Salvation is free … but it ain’t cheap

12 09 2007

Texts: Luke 14: 25 – 33; Deuteronomy 30:15-20

About a year or so ago, I had the fortune of being on retreat with my parish’s 20s/30s group at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY. The monk assigned to us for the retreat told us briefly of his life before entering the monastery. He lived in Manhattan, worked hard, had a good life and was quite comfortable financially and materially. But, he felt something was missing in his life and eventually discerned that God was calling him to the vocation of a monk in the Order of the Holy Cross within the Episcopal Church. Today, while he is not living an austere lifestyle by any means, he does live much, much simpler. He spends his days singing and chanting prayers with his brothers and the monastery’s guests, tending to the grounds, and participating in his order’s ministry of hospitality to all who visit. He gave up his nice apartment in New York, his access to everything the city has to offer and has never been happier. He lost one life, and gained another which he would not trade for anything.

In this week’s Gospel passage we constantly hear Jesus’ refrain, “whoever does not … cannot be my disciple.” He calls for us to consider very carefully what it means to follow him. Following Jesus and the loyalty to him that involves creates tensions within ourselves and sometimes with loved ones. In the brief parables that are spoken, we are asked to consider whether or not we have resources to see the journey through. Will we commit ourselves to his discipleship fully? Do we have the right attitude? As Christians, Jesus is the person we give our primary allegiance to, greater than our family our or possessions. The grace and salvation that is offered by God through his Son is given freely … but it doesn’t come cheaply. It costs him his life … and in many ways, it costs us our own.

Jesus also says one of those famous catchphrases which has been used to the point of cliche: “Take up your cross and follow me.” When we meditate on this and think of it in light of our text, it gives us a sobering picture of what the cost is. Jesus highlights the idea that following him is going down a path of self-denial in the sense of a willingness to give up what you have and who you are. It shows a change in priorities from the things of this world to the things of the Kingdom of God. Not only are we called to reject greet or overt materialism, but we are also called to reject our own arrogance and pride. We are called to die to ourselves, to lose our very lives.

So where is the Good News in all of this death? All of these hard sayings? The Good News is that every time Jesus meets a something that is dead … it gets up and walks (see Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter for more details). Jesus is in the business of death and resurrection. In his death, the way has been opened to everlasting life in the presence of God, an everlasting life which starts when we start on our journey with Christ.

Moses said something similar to the tribes of Israel as they were about to enter into the Promised Land. He had given them the Law, and they had entered into a covenant with God, who had brought them out of bondage and slavery. Obedience to the Law and fulfilling their part of the covenant was in many ways a matter of life and death. The parallel here is that following Jesus is a matter of death and life. The Law was never meant to be a burden for Israel, but a gift. There are many laws and statutes to be found (613 I believe!) but they all rested upon “Love the Lord your God and cleave to him.” Anything that happened could be dealt with as long as they held fast to the one who saved them. That is an attitude which comes as a response to God’s love for us. We are to love him as he has loved us.

What is the cost of discipleship? Everything. God gave up everything for us and for our salvation. It’s free, but it doesn’t come cheaply. We are told that unless we are willing to give up our entire selves, our whole substance, that we cannot be Jesus’ disciples. But in that cost, on the other side of death and living into resurrection, we know and experience true freedom and true life.

Amen.

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