Gospel – Luke 14:25–35
25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “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. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 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? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 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? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 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.”
For which of you desiring to build a Lutheran Hope Center in Ferguson, 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 Hope Center director, about to go to war, in one of the nation’s greatest spiritual battles, will not sit down first and deliberate how many it will take to make an army to battle the old evil foe in this place. It would be foolish then to not count the cost before embarking on God’s mission in Ferguson, MO. So Pastor Glenn, and to all of the saints gathered here this morning, I ask you today, “So you want to be a disciple?” Well then let us first count the cost to see if we can finish the job.
This morning we see the great crowds that accompany Jesus, to follow Him – and why not? He has just miraculously healed someone, invited the lowliest of the low off of the streets and out of the dark alleys of the city to come to the eternal banquet, He even invites the least among us and most marginalized to sit at the head of His table. All good stuff. And the people flock. It surely does not seem to be much of a cost to be a disciple of the victorious welcoming Jesus, who brings us glory. Like having a spread in a national Christianity Today magazine, or when the crowds flock to hear of the young missionary being sent to serve in Ferguson, or being on the cover of the church’s newspapers or highlighted on the Facebook page, or face plastered on poster boards. It’s a tough job to get all of that attention and honor, Pastor Glenn, but somebody’s got to do it, right?
But what if we fail to deliver on the world’s expectations? I mean this is for the long haul if we are to finish what we started. What happens when we don’t bring about world peace, or end poverty, or save every life from injustice, or curb all lawlessness? What happens when someone is upset that we dared to show love to a neighbor that they deem unworthy? What happens when the heroic missionary can’t solve all of what ails this sin-stricken world? Because when a disciple follows Jesus, they follow Jesus. Mocked, renounced, spat on, hair torn from beard, deemed worthless even for a manure pile, to be beaten and crucified. Forsaking all, but still despised. Even those closest turning against you… to be betrayed and abandoned. To sacrifice, to suffer, to bleed, to die even for your own worst enemies… it is a steep price to pay to finish the job… are you willing to pay what it will cost?
And yet it is not ours to pay: for our failures, for our sins. When the glory fades and all that is left is a cross, many a hero have fallen to their own corruption. Because yes, if our family ties, the burden of Jesus’ cross, or clinging to our possessions hinder us from following, then in our sin we are no better than salt no longer salty: worthless and deserving of being thrown out. And we can’t pay the costs for our sins because we don’t have the currency and it is impossible to make ourselves salty again.
So follow with me, follow with me, to see the price that was paid… follow Jesus to the upper room at His table, where He will first give Himself to show us that He will pay the cost of discipleship with His own body and blood… let us kneel beside Him in the garden of Gethsemane as He proceeds to sweat blood, anxiously counting the cost of your salvation… let us stand beside him in the governor’s headquarters as a whole battalion exacts the payment of a pound of our sinful flesh which is charged to the account of this king cloaked in purple wearing a crown of thorns… let us follow Him through the dusty streets of Jerusalem soaked in the blood of the prophets as this soldier carries the weight of the world’s sins to Golgotha, where He will sacrifice His life for your own.
Follow Him disciples, to the place of the skull where He will accept the scorn of His Father and renounce everything down to the shirt stripped from his beaten and torn back and down to his last breath… renouncing all for you…to redeem you… to pay the ultimate cost of your salvation… not with gold or silver but with his precious blood. Follow and see that the cost has been paid in full, when your Messiah says it is finished. All the penalty of your sin falls like tokens into the coffer with every drop of blood that was spilled. So that as the water and blood pour over you in baptism, in this token of the Holy Spirit, you are made to be salt and light.
Blessed are the peacemakers as you are sent to be salt and light even to those that the world has written off as unworthy. Whether it be the one they call gangbanger, or thug, or pig, or sleazy politician…. These are those who Christ died for because they are precious in His sight. Go peacemakers and bring them Jesus, because Jesus alone can bring healing to that which divides us as a nation, Jesus alone can heal our wounds, and graft together that which tears us apart back into communion with one another. Maybe we will not be able to stop all violence, or rid the world of corruption, or end poverty… but we can serve, we can love our neighbor, we can be ambassadors of the prince of peace, we can be torch bearers of the light of the Gospel. Jesus has paid the cost, he has completed the work, he has given us peace that the world cannot give… he has sacrificed all that you might have eternal life in Him… and now you too, you too, will gladly serve wherever you are sent.
And you know where this will lead when you follow… to suffering, to humiliation, to the grave, but then, then it leads on to glory outside the empty tomb, and into the Garden of life eternal. Yes, Pastor Glenn, there may be nail, and whip, and spear… but in Christ you will humble yourself for this place… you will feed their hungry, you will give shelter, you will clothe them in mercy… you will kneel to wash their feet… duty bound, you will lay down your life in love… for those you are called to serve. But I promise you this, as you stand in the steps of Christ to follow… for every drop of blood and sweat and tears that you pour into the ground of Ferguson as you plant the seed… for every life that has been transformed through this work… I promise you brother, you will say it was worth it.
A Mighty Fortress is Our God, “And take they our life, Goods, fame, child and wife, Let these all be gone, They yet have nothing won; The Kingdom ours remaineth.” Come what may, Pastor Glenn, in Christ you will be the light of the world and a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. You dear brother are the salt of the earth in this place. And not even the gates of hell can prevail when your foundation is Jesus Christ. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.