8 September 2019††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† St. Athanasius Lutheran Church
Pentecost 13††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Vienna, VA
ďYou Canít; He CanĒ
Text: Luke 14:25-35 (Philemon 1-21; Deuteronomy 30:15-20)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
How did you do it?
Seriously! How did you do it? How did you become a disciple of Jesus? Because you are. Youíre here. You confess. Youíre a Christian, a follower of Jesus.
But you donít measure up. In fact, according to the words we heard today, frankly, do you even come close?
I mean, hate father and mother? Hate your wife and children? Hate your own life? Renounce all you have?
Even allowing for the fact that the word ďhateĒ here doesnít mean despising and being against your family or your life so much that you wish them ill or wish them dead, but means what youíre willing to leave behind in order to be a disciple . . . still, how did you do it?
For can you really and honestly say that youíve never put family before God? That youíve never been silent because you didnít want to offend? That you were never more fearful of what your family would say or think or do more than God?
Can you really and honestly say that you havenít followed your own desires and urges rather than the Word of God? That what the world says seems better to you than what God says?
Have you never - at least temporarily - put down the cross because of the ridicule or persecution that was coming your way? Have you never compromised to avoid hardship or conflict?
Can you say that? ĎCuz I canít.
So how did you do it? How did you become a disciple, and stay one, and be here today? Seriously.
Or maybe you havenít. Maybe youíre just fooling yourself. Wishful thinking. Call yourself a disciple when youíre really not. Thatís what the world thinks, after all. Thatís the accusation theyíll throw in your face. That youíre a hypocrite. That you call yourself a Christian, but youíre no better than the next guy. In fact, youíre worse, because you call yourself a Christian but donít live like one.
And thatís especially what the devil wants you to think and believe, too. Using Jesusí own words, the words we heard today, to prove it. See? Disciple? Right! As if! You? Youíre rather the unsalty salt Jesus talked about today. Thatís who you are. Good for nothing! Not even for the manure pile! Not even good enough for manure. Ouch.
But if you look at your life, you know heís right, donít you? And if judged by your life, youíll be thrown someplace worse than the manure pile.
So thank you, devil! Yes, thank you . . . for reminding me of this truth. And for being Jesusí stooge. Because you mean to drive me away from and separate me from my Jesus, either by making me try to clean myself up and try harder and rely on myself, or by making me despair and think I have no hope. But Iím not here for that. Iím here to repent. And find my life - and my discipleship - not in me, but in Jesus. Which is how He meant for me to hear these words.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Thatís what Jesus said. So Iím going to hear what Jesus has to say to me, not you, devil. Thatís the ace up my sleeve. Or better to say, the word of truth in my ear.
Because you know, devil, the first thing I heard that made me a disciple? It wasnít how good I was or what I did or anything in me. It was this: I baptize you. You see, thatís when I became a disciple. Itís what Jesus did, not what I did. He made me a child of God. He cleansed me. He gave me this life. With those words and water, He took this worthless person from the manure pile and made me His own. How Ďbout that, devil?
And while youíre right that I havenít lived that way, and Iíve fallen more times than I can count, you what else I hear in these ears, devil? Not you better improve or get better, but this: I forgive you. You see, thatís what keeps me a disciple. What Jesus keeps giving to me, not my improvement. So even when I repent, itís not to do something for Jesus, itís to hear these words of forgiveness. That I canít make salt salty again, but He can. And does.
So youíre pretty good, devil, using these words against me. And you actually get me to believe you sometimes, and not believe God. ĎCuz you know how weak and stupid I am.
But I remember how you tried to use these words against Jesus, Mr. Devil. Do you remember? Iím sure you do, though youíd rather forget. It was while Jesus was on the cross. You had all those people come by and mock Him. Yeah, He thought He could establish and build the Kingdom of God, but He couldnít complete it. He thought He could fight this spiritual war, but look at Him now. How do you spell failure? J-E-S-U-S! The picture in the dictionary next to the word failure? Yup, thatís you Jesus!
But what happened, Mr. Devil? He shut your filthy mouth, didnít He? ĎCuz you thought He was dead, but He rose to live again. You thought He was defeated, but He descended into hell and proclaimed His victory. You thought you were the king of the world, but now look at you - youíre like a gun with no ammunition; a sheath without a sword; a bomb without any explosive. You look all bad, but are nothing. My sins are forgiven and cannot condemn me. My death is defeated and cannot hold me.
And then I hear this hear, too, Mr. Devil. Jesus shut your mouth, but you know what I hear here? He opens my mouth. And you know what He puts in? His Body and Blood, given for me and now given to me! Yup, the same Body and Blood you thought was dead, that you thought you beat, that you thought was going to decompose in the tomb. It didnít. He lives, and now so do I. Because of Him. You are what you eat, right Mr. Devil? So I am a son of God, a child of God. I am dead and risen with Him. I followed Him through death and the grave. Or better to say: He pulled me through death and the grave with Him to life again. Which makes me a disciple.
Because all those things I canít do, Jesus did. He did leave everything behind. He did give up everything. He didnít let anything or anyone move Him from His mission. He did take up His cross and die. For me.
And for all these people here today, too, devil. Because theyíve been Great Commissioned. Remember those words of Jesus? He told His disciples - who werenít really good at being good either - He told them: Go and make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them and teaching them (Matthew 28:19). By forgiving them and putting Jesusí words into their ears. Thatís how you disciple someone. They donít do it. Jesus does.
So yes, devil, I know youíll keep trying. I know you wonít give up. I know youíll be fighting to the end. And I know Iíll keep falling and failing, try as I might to be a good and faithful disciple. You know how weak and stupid and unable I am. So Iím just going to die. Thatís what a cross is for, after all. But itís Jesusí cross that I die on, devil - not my own. I die with Him, not apart from Him. And so Iíll rise and live with Him, too. Iíll keep repenting and admiting that youíre right about my sins. But Iíll keep hearing Jesusí great and powerful words of forgiveness and life, and confess that theyíre right, too. And thatís the life I now live. A new life. As a child of God.
And when I run away, like Onesimus, thank you, Jesus, for sending me a Paul †††††† to call me back and send me back to you. And when others come to me looking for forgiveness, help me to welcome them back like Philemon and forgive them, knowing that You have paid their debt and mine. And when faced with the choice between life and good, and death and evil, help me to know the difference! Because as you know, Jesus, the devil can make good look bad, life look like death, and righteousness look like evil. But fill my ears with Your Word, that I know and choose life and good. That I follow You. Now in this life, and finally crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land of heaven.
So thatís how you did it, dear children of God. It wasnít you after all, youíre not able; it is Christ, and Christ who lives in You. So you are who He says you are, and you now do what He has done for you and given to you. And so you are His disciple. And even more than that, His child.
In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.