Estimating the Cost

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Luke 14:25-33

This text begins with the statement that large crowds were traveling with Jesus. We know that will change. By the time of his crucifixion, even the twelve will have abandoned him to his death.

These kinds of hyperbolic announcements may have affected the number of folks willing to continue on with Jesus, to be his disciple. If Jesus had had a marketing director, they’d have been pulling their hair out.

I imagine heads snapping up. “What did he say?” “Did he say what I think he said?” Jesus would certainly have had the crowd’s instantaneous attention.

Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

However, what Jesus says about taking the time to estimate the cost can be considered a wise and rational thing to say. Of course it is a good idea to estimate what it will cost before undertaking a large project. Building towers and waging war are large endeavors. Noticeable endeavors.

Our discipleship should be no different, in this regard. Not a subtle thing that can exist under the radar of the status quo, our discipleship is to be a noticeable endeavor.

And noticeable endeavors that are not considered endeavors can easily end in, well, noticeable failures—and great loss.

Jesus is warning those considering themselves his disciples that they should estimate the cost of that before continuing.

It may cost them their closest relationships, their belonging, the source of their identity. Since the household—which could consist of father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—was also the common economic unit, Jesus’ disciples might expect that their discipleship could cost them their current means of making a living.

It will cost carrying the cross—code for participation in self-giving love for others.

It may cost them everything they own.

It may cost them their lives.
And it will cost us.

Our Christian discipleship may cost us relationships, economic means, possessions. It may cost us—as individuals and/or as the church—our reputations, our influence, our security.

It will require us to carry the cross.

It may cost us our lives.

And it is more than worth it.

My husband and I had the joy and delight of attending a Christian wedding this last weekend. Yes, not only a wedding, but a Christian one in a church (these are becoming rare occurrences in the Pacific Northwest…my son, at 16, has attended four funerals but no weddings). The preacher told us that a wedding reminds us of God as Lover, who binds God’s self to us, no matter the cost. The couple’s vows of covenantal, sacrificial love for one another mirrors the covenantal, sacrificial love of God for us. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish.

As we will read in the upcoming stories in Luke, this is a God who searches for the lost, and celebrates when they are found. Christ, the incarnated Love of God, embodies God’s bond with and for us, though it will cost him everything.

Thankfully, God also draws us together into the church, so that we might support, nurture, and encourage one another’s discipleship, for the sake of the world God so loves and in the light and hope of the resurrection.

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