Whoever Comes to Me

Luke 14.25-33

 

Pretty hard on the ears, these words are.These words coming from the mouth of Jesus are pretty hard on our ears.Anyone who does not hate, does not hate father and mother . . . Cannot be my disciple.

What do these words mean?Anyone who does not hate his or her mother cannot be my disciple.I guess what this means is that Iíll have to quit my job as pastor of the church and live the rest of my life as a pagan.I wonder if I would be any good at selling life insurance.Is this what these words mean?

I love my mother.Many of you know my mother died about a month ago.But I still love her.I loved her then and I love her now.She was a good person and was sure good to me.Letís see now.Thereís what they call whole life insurance and what they call term life insurance.And at least Iíll be able to read the Sunday paper in bed.

Whoever does not hate his or her mother cannot be my disciple.What can this mean?

I looked it up.I got out the books and looked it up and it looks like part of our problem is that the ancient word translated by the English word hate . . . well, that ancient word doesnít translate into English very well.That ancient word doesnít carry as much weight and baggage as the English word hate.

The ancient word meant to detach oneself from, or to turn away from.Not I hate you.Anyone who does not turn away from father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

Detach oneself from your mother.Turn away from her.That helps . . . some.But still . . .Could I interest you in a life insurance policy?Have you thought what would happen to your loved ones if something were to happen to you?

What is Jesus saying?What is he trying to tell us?Anyone who does not turn away from father and mother, turn away from wife and children, turn away from brothers and sisters, yes, even from oneís own life, cannot be my disciples.

This turning away from, this leaving behind.This turning away from the love and security oneís parents give, the love of a spouse, the joy of children and the posterity they promise, and, yes, turning and leaving behind oneís once life.

If a person were to turn oneís back on all of this, all of these good things, to leave all of this goodness behind and turn . . .

Turn away from all that and toward . . . what?Leave all that behind for . . . what?To leave all of that love, that security, that joy and happiness behind and turn . . . toward what?

Well, whatever it is, itís going to have to be pretty good, isnít it?Donít you think?Whatever it is thatís there, behind your back as you turn toward it, itís going to have to be something really, really good.Donít you think?It would have to be, wouldnít it?

And it is.What is just behind and at your back waiting for you to turn around is really, really good.It is something wonderful, indeed.Something wondrous.

Maybe you remember, just after he was baptized and had come in from the wilderness, when he was in the synagogue in Nazareth.They handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.He read from it.From his mouth came these wondrous words: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to proclaim good news to the poor.He has anointed me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lordís favor.

These wondrous words and he rolls the scroll up and hands it back and says, Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.The year of the Lordís favor.The kingdom of God.Fulfilled and right behind you is this year of the Lordís favor, this kingdom of God.

And itís pretty good, alright.This year of the Lordís favor, this kingdom of God, this great goodness, itís pretty great, alright, this goodness is.

This goodness is not just for some, for some and not for others, but for everyone.So great and so powerful is this goodness, the goodness of god, it is for everyone, even the poor, the captives, the blind, and those oppressed.

So great is the goodness of God.This kingdom of God is so much greater than any other, any other goodness you have ever known, so much greater than any goodness you now have, that you now see.

So great is the power of this goodness, the power of this kingdom, that it reaches out even to those that all other kingdoms leave behind: the poor, the captive, the blind, the oppressed.It is for everyone.

And, by the way, everyone would include my mother, my mother and yours.

I think that is what Jesus is trying to tell us.When he says, Anyone who does not turn away from father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even from oneís own life, cannot be my disciples, he is trying to tell us that the goodness of God is so much more than any other goodness we now have and know.

And if we were, if were to take up our crosses and follow him, to follow him to the end, to his cross . . .

See him.See him there on his cross.See him there reaching out, reaching out to all those who are poor, to those held captive, to the blind, to the oppressed, to all those left behind by the kingdoms of this world.

There, at the cross, would we see the great goodness of God reaching out to all of those.And them, we would see them, the poor, the blind, those left behind.We would see them all around and would see the great goodness of God reaching out to them.

Even they are not beyond hope.None of us are.They are not beyond hope.And that hope, that hope for ourselves and for them will fill our hearts.

Our hearts will be filled with hope and with love.The love and goodness of God that reaches out to them and to us will fill our hearts.

I think thatís what Jesus is trying to say.I think thatís what Jesus is trying to say to us this morning, what heís trying to say to you.

Neal Kentch, Cottage Way Christian Church, Sacramento, September 5, 2010