[September 4, 2016] The outline of the sermon I gave at the First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) of Passaic, NJ:
Recalling how chapter 14 of Luke’s gospel began …
In verses 1-6 …
When Jesus healed the man with edema on the Sabbath, the kingdom of God had come into their midst.
– The veil between heaven and earth became thin
– and the witnesses could see into the mystery of life’s reality.
This took place at a luncheon meal. This healing was God’s invitation to the Feast of the kingdom.
But the luncheon took place at the home of a prominent Pharisee,
– where Jesus’ critics were gathered.
Jesus explained himself to them (I paraphrase):
In verses 7-11 …
“You all vie for the highest place, but you see me—I deliberately take the lowest place.
– As a result, God will exalt me in the resurrection of the dead.
In verses 12-14 …
“But the reason I take the lowest place is so I can invite to God’s Feast all who cannot pay God back.
– God’s Feast is a Sabbath feast. You come by grace or not at all.
– Those who are most grateful, who know they cannot pay God back
– are ‘the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.’”
Then someone says, (in verse 15),
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to sit at the table of God’s Feast and eat!”
Jesus responds. In verses 16-20 …
“Do you really think so? Imagine a rich man who invites all his supposed ‘friends’—
– —the rich, the healthy, the educated and the pious—
and nobody could bother to come!
“They all made excuses:
- ‘I am preoccupied with my property.’
- ‘I am preoccupied with my family.’
- ‘I am preoccupied with my livelihood.’
In verses 21-24 …
“So the man invited all ‘the poor and crippled and blind and lame’ instead.
There was still room, so the man invited everyone out on the roads and hedges and compelled them.
– (Perhaps these last folks might be an inferred reference to sinners and gentiles.)
And no one who was originally invited got to go to the feast.”
In verse 25 …
Jesus leaves the luncheon and great crowds followed him.
– These are the people on “the roads and hedges.”
Well? What does Jesus say to them?
In verses 26-27 …
“If YOU come to me but do not:
- hate your family,
- hate your own soul,
- take up your own cross and follow in my steps me
you cannot be my disciple.”
Hate: your obligations, preoccupations, attachments, identifications, fears. To die to them.
IN ORDER TO PUT FOLLOWING JESUS FIRST,
make Jesus your first preoccupation, obligation, attachment, and “who you are.”
What about counting the cost? In verses 28-32,
Jesus gives two military images. What do they mean?
Shouldn’t we all give up and not bother trying? Who can pay the cost?
The enemy here is God! If God is coming to defeat you,
– you should surrender now and ask for terms of peace.
Verse 33 …
What are the terms of peace? We must forsake (surrender) all our own possessions—
– or else we cannot be Jesus’ disciples!
Verses 34-35 …
What happens when salt has no flavor? We throw it out.
But salt is a stable compound. How does it lose its flavor? By being mixed with gypsum.
A disciple who is mixed with preoccupations is tasteless salt. Become free. Get rid of your mixture!