“Living Wide Awake”
Pentecost 16 (Proper 18), September 4, 2016
Living Wide Awake
Text: Luke 14:25–35
What is important to you? Faith? Church? Family? Job? Your football team? That this week’s sermon is shorter than last week’s was? In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us again what is important. Last week in the Gospel, Jesus said, “Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” Then this week He says something even more intense, “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” (v 26). Hate the people that we are supposed to love? That gets our attention. Right?
Some would say that Jesus’ call to discipleship in Luke 14 is beyond radical. Pastors and Christians love to take these words of Jesus and water them down, if not ignore them. I’m not going to do that. It would betray the purpose for which these words were spoken.
I want to challenge you to allow this text to do what it’s supposed to do: bring our daily lives in alignment with our faith. What we believe and what we live can get out of alignment. Remembering this text, listening to it, brings us the alignment we need. We discover thatI want to challenge you to allow this text to do what it’s supposed to do: bring our daily lives in alignment with our faith. What we believe and what we live can get out of alignment. Remembering this text, listening to it, brings us the alignment we need. We discover that
Living Christ’s Call to Follow Him Means Giving Up Everything for Him.
Our text begins with the statement that large crowds were gathered around Jesus. It’s important to note the terms being used here. Jesus is not talking to the apostles. He’s talking to the crowds that followed Him, not because they wanted to be involved, but because they wanted to watch the action. They wanted to see what was going on, but not actually do, or commit. Paul, in 2 Tim 3:7, talks about people who are “always learning” but “never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” Paul’s words describe this crowd. They’re interested but not committed. It’s to this crowd that Jesus issues this shocking ultimatum: “Hate your father and mother, give up everything you have, take up your cross and follow me.” In other words, the life we are called to live in Christ is an active, not a passive thing. We need to be all the way in, 100%.
The cost of discipleship is shocking to our ears. Jesus really did say, “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.” There’s no easy way to hear these words. While it’s clear that Jesus is speaking in hyperbole and not literally, we shouldn’t take the statement lightly. In Lk 16:13, Jesus clarifies his reason for using the term “hate.” He says, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” You see, you cannot mix allegiances, attention, or affection. When push comes to shove, you have to choose one over the other. So the time to make the choice is now, not later. To be clear, the choice is not literally to hate your friends and family. It is, however, a call to put faith first, obedience first, Jesus first in our lives.
That means living out our faith, sharing the Gospel, and defending the truth, even when the rest of the family, or our friends, or our co-workers are looking uneasy, asking us to tone it down. It means standing up and speaking out the Gospel truth, even when we are afraid of the consequences. Now this does not give us permission to be a jerk, to be rude, judgmental, or condescending. Our most effective weapon/tool is love. We can’t shout people into heaven, but we can’t remain passive and silent and expect the people around us to wake up to the truth. The call of discipleship is costly, and today is the day to wake up and start living by boldly speaking the truth about our Savior to those who do not know Jesus.
We have to live like we are committed to Jesus. It’s like when you are on the dock with one foot in the boat. You are not committed to the boat or being on land. That is, until the boat starts moving—creeping away from the dock. At that moment you realize that having one foot on the dock and one in the boat is the absolute worst position to be in. Worse yet, the moment of choosing has past. Now you have one choice, though it’s not really a choice. Your only option is a very wet future. Following Jesus is like that. You cannot have one foot anchored in the things this world values and another foot anchored in the things that God values. The time is now! We need to wake up and start living for the kingdom of God.
So what do we do with this tension, with this radical call to follow Jesus? Living in the tension begins with understanding the true source of the tension. Jesus’ call is not the source of the tension; our sin is. We were created to walk with God, without distraction or compromise. Do you remember in Genesis, before the fall into sin, how Adam and God walked together in the garden in the cool of the evening? It is sin that keeps us from loving God wholeheartedly. It is our weakness that drives us to love one and hate the other. Rather than blaming Jesus Christ for setting impossibly high standards, blame our sinful, broken lives that have made our separation from God seem normal.
Second, we rejoice. Yes, the tension we feel in this challenge is a good thing. We rejoice that our life in Jesus rests upon His perfect love, undivided devotion, and unwavering sacrifice. Jesus did what we could not do. Through His death on the cross and rising again, He defeated sin and conquered the grave. This victory and new life He gives to us as a gift. For in Baptism, our old nature was drowned, and we have been given new life in the Spirit (Rom 6:1–11). In this new life, by the Spirit, we find the will and the strength to follow Jesus with undivided attention and unwavering commitment of our life as a living sacrifice to God.
Finally, we rejoice because we were created to answer this call, to live lives focused on God, our Creator. It is time for us to stop sleepwalking through our lives, being passive spectators of the work of the kingdom of God. As Jesus turned to the crowds in the text, He now turns to you and me, not to put a burden on our shoulders but to invite us to set free the life given to us in Baptism by focusing our life on following Jesus without fear of consequence or challenge. A man by the name of John Holcombe once wrote, “You must get involved to have an impact. No one is impressed with the won-lost record of the referee.”
Today, Jesus calls us with unflinching clarity to take up a life of unwavering devotion to Him and His kingdom mission, to surrender all as we take up our cross to follow Him.
Adapted from a sermon in Concordia Pulpit Helps, Vol. 26 No. 4.