Homily, The Cost
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 18C, 2022
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
The Rev. Derek M Larson, TSSF
Today’s Lectionary Readings:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We’ve all been there. You’re in the market to buy a new house, a car, a movie ticket, a hotel room, a pair of glasses, and you see a great price. You fill out the paperwork. Your address. Shipping information. You read the fine print. All good. And you’re finally ready to click that purchase button when you notice them: The Hidden Fees.
First, there’s a membership fee. Then a convenience charge. There’s taxes and shipping. There’s the warranty. The deluxe up-charge. The travel insurance. The security deposit. The pet deposit. By the time you add it all up the price is twice what you thought it’d be!
But now you’re hooked. You’re invested. You’ve had time to imagine what it will feel like behind that new wheel. The suntan you’ll get on that trip. You’re already a quarter of an hour—maybe more!—into the process. So even though you’d never make the purchase if the real price had been there at the beginning, maybe you just go ahead and click that buy button anyway.
Have you ever done that? I hate that, don’t you? The advertising reels you in and only after you’re invested in the purchase do you get the real cost. But that’s how the sales game works.
Well, judging by our gospel passage this morning, Jesus would have been an awful salesman.
Here he is on his way to Jerusalem with a large following already when suddenly he turns around and rather than telling them all the incredible benefits they get when they sign up to become disciples, he gives them the real cost outright.
And it’s a grim picture Jesus is seemingly painting. You love your family? Get rid of them. Have some cool stuff? Sell all of it. Happy with your life? Not for long. It’s a wonder anyone followed him after this speech.
And it’s all the more difficult for us to hear in today’s commercialized society, because we’re not used to it. We’re used to appealing advertisements. We’re used to being buttered up. We’re used to being told how amazing life will be once we buy a product or sign up for an exercising program. But nobody wants to talk about what it will cost us.
The same is often true of our faith. When we come to Jesus, we expect him to fix everything. We expect suffering to go away. We expect high reward and low cost. But that’s not what Jesus promises us in Scripture.
Instead, Jesus tells it will cost us everything. Everything.
Don’t get me wrong, the way of Jesus is healing. The way of Jesus is resurrection. The way of Jesus is new life. But the way of Jesus first passes through suffering and through the cross. Before we can receive all that Jesus offers, we have to let go of the things we cling to in life. First we are called to let go.
Which is what Jesus really means by the word ‘hate’ in this passage. When Jesus says you have to hate your family, he’s using an ancient, middle eastern, linguistic tool. In other words, he’s exaggerating. He’s using hyperbole to make a point. And the point is that you have to be able to let go of the things that are dearest to you. Not because those things are necessarily wrong, but because when we cling too tightly to something (even when it’s a good thing), we’re unable to receive the life Jesus offers us.
So Jesus is essentially asking those following him, “What’s in your hands? What are you clinging to? What is so important to you that you’re unable to lay it down to take up something new? You say you want to follow me, are you willing to let that go? Have you counted the cost?”
Our own context is different than those who first heard Jesus’ words. We are not literally walking with him to the cross in Jerusalem. And yet the questions remain for us. What are we clinging to? What is keeping us from fully following the way of Jesus? Have we counted the cost or have we committed ourselves to being unchanged? Have we committed ourselves to always being comfortable and set in our ways?
Being a Christian is hard work, and if it’s not, then maybe we haven’t fully committed ourselves to it.
And yet we do it, because we know the cost is worth it. However high the cost there is to following Jesus, the payoff is even higher. We may have to let go of some things, but we trade them in for something greater.
Yes, Jesus tells his disciples to carry the cross with him to Jerusalem, but we also know that Jesus is resurrected in Jerusalem. So when we walk with Jesus, letting go of all our attachments and experience the pain and discomfort of trusting in him rather than ourselves, we can remember the resurrection that lies ahead of us.
This morning you may be clinging to something. You could be clinging to an addiction, or a relationship, or grief, or pleasure, or comfort, or having it your way, or status, or recognition, or fear. You could be clinging to anything: fully committed to whatever it is that makes you feel safe.
But if you want to follow Jesus, that’s what it will cost you. You’re gonna have to let that go. And while the pain or fear of letting it go is great, if you let it go, you’ll find the cost is also the payoff. You’ll find relief. You’ll find that you’ll be just fine without it, because Jesus walks with you and is leading you to resurrection. Amen.