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Luke 14:25-33 – New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
25 Now large crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and said to them, 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. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 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? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 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? 32 If he cannot, then while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
Kahlil Gibran – excerpt from The Prophet
“And a woman spoke, saying, “Tell us of Pain.” And he said: Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain. And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy; And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields. And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief. Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility: For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen, And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.”
Throughout Luke’s gospel Jesus is healing people, teaching about loving our neighbors, pushing boundaries of what it means to be family and community to create a more inclusive world.
And then he stops us in our tracks with, 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.
The most common definition of hate is “intense or passionate dislike” for someone or something.
Is this verse simply hyperbole? Is Jesus exaggerating to get our attention?
I think we can all agree that the text is reminding us to put God first. How many of us can honestly say we put God ahead of all of our relationships? How many of us can honestly say we put God ahead of ourselves?
When and if we do that, we are going to experience some pain. We are going to create fractious relationships where we would prefer harmony. We are going to cause ourselves, and others pain in order to improve the greater good, in order to move those around us toward the vision of perfect peace.
Luke is writing approximately 50 years after Jesus did just that. Did Jesus need to hate the people around him in order to do this? Hate is a pretty strong word. What he did need was the moral fortitude to speak up and out – even if it meant speaking against those that he knew and loved, those with authority, those with power. He hated the “somethings” that caused false divisions between humans. He hated the “somethings” that caused separation between humans and their Creator.
Can we put God ahead of father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and even life itself? Jesus consistently took on the role of antagonist of both friend and foe. He challenges us to see the world differently, to imagine a world where all are granted the same opportunities, the same rights, the same privileges. Can we do that?
Barbara Brown Taylor wrote a sermon some years ago on this text. One of the hard truths she concluded was that most of us are not disciples, we are, at best, “friends of disciples.”
What if Jesus meant for his disciples to take this command literally? What if we are meant to take it literally? At all costs. Do we do that?
In fact, no, most of us don’t. And until we do, the promise of heaven on earth will not be realized. Not for one. Not for all.
Does this sound too harsh? Maybe to us it does. Maybe to those suffering on a daily basis it sounds like justice. That is what Jesus was willing to risk.
In “The Prophet”, Kahlil Gibran, writes “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” His words are beautifully poetic, yet contain hard truths. Are we willing to consider hard truths for ourselves and speak hard truths to those around us so that we can move beyond our current limitations?
Do we want to be disciples or are we satisfied to be friends of disciples?
It is a tough question. The good news? We get a fresh start every day.
In the words of Mary Oliver, I wonder, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Rev. TJ Mack – September 4, 2022