Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 9, 2001
The Gospel: Luke 14:25-33
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 9, 2001
A chicken and a pig were walking down the side of the road early in the morning. The chicken was getting kind of hungry when he saw a diner ahead. When they got a little closer he saw a sign that said Breakfast special Ham and Eggs, $1.99. The chicken turned to the pig and said, "That's a great deal and I'm hungry. Let's go eat." The pig turned to the chicken and said, "Naw, I don't want to go there." The chicken was a little upset. He said, "Look, I'm starved. Let's go eat." The pig said, No! I don't want to go there." By this time they were right outside the diner and the chicken was really angry. "Would you please tell me why you don't want to go eat. The pig looked at the chicken and said, "Look for you to eat eggs and ham all you have to do is make a contribution. For me, it's whole hog commitment."
Commitment is what Jesus is calling for from his disciples. Jesus has a crowd following him to Jerusalem. In the crowd there are a variety of people. They have various occupations. They have different degrees of social status. Some of them are ill. Some of them are hungry. Some of them believe in him fully. Some are just tagging along. Jesus knows the crowd. He knows some believe and he knows some are just along for the ride. So, he challenges them. He calls for total commitment to God. He tells them to leave the family behind and pick up their cross and follow. He also tells them to be sure they want to follow. His parables concerning the tower and the king with his army are designed to cause reflection on two questions. Do you know what it is you are following? Are you ready to make God your first commitment?
We are asked the same questions today. Where are our priorities? Is God first in our lives? The world we live in has many people, places and things that can draw our priorities away from God. For example, I am assuming we have all heard of a band called "The Grateful Dead". This small band of musicians had an incredible following. Groupies of this band followed the group whereverthey went. They would sell anything to get the gas and the cost of the ticket to attend the next concert. Many of these people would do anything to follow that band. Being in the presence of the band was their number one priority and commitment.
Many of us will not be "Grateful Dead Groupies" but we may have other aspects of our lives that pull us away from God as our number one priority. Our families, our jobs, our bank accounts, even the sports activities we like can become our number one priorities. They can wedge their way into our commitment to God.
I'm not saying these people and activities are not important, but how do they rank in our lives. One lady in a church was once heard saying, "We don't come to church on Sunday mornings. Sunday is the one day of the week we have our family time together. The kids are busy with homework, music and athletic practice. In my real estate job I'm at the office until 6:30 and my husband doesn't get home until after 8:00. We are just too tired to attend church on Sundays. Where are their priorities? I submit their jobs and activities are their priorities. God is not a priority in their lives and neither is the family. If family was a priority then they would have more family time than Sunday morning.
How can we tell where our priorities lie in our lives? We might begin by looking at our schedule. Where do we spend our time? Looking at our schedules may cause some surprising answers. Instead of God being our number one priority we may find work is number one. Recent studies have shown people are working much longer than the forty hour week. Many people are in the sixty to seventy range. If we fall into that category we probably have work as our number one priority.
How many hours are we spending in athletic or recreational endeavors? In Greensboro, I have seen sports travel teams for soccer and baseball where kids are practicing four days a week and playing in tournaments two to three weekends a month. These children are involved in these activities for twenty to thirty hours a week, plus their school work, plus family time, plus music lessons, dance lessons, recitals, and the list is endless. What priority does God play in their lives?
I want to be sure I'm not being misunderstood. I am not against families. I am pro-family. I am not against work. We have to work. I am not against sports. I love sports and athletic activities. However, when we allow anything to come between our selves and our relationship to God we are challenging our commitment to God. We have made something else in our lives our God. This false God could be a person, our job, a baseball, a football, a soccer ball, our check book. Whatever it is we put our relationship with the true God on the back burner in order to accommodate this false God.
Where do our priorities lie? Where does our commitment to God stand in our lives? Jesus challenged the disciples on these questions and we are challenged today. Are we committed to following a living God with our time, our talent and our treasure, or does God simply receive a donation? We all have to struggle with the answer to this question. We all have to face the possibility that our priorities are out of line. Today we are given a gift. We are given the opportunity to reflect and see what our priorities are. We are given the opportunity to make a commitment to put God first in our lives.