Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A January 26, 2014 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Matthew 4:12-23
Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A January 19, 2014 Second Sunday after the Epiphany Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42
First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A January 12, 2014 First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Matthew 3:13-17
The Epiphany, Year A January 6, 2014 Epiphany, Year A Matthew 2:1-12
Second Sunday After Christmas, Year A January 5, 2014 Second Sunday after Christmas, Year A Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Christmas Eve December 24, 2013 Christmas Eve, 2013 Luke 2:1-20
Third Sunday in Advent, Year A December 15, 2013 Third Sunday in Advent, Year A Isaiah 35:1-10, Matthew 11:2-11
First Sunday in Advent, Year A -The Circle of the Church Year December 1, 2013 Advent 1, Year A Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44
Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Yr C November 24, 2013 Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Year C Luke 23:33-43
Twenty Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C November 17, 2013 Proper 28, Year C Malachi 4:1-2a, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-10
Twenty Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C November 10, 2013 Proper 27, Year C Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:27-38
Twenty Second Sunday After Pentecost, Year C October 20, 2013 Proper 24C Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8
Twenty First Sunday After Pentecost, Year C October 13, 2013 Proper 23, Year C 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c, Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19
Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C October 6, 2013 Proper 22, Year C Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, Psalm 37:1-10, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10
Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C September 29, 2013 Proper 21, Year C Luke 16:19-31

 

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C

Sermon Date:September 8, 2013

Scripture: Luke 14:25-33

Liturgy Calendar: Proper 18, Year C


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While I was on vacation, I saw the movie The Butler. [Link to movie]

Forrest Whitaker as the Butler in Lee Daniels’ filme The Butler (2013)

This movie is about a man named Cecil Gaines,  who left the cotton fields of the Deep South to become a butler in the White House.  His own story is intertwined with the story of the Civil Rights movement in this country. 

Eugene Allen – the real Butler

In the course of time, Cecil marries and he and his wife have two sons, Louis and Charlie.  Louis goes off to college at Fisk University in Tennessee and there he joins a group of students who want to become involved in the Civil Rights movement.  This group is led by James Lawson.

In the first session that Louis attends, Lawson explains the theories behind the non-violent approach he is teaching, and then he has the students count the cost of what they are about to do.  He has them experience some of the things that are going to happen to them if they participate in a non-violent sit in at a segregated diner. 

Counting the cost—the students will be spit on, mocked, called names, physically attacked, and will be arrested.  Will they be able to pay this price? 

Later in the movie, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Louis joins the Black Panther movement.  Again, we find Louis in a classroom, and the teacher here remarks that the people in the room must be prepared to kill others if necessary in their pursuit of justice.

Louis and his girlfriend leave the room and Louis asks her if she is prepared to kill.  She says yes.  But Louis counts the cost.  He is not willing to pay the price of committing murder.  And so he leaves behind his girlfriend and the Black Panthers, returns to college, gets a Master’s Degree, and is eventually elected to Congress, where he continues to work toward civil rights for all. 

In today’s gospel, Jesus turns to the crowd that is following him and tells them that if they wish to be his disciples, they’d better count the cost of their decision to follow him. 

Because following Jesus is more than just walking down a feel good, easy path with other likeminded people.  Following Jesus will require sacrifice.  Following Jesus may involve being mocked, attacked, and may even lead to death. 

Now being a follower of Jesus in America in the past century has meant to be in a place of privilege and power—for most of our lifetimes, following Jesus has been a socially acceptable thing to do—a feel good, easy path.

But this is the 21st century, and we are in a time that is being described as the Post-Christian era.  Christianity, although still strong, is losing its place of privilege in our country. 

And this loss is not just about political decisions that have been made.

This loss has taken place in large part because people have  many other things to do that come before discipleship.  In fact, for many, discipleship and following Jesus have become an inconvenient afterthought—just one more thing to do.

And our definition of discipleship has also gotten cluttered up.  Discipleship is not just about showing up at church once a week for a feel good worship service, or a liturgically proper worship service.

So we have to stop and ask ourselves,

What exactly is discipleship about? 

To find an answer to this question, we have to look back in Luke’s gospel to the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth. 

Jesus believed that he was fulfilling the prophesy of Isaiah, that he was the one who had come into the world to do the following things—and he named  those things that day in the synagogue as he read from the prophet Isaiah.

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to do these things—

To bring good news to the poor.

To proclaim release to the captives.

To bring recovery of sight to the blind.

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor—the jubilee year, when all debts are forgiven, and everyone gets to start over with a clean slate. 

Little wonder that the people of Nazareth were filled with rage and tried to throw him off a cliff at the edge of town.

Because he was challenging them to look beyond themselves, to see the inequities of their society, and to work actively for justice for the poor and the oppressed. 

Privileged people, and we are those people today, find these words to be uncomfortable and challenging when we think about the fact that, if we really  are disciples of Jesus, then this passage from Isaiah is also our job description. 

Look around us—right here in our own town, the inequities are obvious.  We have the privileged side of town, and then there’s the other side of town.  This picture that appeared in yesterday’s Free Lance Star speaks volumes about that side of town.  (Show picture)  
[Link to the article]

As the disciples of Jesus, we can’t ignore these inequities.  Jesus calls us to do something about these things that contribute to these imbalances in our society. 

And so that’s why the words of Jesus for the crowd so long ago have such power for us today—for those of us who truly want to be his disciples—

Because his words to the crowd are about priorities,

about total loyalty to God above everything else that begs for our attention and support, including the things that we hold most dear,

our own well being, and the well being of our families. 

His words are about emptying our lives of all of the things that distract us from being his disciples—about giving up our possessions.

His words today are about giving up the things that keep us comfortable at the expense of the poor—and to put those things to use to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth. 

None of this is easy—and that is why Jesus tells the crowd that if they wish to be his disciples they are going to have to be willing to take up their own crosses in order to follow him. 

What is the cost of this sort of discipleship for us?

One example of the cost of discipleship here at St Peter’s is about actual dollars and cents, sacrificial giving, perhaps. 

Remember the Toilets for Haiti project?  You can read more about this in your bulletin today.  Region One, made up of many churches working together, has been able to come up with almost enough money to carry out this project for three hundred school children who go to the Notre Dame School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  Less than $1500 is needed to have enough money to get this project done—so today’s loose offering is going toward this fund as our share in coming up with this last bit of money.   

And we have been doing some things closer to home as well—contributing  food for the Caroline County Food Bank, and joining in with Parks and Rec and Caroline’s Promise to feed people in our community. 

The Vestry has agreed that we will work toward having a Bible Study in the trailer park.  Mike Newman and I are working on that.   

The jail ministry is also part of this sort of discipleship—reaching out with Good News to those in prison. 

And in town, all of the work on the boundary change will bring good for everyone in our community, rich and poor alike—if the boundary change goes through.   

All of these things are good, and yet, the words of Jesus continue to challenge us, to go beyond what we’re already doing, to get out of our comfort zones, and to seek out even more ways that we can be effective disciples of Jesus out in our community and in the world.

I’d also like to point out that what we do in God’s name needs to be in harmony with God’s law-and once again, putting God before everything else is of the utmost importance.  Moses tells the Israelites who are waiting to cross over into the Promised Land that they are to do three things—to love the Lord, to obey the Lord, and to hold fast to the Lord.  

Our love for God and our obedience to God shape our discipleship. 

Loving God and knowing what God expects from us through studying God’s word, and knowing God’s story of salvation for us, gives us the courage to count the cost, and to decide, that yes, we can pay the price–letting go  of the things that distract us from God’s love, emptying our hands so that we can pick up our crosses and follow after  Jesus– 

So that we can truly be his disciples. 

Amen. 

 

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