Sunday, September 14, 2014

According To Luke: Are You Salty?

Are You Salty?

Luke 14:25-35   (NRSV)
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.

“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

When I was growing up --- if somebody was referred to as "salty" it wasn't a complement.

People who were referred to as speaking with "salty" language meant that they were probably cussing.

So, being salty wasn't a good thing.

But in our passage this morning Jesus seems to be asking us to be "salty".

So what is it that Jesus meant when he asks us to be salty?

Luke puts this story in the context of a very difficult discussion on what the cost of being a disciple is.

Jesus seems to want to make sure we all understand just how much it will cost us to be a follower of Jesus.

Jesus uses a number of very challenging illustrations --- especially in our English translations.

The first Jesus says:
“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.

He isn't serious is he?

Do we really have to HATE our parents -- our spouse --- our children and our siblings?

Do we really have to HATE life itself?

I thought Jesus ethic was to LOVE one another? 
Now he is telling us to HATE those that we love?
          I am so confused!

Let me try to put this saying into context --- but as I do, I think we need to keep in mind just how serious Jesus is about the message here.

First, according to Allan Culpepper in his commentary on Luke, he writes:
This is "a Semitic hyperbole that exaggerates a contrast so that it can be seen more clearly.  'Hate' does not mean anger or hostility.  It indicates that if there is a conflict, one's response to the demands of discipleship must take precedence over even the most sacred of human relationships."

In other words --- GOD MUST BE FIRST.

Certainly that isn't a new or surprising concept.

The first two commandments of the Ten Commandments tells us that God is God alone and that God must be the absolute center of our lives.

Remember the Shema or Jesus Prayer ---
"Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength."


Second, according to Culpepper:
"this saying may have had a very practical function in the lives of the first Christians.  In the Gospels we see the disciples as an itinerant band.  It has been suggested that this portrait reflects the situation of the earliest Christians.  Discipleship required a willingness to leave home and family and travel with minimal provisions from village to village in order to proclaim the gospel."

Sometimes I feel like I really understand this concept.

As I drove out to LA last month I thought a great deal about all the times that I was not there for my family.

All the times that I sacrificed my time with them for what I thought was the way of Jesus.

Sometimes, I have absolutely no doubt, but that in missing the soccer game, or the family dinner, I did the right thing.

          Especially when it was a time of crisis.

But I missed many other family functions just because I felt guilty that I had to give them up for such and such a meeting or church function ----- And I think I was wrong!

But that is neither here nor there.

What Jesus is challenging us with is --- is the reality that if we want to be a disciple God must be first!
          God is first
          My friends and family are second
          I am third

Remember that saying that was popularized in Brian's Song.

Then Jesus gives us two parables that might have been titled: Fools at Work and War.

The stories are pretty simple:

Jesus tells us that a prudent person would never begin a project unless they could be sure that it could be completed.

A king would never go to war unless they knew that they had enough soldiers to at least make the odds even.

Jesus seems to be saying --- by logical extension --- that God has not entered a redemptive process without being prepared to complete it --- and Jesus did not set his face to Jerusalem without being prepared to face what was going to be required of him there.

Jesus is saying none of us should step forward as a disciple unless we are prepared to forsake EVERYTHING for the sake of following Jesus.

And then we get our SALTY passage ---- and in it Jesus seems to be asking: WHERE DO YOU STAND?

·         What are your priorities?
·         What are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom?

·         Where are you being SALTY for God?

As I pondered this passage a question kept coming back to me --- for me it is a terrifying question --- because I am taking it very seriously.

I am convinced that the message of Jesus is an invitation for you and me to join him in building the Kingdom of God --- not up in heaven but in Munster, and Hammond and Gary and Afghanistan and Iraq.

And if that is true --- and I am convinced it is --- a question comes to mind --- God seems to be asking --- HOW HAVE YOU MADE A KINGDOM DIFFERENCE THIS WEEK?

Have you ever asked yourself that?

That is a tough question!


But before you start beating yourself up ---- let's start with some real simple ways that we can make a kingdom difference.

Did you smile?

Did you stop the gossip (or pass it on)

Did you perform a random act of kindness?

See it really isn't that hard.

And while we all need to start with the simple ways of making a kingdom difference ultimately Jesus wants us to continue to grow and nurture Kingdom values in our lives.

But I think there is a second part to that question that is maybe even more important, because when we read the Bible God is more concerned about community than he is about individuals --- so God asks us --- HOW IS RIDGE CHURCH MAKING A KINGDOM DIFFERENCE?

Everything we do --- we should be asking ourselves that question --- and if we can't figure out a way that it makes a KINGDOM difference --- then we shouldn't be doing it!


This past Thursday at the Munster Chamber of Commerce meeting that was held here at Ridge Church --- the leaders of the Munster community meet here at Ridge Church three or four times a year (I think that is great!)

But at the meeting we had a presentation by Adam Gawlikowski of Applied Leadership Services and he talked about having an elevator speech.

Have any of you heard that expression before?
          An Elevator Speech

An elevator speech is a speech that you might give to a stranger in an elevator (or any place else where the opportunity arises) to introduce yourself.

Now obviously Adam was talking about these speeches as a means to sell or introduce your business or product --- but I think it applies to us as followers of Jesus as well.

When given the opportunity --- what would you share about your faith and relationship to Jesus?

When Jesus asks you where you stand --- in many ways he is asking what you belove.

Who is Jesus to you?

How does your life demonstrate that you belove him?

If you want to wrestle with this (and I hope that you do) I invite you to join me beginning on October 5th as I lead a class designed to help you understand what you belove.

This class certainly would be beneficial for those who have children in confirmation (because we will be looking at similar topics as the confirmation class) as well as those who have committed to being a mentor.
          But it would also be beneficial for YOU.

We will look at topics ranging from scripture to theology to history and spirituality.  One of my favorite sessions is titled HERETICS WE HAVE KNOWN

It is an opportunity to wrestle with what we mean when we say Jesus is Lord.

The whole point of the class is that I am not going to give you the answers --- what I am going to do is help you explore the questions.

If you have questions about this class --- grab me and let's talk

Finally, in your bulletin this morning is a half sheet flyer inviting you to get involved in a ministry team.  It is a chance for you to put what is important into practice.

I challenge you to shock me --- Tuesday morning when I come in to the office don't let there be a stack of 10 or 20 of these be waiting for me --- let there be a stack of 100.

Everybody can fill one out.  There is a place for everyone to be in ministry!

I am convinced that when we stand before God on the day of our death God isn't going to ask us if we believed in the virgin birth --- how we voted in the latest election --- or even how much money we gave to the church ---- I AM CONVINCED that the question that God will ask each of us is HOW MUCH DID YOU LOVE?

How much we love is reflected in the ways that we help Jesus build the Kingdom of God here on earth.

So be salty for God.

Add God's flavor to your life and let it add flavor to those that you meet.

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