Sunday, September 5, 2010

Costly Grace - Sept 5th

There is absolutely nothing subtle
about this Gospel reading today, is there?

Sometimes in our long Pentecost summer readings
the lectionary offers us
interesting parables, miracle stories about fig trees and such…
which can leave us scratching our heads
wondering what in the world Jesus wants from us.

But not today…
you’d have to have been taking a nap to miss out on this one.

Jesus says very clearly to the large crowd traveling with him…
“Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me
cannot be my disciple.”

In other words --
”Do not begin something
if you are not sure, you can successfully complete it.”

Remember about 20 years ago…
the popular Steven Covey book
7 Habits of Highly Effective People?
Habit number 2,
has always been one of my favorites
and maybe the most challenging --
“Begin with the end in mind.”

Jesus is pretty much telling his followers
before you begin this journey with me to Jerusalem,
and you’ll remember Luke verse 9:51 –
when he sets his face toward Jerusalem,
he knows what the End will look like.

So, He begins his journey with the Cross in mind.

But Jesus turns to us today and says once again,
costly discipleship means --
we must change.

Change our view of everything…
in business, family, at school, and here at Church…
from Self to All.

Because this call is to walk away from
the way the world, of culture, and of society
which encourages “me before you.”

This theme hits pretty close to home for us, doesn’t it?
As we begin our relationship
between rector and congregation.

We’re in this early honeymoon period aren’t we?
thinking, dreaming, expecting and waiting
to see what God has in-store for us,
as disciples…
and just what the cost is going to be?

Saint Luke’s Gospel has Jesus using the story of the king
going off to war
without sufficient soldiers and strategies
and then the man who begins building and can’t finish,

But, probably the one that troubled me the most
from my childhood --
“but why must we hate our fathers and mothers,
brothers and sisters….” Well,

Seriously, make no mistake…
Jesus is not asking us to literally hate those we love,
what he wants to get everyone’s attention on is this…
we can not let any one or anything
come between us and God.

This would simply become a good definition of Sin.
Anything which separates us from the Love of God alone is Sin,
and must be forgiven.

For all would be followers of Jesus,
this has to be a foundational faith question –
“Are we able to measure up to the demands of this Gospel?”

And in our own unique context here at St Simon’s
we would do very well to reflect on this
both individually in our spiritual lives
and again corporately in our call to future ministry
to those who do not know
the healing, forgiving Love of God.

Adam Clayton Powell, Sr…
the great preacher and pastor
from Harlem’s famous Abyssinian Baptist Church,
in the 1940s coined the phrase Cheap Grace.

Later Dietrich Bonhoeffer would expand on this,
"cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness
without requiring repentance;
Cheap grace is without the cross,
grace without Jesus Christ."

And that’s why this question is so tough…so fundamental for us.

In his sermon on the Mount, Jesus says…
“if you want to be my follower
here is what you’ve got to do…”

You will have a moral, ethical and spiritual responsibility
not to the Real Housewives of New Jersey…this is Cheap Grace

But to Costly Grace which is to the poor, the grieving,
the hungry, the peacemakers,
and those being persecuted.

Discipleship is tough and serious business…
are we up for it?
In our church and in our lives…

Remember at Baptism --
we are called on to respect the dignity of every human being?

that means --
ALL God’s Children…Everyone.
Desmond Tutu preaches this over and again…
ALL means ALL

So, Costly – how can I do it?

Not to despair…
this is not a message of hopelessness,
in fact, this text is rooted in Hope.
Because, “the rest of the story” is…
God has assured us we will never be alone,
or separated from him.
Romans 8, right?

But Psalm 139:1 –
“Lord you have searched me out and know me…”

We can do this…God knows me, has searched for me.

So, working together with God,
we can embrace whatever is to come…

Just think of what has happened
since that hot and steamy July 1st, 1945 evening
when The Rev Dr Charles Farrar,
Rector of Christ Church Pensacola
drove over here to Camp Walton
for that historic first Evensong.

Do we have what it takes to follow Jesus?
You bet we do.
And more than ever.
After 60-plus years,
this is a strong, proud parish full of faithful disciples.

Christ calls us now to imitate
His spirit of humble generosity and compassion
by picking up the crosses of others
who are stumbling under even heavier crosses than ours.

Faith embraced at baptism
is unfailing hope
which transforms the crosses we are to carry in this life
into instruments of Amazing Grace
and Resurrection Power.

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