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Date: September 3, 2017 (Pentecost 13) 1. Texts: Exodus 3:1-15; Ps. 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28. 2. Subject: discipleship. 3. Topic: paying the cost of discipleship. 4. Aim: challenge, guide. 5. Proposition: “Being a disciple of Jesus always costs in all ways.”

 

THE COST OF GENUINE DISCIPLESHIP

The Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote a book entitled in English The Cost of Discipleship. The true cost of genuine discipleship was something Bonhoeffer would later come to know intimately well. He would know the cost of laying aside fear, hate and even life as he approached his execution by hanging at the hands of the Nazi leadership on April 9, 1945. The forty-five Anglican and Roman Catholic martyrs of Uganda learned the cost of discipleship on June 3, 1886, when they were wrapped in reed-mats and burned alive. They died confessing their salvation in Christ. Teresa of Calcutta lived a lifetime of paying the cost of discipleship as she surrendered her family connections, the security of a single home and the ease of the pre-determined life of a nun in community for the sake of the sick and the dying. There are uncounted numbers of other examples, from Sts Peter and Paul to Thomas More to the Wesleys to James Peck, Anglican missionary to the Inuit. It should come as no surprise to us that being a disciple of Jesus always costs. Always. Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?1 1 Matthew 16:24-26. Do not rush the scripture quotations. Page 2 of 4 -The Cost of Discipleship- ‘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.2 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends… ‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you…3 Being a disciple of Jesus always costs. Fortunately for us, St. Paul tells us how to pay the cost of discipleship. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 2 Luke 14:26-32. 3 John 15:12-13, 18-20. Do not rush the scripture quotations. Page 3 of 4 -The Cost of DiscipleshipBless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all…No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.4 We pay the costs of discipleship by living the love of Christ in our daily relationships. We pay the costs by sacrificially reflecting God in our daily lives. So it is that our costs are individually determined. They are set by the context of our lives, not by someone else telling us. We have to figure out what Christ’s love will be in and through our own lives. Discipleship in Christ will exact a unique cost from each of us, based on whom we are called to love. Here’s the challenge presented by Christ today: what are you called to give up in order to love someone God has put in your life? There is no doubt that you are called by God to sacrificial love, both for Christ and for other people, even people you don’t necessarily like. In order to live that sacrificial love, what do you have to give up? It might be an attachment to a past grievance or judgment. It might be the emphasis on your career or children. The search for material fulfillment and the attachments to reputation may be the cost of your discipleship. Take a few seconds to call to mind someone God has given you to love. What do you have to sacrifice to make that love tangible and true? [Wait.] Oh, please make no mistake: love must always be both seen and heard. There can be no secret love, neither for Christ nor for one’s neighbour. Love is always public, tangible and audible. It is love in word and deed. Love changes not how we feel, but how we speak and act. 4 Romans 12:9-18, 20-21. Do not rush the scripture quotations. Page 4 of 4 -The Cost of DiscipleshipSo now that you have already called to mind someone to receive your sacrificial love, how will you make that known? In keeping with Paul’s writing, how will you bless, and live in harmony, nobility and peace? Your God-given task is to overcome evil with good, so just how are you now going to do that? [Wait.] This is today’s investment in your cost of discipleship payment plan. Sure, you could call it “being a disciple today” or “here’s how to work out my salvation with fear and trembling.”5 Whatever you call it, daily living as a disciple of Jesus will cost you something. Jesus was clear about that, as was St. Paul. The Church throughout the millennia has been clear about that. It is only in the modern era that we have neglected this reality and it is time we recaptured this truth. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, and God himself has made our world our friends. AMEN.