The congregation was asked to turn to their neighbors to discuss the following questions:
Small Group Questions
1. How do you think the crowd reacted to Jesus’s words? Confused? Angry? Sad?
2. What do you think is the main point Jesus wants to convey in this passage?
3. What do you think Jesus is asking us to do?
Scripture was written for a community of people and meant to be read in a community. What sticks out to me in a passage may be different from another, but while what that person gleaned from scripture is different than what stuck out to me, it can help me understand that passage better.
Reading scripture together also creates community. When we’re reading scripture together it reinforces that we are a Christ-centered community, which is one of our values.
We are launching small groups and asking small groups to meet weekly for an hour for just 6 weeks beginning in October and ending right before Thanksgiving. Small groups are a time to discuss simple questions like we just did and a time to share prayer requests, and are a great way to find and cultivate community. Group discussion questions will be provided. If you are interested in joining a small group please come talk to me.
Community was important to Jesus, which is why he had the disciples. They were his community. Relationships are important to God and we were made in relationships. God, afterall, is a relational God who desires to be in relationship with us. So why then would Jesus say we must be ready to give up those relationships? And is that really what Jesus is asking of us?
I like what N. T. Wright has to say about this passage. He asks us to imagine a politician saying the same things Jesus did: “Want me in office? Then you’re voting to lose your homes and families. Who’s in?” That person most likely will not be elected. N. T. Wright then asks us to imagine a leader of a great expedition. The purpose of this expedition is to deliver aid to a village that’s been cut off from the rest of the world and one can only get there by forging through a high and dangerous mountain pass. The leader says to those who have answered the call to help: “You’ll have to leave your packs behind. From here on out the path is too narrow and steep to climb with all of your stuff. Also, send your postcards home now because there’s a good chance some of us won’t make it back home.”
This is understandable. We may not like the sound of this, but it makes sense given what lies ahead.
Jesus is more like the leader of that dangerous expedition than a politician wanting more votes.
It’s not that family isn’t important to Jesus. Jesus after all asks John to take care of his own mother as he was dying on the cross. But what Jesus wants us to see is that when there’s a sense of urgency such as there was in the example of the rescue expedition – are we ready to go on a moment’s notice?
The urgency here is that people need hope. People still need rescuing. People need to know that there’s something bigger than this world because the world is a mess. We are a mess.
But God did something about this mess with Jesus Christ. Jesus entered into our mess and continues to walk with us in spite of our mess. And God wants to use us to help people know the hope that is only found in Jesus Christ.
The world is broken and the world needs God. This is why it’s urgent.
Are we ready to answer this urgency by putting Christ first even ahead of those who are nearest and dearest to us and all of our possessions? Jesus is up front about this. It costs us something to follow Jesus. And Jesus wants us to count the cost of discipleship.
Today’s scripture likens the act of following Jesus to rural life: presumably a farmer building a tower so he can watch for thieves or foraging animals invading his land. Does he have enough materials to build such a tower? The other involves a royal house where a king must consider the cost of war. Does he have enough soldiers? Both have to count the cost to see if it’s worth it in the end. Rich and poor alike need to count the cost.
Jesus is essentially giving us a way out of following him. Are we ready to put everything second to Jesus Christ? And if not then we’re not ready.
But is it worth it to follow Jesus Christ? Is it worth the cost? Yes it is.
When we do we enter into a process of redefining and reframing. When we are willing to give up our possessions, our possessions no longer possess us. When we loosen our grip on our families, we are freer to love our families when we put Christ first. When we put Christ first we will experience how Christ helps us to be better partners, parents, and friends to those God has put in our lives.
While Jesus uses the example of family and possessions as what we’d be willing to give up, let’s take a step back. What are some other things that God may be asking you to give up in order to follow him more closely? Maybe giving up or letting go of our hesitation to pray out loud with others or joining a small group where there’s a time to discuss our thoughts about scripture. There’s a fear that most of us have that we’re going to sound unintelligent when it comes to scripture and many of us want to leave it up to the “experts.” That’s not how the Holy Spirit works. We see all over scripture how God uses ordinary and even those of lowly status to further God’s purposes.
God can, does, and will work through ordinary people. Even those and especially those who don’t think God can use them.
It’s why all who profess a faith in Jesus Christ are welcome at this table. This sacrament is a gift from God to us as this sacrament reminds us that we believe in a God who did count the cost of loving us. In the end God decided we were worth it as seen in Jesus who went to the cross for us, so that we have a taste of what real life in Christ is all about.