. She suggested I call her when the flight touched down in Kahului once we were back on island.

I was returning to Maui with two other friends who were also at the meeting. After we dropped off the rental car, I realized I did not have my cell phone. I was sure I left it at the place where we had been meeting only minutes before. I checked the rental car and did not find the phone.

Then on Saturday morning, I left for work forgetting to shut off the waterline to my home. I have a leak in the waterline and so when I need water, I go outside turn the switch on and when I am done with washing the dishes, showering, flushing, I turn it off.

When I returned home last night, I could hear water gushing from the outside of the house and realized that the water had been leaking all day. I know my water bill for September will be higher than usual. Needless to say, it has been quite a week –and a costly one at that.

There was no way for me to anticipate – whether through carelessness or forgetfulness – what the cost would be. While it is true I was about the work of the Lord, I would not calculate the cost of my mishaps as signs of the cost of my discipleship.

But Jesus did caution those in a large crowd who were following him one day. He stopped and turned to them and said, “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 disciples. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-33).

My hunch is that his words caused great alarm for many in the crowd. After all while would be admonished to love and obey our parents and at the same time hate them. While we might attribute his statement as hyperbole – an extreme exaggeration – we get the point. Being a disciple, being a follower of Jesus will require that even our familial relationships will come second to our relationship with him.

Discipleship will require “sacrifice – not just [of] comfort and companionship but [it may well require giving up] one’s rootedness in a community, one’s present circumstances, and one’s future” (“Living by the Word: Reflections on the Lectionary,” Melissa Earley, The Christian Century, August 28, 2019, page 18). Jesus calls on those in the crowd to consider the following: “Which of you, intending to build a tower [or a wall], does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he had enough to complete it?”

“Otherwise, when he had 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’” (Luke14:28-30). “Or what king [or president], going out to wage war against another king [or president] will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand [missiles] to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand [missiles]?” (Luke 14:31).

If that is the case, would we not be wise to consider the cost of what it means for us to follow Jesus. Jesus makes the radical statement, “If you do not give all your possessions, you cannot become my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

Here again we may might attribute Jesus’ statement as another hyperbole. Are we willing to give up, to sacrifice all of our possessions to follow him?

It is not likely that any of us would be willing give up whatever wealth we may have accumulated or possessions we may have acquired. This may be especially true for the rich. What the wealthy may give to institutions and causes may be laudable, but it is very likely what they are giving is not out of any real sacrifice but out of their abundance.

The question about what it would take for us to be faithful followers of Jesus is a sobering one. What it would take for us to be his faithful followers? Counting the cost is not simply about a financial calculation.

Counting the cost is about whether or not we are willing to respond to the needs of those who are poor; those who are hungry; those who are cast aside; those who are ignored. Counting the cost is about facing the hostility and hatred of others as we seek to welcome the stranger into our midst. Counting the cost is about knowing we may well face the ridicule of others as we seek to be faithful servants in the service of others.

As for my mishaps over the last week, I have welcomed them with a sense of humor reminding myself that they are reasons enough for why it is time for me to retire next February. But whether in retirement or not my discipleship, your discipleship never ends.

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