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Sermon - 9/8/19
2019.09.08 22:47:40

Proper 18/C [Pent. 13] (2019): Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-35.  

 

Choose,        “…I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…” (v. 19).

 

Over the last few Sundays, Jesus impresses on us, that entering the Kingdom of God comes at cost, not only to God, but us as well, a cost that is in the nature of any faith relation. Yes, the HS graciously imparts faith to us for salvation in Christ; and by that gift there is remains nothing you need do for your salvation; simply believe!

 

But faith once received, denotes a motivated relationship in the life bestowed by faith. Yet fallen man is ignorant of God and his ways; so, Jesus beckons us to follow him, our guide for growing faith, urging us, “carry [our] own cross” (Lk. 14:27). If we are acolytes, followers of Jesus, then it is only prudent that we consider the cost to us. Jesus provides two examples; a construction engineer and a warlord.

 

To successfully complete a tower project, the builder must evaluate time, labor, materials, and architectural integrity, otherwise the tower may fail and kill many (cf. 13:4). As for kings, prime ministers, presidents, or generals contemplating battle against a superior force they either win at all costs, or suffer ruin. Both must count the costs of their enterprise.

 

So also, entering into the church’s faith, there is a cost that calls for absolute trust in the One who promises. Jesus implies, it would be better not to follow at all than do so half-heartedly, possessed of divided loyalties.  

 

Discipleship is an “all or nothing” affair; Jesus puts the matter in personal terms, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (v. 26).

 

To follow Jesus, love of God must supersede the love of earthly kin; this brings to our mind the tragedy of the Rich Ruler (18:18 ff.) who after an initial enthusiasm to follow, found that in his case the loss of wealth, estates, and earthly family forced a reconsideration (8:14, parable of the Sower).

 

If we are asked about our own core values, you might answer, “family first”. But in light of Jesus’ mission to establish a new family of faithful men and women by the procreating power of God’s new Adam, your response of “family first” only begs another question, “Which family?”

 

Jesus drills down, requiring us to identify and “choose” in which family we hold “first” loyalty; our earthly relations begotten by the will of man, or heaven’s kin begotten of the Father by the HS through water and word?

 

Baptized into Christ, in every circumstance, we are confronted with an ultimate choice: life or death. Let’s be clear, our choice has nothing to do with a sectarian, self-initiated “decision for Jesus”. God, by Jesus’ work on the cross and raising him the new man from the grave, has already made his decision for you. By water and word you are enfolded into his family to a new begetting from above.

 

Christ has accomplished universal salvation for all who receive it, those not ignoring or rejecting the gift; there is no middle way. Thus, two Sunday’s ago, Jesus urged his followers concerning their faith, that they endure and “struggle to enter [the Kingdom] through the narrow Door” (Luke 13:24).

 

We are saints by Baptism and sinners by our fleshly nature relating to God by faith alone, trusting that God is faithful whose promises in Christ are true. We are constantly engaged in a spiritual struggle to choose between that which is set before us, “life and good, death and evil” (Dt. 30:15). Each and every day God by the HS encourages and empowers you in Christ to choose life and good for you.

 

Make no mistake, apart from our baptismal locatedness in the crucified flesh of the man Jesus as our source of life, good intentions toward God are worthless, vane, and hypocrisy. Of yourself, you neither possess the materials to build a tower reaching to God, nor the strength to defeat advance of hell. Christ alone is the foundation of our reach to God and the One who has defeated of the strong man. Jesus is our teacher of trigonometry to prevail at all costs.  

 

Baptism enrolled you into God’s School of Faith for an ever-increasing knowledge of God and his ways in Christ (cf. Jn. 17:3), who alone has lain waste to hell’s armies; Jesus is the bridge of your heavenly elevation. In God’s School of Faith we wrestle, attending his word and sacrament. Our struggle never abates until our last breath; but neither does our knowledge of God and his Christ abate in eternity’s continuum.

 

Members of your earthly family may or not be committed to the new Life you have chosen in faith; after all, this is a fragmented and devolving world. Each of us individually comes before God, the “Magistrate”. We arrive with Jesus either as our Accuser for lack of faith; or with him as Advocate by faith in his word (Lk. 12:57-59).

 

Jesus prescribes, “hate” your family in the world. This is not an attitude of emotion or feeling; rather it describes love’s witness that you have chosen, Life in God’s kingdom to the exclusion of all other loyalties.

 

Your approach toward family members not in Christ, does not abandon, neither do we avoid our first loyalty toward the congregation of the Baptized; who knows how the HS will work through you captured by God’s word? Nevertheless, your unqualified allegiance belongs first to your new family in Christ. Indeed, God precisely sent Jesus for division among earthly families (Lk. 12:49-51).

 

Jesus calls his followers “good salt”, yet in context Jesus is best translated, “salt is beautiful” (14:34). Jesus describes our collective identity in Baptism; we are one with him in his sacrificial water and blood rendered from his side. Jesus warns, if you lose your salted beauty, by setting aside his word infused into your flesh, then you will be “insipid”, “good” only for the rubbish (v. 35).

 

At God’s end-time banquet we are the essential condiment, “salt”. How do we understand the analogy? Meals in the ancient world were shared with kin around a common table, passing the salt between one another. Attending guests also shared communal salt, a sign of hospital inclusion in the family, tribe, or clan. The guest was on a par, participating in familial rights, prerogatives, privileges, and protection. Thus, an ally of the king, being invited to dine, was said to “eat the salt of the palace” (Ezra 4:14) and so confessing himself a loyal ally.

 

At Sinai, God established sacrificial fellowship for pleasing worship. Israel daily would offer on the Altar of Presence sacrifices of flour seasoned with salt, a “grain offering”. The loaves were offered to God and returned as the priesthood’s Bread.  

 

Of this “grain offering”, God commanded, “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with you’re God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt (Lev. 2:13). God was emphatic about salt with the grain sacrifice. By consuming the bread from the Altar, the priests were made holy for service, assuring the people of God’s graciousness toward them through the ministry of priesthood.

 

In this NT time, God’s presence and Name is now with his new Temple, Jesus’ crucified and risen flesh. Jesus described his coming death as a fallen Seed. His sacrifice in the cross’ fire is the choice he made to be an offering of “beautiful salt”. We too, united with Christ in Baptism are by faith the “salt” of Jesus’ offering (Jn. 12:24)”.

 

The Father having received Jesus’ “once for all” sacrifice, delivers to us our Bread of Life in word and Sacrament, making our worship a new kinship of those who “eat the salt of the palace”.

 

Acts 1:4 describes Jesus with his Apostles at a point before his triumphal Ascension; the scene is wrongly translated as, “[Jesus] while staying with them”. But you, having ears to hear recognize application and intent of the words as, “[Jesus] sharing Salt with them…”, (“sunalizomenos”), a euphemism for “eating with them’. In other words, Jesus’ last meal as he was visible to his church was a Eucharistic feeding, even as today we discern his presence in word and Sacrament.  

 

From our Epistle, St. Paul returned Onesimus, a member of God’s family, to Philemon his earthly owner in Colossae. By Paul’s letter Philemon must make a choice; either break church fellowship considering Onesimus as returned run-away property; or he must act on his core Christian value of “family first”, that Onesimus is a Eucharistic brother, and in action provide an answer to Jesus’ implied question “which family?” Amen.

 

pem.




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