Where is God in this?

Text: Luke 16:19-31

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

This morning our Gospel reading is one of the most striking stories in the whole Bible. Jesus tells this story about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus who lives outside the rich man’s gate. There are many sermons that could be preached on this text just by focusing the rich man and how he neglects to do anything to help poor Lazarus who is suffering out there at the gate of his extensive property. It seems obvious, this rich man ought to have done something, anything, to help out Lazarus. But this morning I’d like to get us thinking in a bit of a different direction, I’d like us to focus on Lazarus.

Lazarus is in a pretty miserable situation as we meet him in our reading today. He is laying out there at the rich man’s gate. He has basically been abandoned there. Somebody got tired of having Lazarus around so they pick him up and carried him somewhere so that he would be someone else’s problem. They tossed him down on the ground outside the rich man’s gate and figured that maybe the rich guy would do something for Lazarus, but Lazarus gets no help at all. He is poor. Brutally poor. He doesn’t have 2 cents to his name, he has no home, no food, very little clothing, and basically no friends in the world who care enough to take care of him. He has nothing. As he lays there all he wants is to be able to eat some of the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table. That’s all he wants that would be enough to satisfy him, but even that is out of reach.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Lazarus is covered in sores from head to two. A lifetime of poverty has taken its toll. He body is breaking down and his open sores cause excruciating pain. The only ones who care enough about Lazarus are the dogs who come to lick his sores, but it is hard to tell if they are really helping or just making things worse.

It’s a pretty grim picture. It’s unpleasant just to think about it, honestly. But that was the reality for Lazarus. If we put ourselves in his shoes for a minute, what do you think Lazarus might have been thinking as he sat there outside the rich man’s gate? I wonder if Lazarus ever wondered why this was happening to him or why he couldn’t at least have a fraction of what that rich man had in this world. I know that is what I would be thinking. I wonder if Lazarus questioned why God had seemingly abandoned him like this. Lazarus was a faithful Christian. He knew about the promised Messiah that God had promised to send to save His people and he believed those promises. He knew that God loves and care for His people and that He had promised to save them and all people from their sin. Lazarus knew all this and he believed all this. We know this about Lazarus because at the end of the story Lazarus is in heaven, you don’t get there without this kind of faith. I wonder if Lazarus wondered what the point of this Christian faith is if you’re just left like this outside some rich guy’s gate with no food and dogs licking your sores anyway. Where is God in this?

We don’t really know what Lazarus thought when all this was happening, but it would be natural for Lazarus to think this way, I think. And if Lazarus did wonder about things like this and was troubled and conflicted about these kinds of things then he is hardly the first person or the last to think this way. Any Christian who has ever suffered, who has ever gone through difficult times, has been there too.

We probably have never had it as bad as Lazarus did, very few people in North America have, but like Lazarus it is easy for us to look at the world around us and see how so many people have it so much better than we do. Our sinful hearts are so very quick to covet, to see what other people have and become envious or jealous. This is especially true when things are going badly for us. At times like that we look up from our own misery at the people around us and wonder why we can’t have life the way they have life. Why can’t we just have a fraction of what they have? Why do they have it so good and we have it so bad? “I’m a Christian, for goodness sake, where is God in this?” we might ask ourselves.

Just like Lazarus, we would not be the first to feel this way. A guy in the Old Testament named Asaph was appointed by King David to serve as a musician in the Tabernacle and he wrote a Psalm that expresses these same kinds of thoughts. Here are a few verses from Psalm 73:

1 Certainly God is good to Israel,
and to those whose are pure in heart!
But as for me, my feet almost slipped;
my feet almost slid out from under me.
For I envied those who are proud,
as I observed the prosperity of the wicked.
For they suffer no pain;
their bodies are strong and well-fed.
They are immune to the trouble common to men;
they do not suffer as other men do.

13 I concluded, “Surely in vain I have kept my motives pure
and maintained a pure heart.
14 I suffer all day long,
and am punished every morning
.”

Asaph says that he knows that God is good to His people Israel, but he did stumble into some doubts because he saw how the wicked people, the people in this world who reject God and His Word, prosper in this life. Everything is good for these people, Asaph notices, they have it easy. So, he comes to the conclusion that everything that he has done trying to live a life faithful to God’s Word has been in vain and useless. “I suffer all day long,” he says, “what is the point of being faithful? The wicked people, the unbelievers, they don’t suffer like me? Where is God in this?”

Where is God in this? Right in the middle of it. When we suffer, when God’s people anywhere in any time and in any place suffer, God is in the midst of it. Because God came to us in human flesh and lived in the midst of all this suffering that we see around us. Jesus came and lived among us, but He also suffered and died for us. In the midst of His suffer He shouted out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Exactly what we might feel in the midst of our suffering and exactly how Lazarus might have felt outside the rich man’s gate. Christ Jesus was forsaken for us so that we can know with certainty that we are never forsaken by our God. He was forsaken so that all our sins could be forgiven, even the sins of looking around at others and coveting the life and possessions that they have. All of it is forgiven. We know that we are never forsaken. Even if we were to suffer and be as destitute and down and out as Lazarus laying outside the rich man’s gate being licked by dogs, we know that we are never forsaken because our sins have been paid for by the blood of Jesus.

Lazarus knew this. This was the faith that sustained him as he suffered and even as he died. Lazarus died. Luke doesn’t even tell us whether or not anybody bothered to bury his body. Maybe no one cared enough. But, his soul was carried by angels to heaven to rest in paradise and wait for the day when Jesus would come again to this earth and raise even that malnourished, sore covered, dog licked body to new and glorious life.

Asaph, the psalm writer, knew this too. Let’s look at a few more words from Psalm 73 where he concludes:

23 But I am continually with you, O Lord;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me by your wise advice,
and then you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom do I have in heaven but you?
I desire no one but you on earth.
26 My flesh and my heart may grow weak,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

In the midst of whatever struggle and suffering we face, as much as it seems as if we have been abandoned by our God and the wicked and sinful world around us has won, we know this truth. Our God is continually with us and, one day, when our time on this earth has reached its end, He will receive us into heavenly glory through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Though our flesh may get worn out by the toils and troubles of this world, though our hearts may seem to break and languish under the worries of the day, our God, who came to us in our human flesh and died and rose again to save us, is our strength and portion forever.

The story of Lazarus is, at first, a miserable one. His life is grim and painful. Sometimes our lives might feel like that too, but like Lazarus we look forward to something greater because we are Christians who have faith in Jesus Christ and the power of His death and resurrection. We don’t need to look all around at the world and covet what this world offers because our eyes are fixed on Jesus. No matter what we face in this world, no matter how much it feels like we have been forsaken or cut off, we know that He is always with us and that He is risen from the dead. With Jesus we will rise and the sorrows and sadness of this world will be long gone. In Jesus name, Amen.

Advertisements

Praying in Two Kingdoms

Text: 1 Timothy 2:1-6

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Smart pastors don’t talk about politics. Especially not on Sunday morning from the church pulpit. Smart pastors don’t do that, it is not a good idea. When I told my grandfather that I was going to go to seminary and become a pastor he told me that there were three things in people’s lives that you don’t mess around with: their money (he was an accountant), their faith, and their politics. Don’t mess with that stuff and combining two of those things together makes things complicated really fast. Smart pastors don’t talk politics. I guess I’m not a very smart pastor, because I’m going to talk politics a little bit this morning, but only kind of.

This morning in our epistle reading Paul says this in his letter to Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Paul urges Timothy, who is a young pastor, to make sure that prayers are said for all people. He uses four different words to describe these prayers (supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings), but they are all different parts of the same thing. Pray for all people, Paul is saying.

But Paul does not just leave this encouragement to prayer wide open and non-specific. He does want us to pray for everyone, but he also wants us to pray specifically for kings and all those who are in high positions. “Pray for all people,” Paul is saying, “even for kings and leaders and the rulers of this world.” So really it’s Paul bringing politics into all of this not me. So don’t blame me.

Prayer is a tricky thing and so is knowing what to pray for, sometimes. When we pray there are somethings that are easy to pray for. If we are going through some kind of difficult time it is easy to pray about that. It is also pretty easy to pray a prayer of thanksgiving thanking God for what He has done for us. When someone is sick it is easy to pray for them too. But there are some things that we might never think to pray about on our own. Kings and other rulers might be a good example of that. How often do we think about how much our Queen, Prime Minister, Premier and other leaders need our prayers? But that is exactly who Paul is saying that we should be praying for. When we get together as the people of God here at church we should be praying for these kinds of people. But why?

First of all, leaders, rulers, and governments are gifts from God. It may not always seem like it and we may not always like them or the decisions that they make, but “kings and everyone who is in a high position” is a gift given to us by God for our own wellbeing.

Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we say these words: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Our daily bread consists of everything that is necessary to support us in our lives in this world. Daily bread includes food, clothing, shelter, family, friends, neighbours, doctors, nurses, and all kinds of other things that support and maintain our lives. When I teach this part of the Lord’s Prayer to kids in confirmation classes I show them a bunch of pictures and ask them if each item in the picture qualifies as daily bread. One of the pictures I usually include is of the parliament buildings in Ottawa. Is this daily bread? Some say yes and some say no. Government, politics, rulers, and kings are daily bread. Through them God provides for our needs in this life. Through them we have peace, security, freedom, justice, and many other basic necessities of life. Rulers, kings, and governments at every level are gifts to us from God.

So we should pray for our government and our leaders and thank God for them. They are daily bread to us. So often though we do the exact opposite of giving thanks. We grumble and complain about policies, we get frustrated and angry about wasted money or high taxes, and we slander and say terrible things about these people who are leaders over us when things don’t go our way. But even if our leaders are terrible Paul urges us to pray for them. When Paul wrote his letter to Timothy, Nero was the Roman emperor. Nero was a nasty guy. He killed Christians like crazy and blamed a massive fire in that happened in the city of Rome on the Christians so that everyone would hate them. And yet, Paul urges Christians then to pray for their kings and leaders, even Emperor Nero. They are gifts from God to us.

Paul gives us another reason to pray for our leaders. He says we should pray for them so that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life” because “this is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” Paul’s point here is that we should pray for our leaders so that we as Christians can lead quiet and peaceful lives as Christians and, as we live those quiet and peaceful lives, the Word of God might be proclaimed through us. As we live as the people of God in this world with our lives formed and shaped by the Word of God and the cross of Jesus Christ the world is brought into contact with Jesus. When we as Christians live our regular everyday lives and love our neighbour as ourselves the world sees the love of God which is so deep that it sent Christ into this world that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life. We pray for our leaders, Paul says, because they are the reason we can live quietly and peacefully in this world and through our lives proclaim Jesus to the world around us. And this is pleasing to God because God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

The underlying point to everything that Paul is saying in these couple of verses that he wrote to Timothy is that we ought to consider how we as Christians function in the world we live in. We may not think about it this way all the time, but it is like we are living in two different kingdoms at the same time all of the time. As Christians we are children of God and live in the Kingdom of God already right now. But at the same time we are Canadians and citizens of this world. So how does or citizenship in God’s Kingdom impact our citizenship in our country and our nation?

The key is understanding that we are citizens through our baptism into Christ of a Kingdom that will endure forever but we also live in a kingdom that is passing away. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul encouraged the people saying, “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” In the old King James Version it says “Redeem the days because they are evil.” As Christians this is what we do, we redeem these evil days and make the best use of the time that we have in this world serving the kingdom of God. We are to make the best use of the time that we have here because the kingdom of this world is evil and dying, it is corrupted by sin, but we know of another Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, and we live in the Kingdom already and it will never pass away. When we think this way our lives in the world take on a new meaning. All of a sudden it is not simply us living for ourselves and enjoying what time we have, we become the people of God, His witnesses and messengers, in a dying and evil world.

We can be the praying people of God in this world. We pray for this world, all the people in it, and even the leaders of it. We pray that the Word of God would go out to every corner of this world so that every person who walks on this earth from the world leaders right down to the lowliest peasant may know the saving power of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection on our behalf that saves from sin and death.

Often times people think that if our government was just different or is there were better people in the powerful positions that the world would be a better place. But we as Christians know better. The world is the way it is because it is sinful and so are we. The only solution to our sin and the sin of the whole world is Jesus. Psalm 146 sums this up nicely:

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

 

As Christians we know that our one hope is in the one and only God and the one and only mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all. Christ Jesus, our Saviour and our God, has given us hope beyond this sinful world and into eternity. He has made us the people of God in this dying and sinful world. We ought to pray for this sinful world that we still live in even as we look forward to the Kingdom of Christ which will never end. Amen.

Seeking and Saving the Lost

Text: Luke 15:1-10

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

Last weekend I replaced the screen in our back door at home. It’s a sliding door that opens up out onto our patio and for a long time it’s had a big hole in it right about at Rachel’s height when she is crawling. We went to Rona and bought a new screen and everything else I thought I would need. When we got home I got to work on it right away, but as I took the old screen off I quickly realized that a knife would probably be really helpful. I was going to need one to trim the new screen anyway, so I went to my tool box to get my knife. But it wasn’t there. I checked again, still not there. I went downstairs where we keep the tools, not there either. I went upstairs because maybe someone used it up there and didn’t put it back, no luck. I went out to my very mess garage and took a look there but, as far as I could tell, it wasn’t there either.

By this point I was getting pretty frustrated. I just wanted to replace this screen and it should not have been this much trouble. Leah was working on supper as I was stomping through the house in frustration looking for the knife and she reminded me that we used it at the church when we were getting ready for VBS. Maybe it was still there?

Sure enough, when I checked at the church there was a bag in my office filled with things from VBS that I had completely forgotten about. At the bottom of that bag under everything else was the knife. Now that knife is probably only worth $10, but in that moment it was priceless. When I got home with the knife I felt kind of like the shepherd that Jesus describes in our Gospel reading this morning who has found the one sheep that was missing. It was only a silly knife, but I wanted to say “Rejoice with me, for I have found the knife that I had lost!”

There is a certain joy that comes with finding something that has been lost. If you have ever lost anything and found it you know what that is like. Jesus talks about this joy in our reading today. Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners and the Pharisees and scribes don’t like it very much. They grumble about this and complain to Jesus that He spends time with sinners like this. So Jesus responds with a parable about a shepherd who seeks after a lost sheep.

The shepherd had a flock of 100 sheep, but one of them was missing. This poor little, lonely sheep had wandered away from the others and was lost somewhere. So the shepherd left the 99 other sheep behind in the field and went looking for that one sheep that was lost. When he found the lost sheep he picked it up, put it on his shoulders, and carried it home rejoicing the whole way. When he arrived at home he called out to his friends and neighbours, “Rejoice with me, I found my sheep that was lost!”

This kind of joy comes from finding something of value, something that is important to us. Shepherds value their sheep, they care about them. Leah, Hannah, and I lived for a year on a sheep ranch in northern BC. The shepherd who ran the ranch was a grumpy old guy who didn’t like me very much, but I always knew that he and his wife cared about their sheep. They could look at the whole flock and remember which year each of them were born, who the mother was, and anything else that had happened in their life. A shepherd can’t be a shepherd unless they have sheep, every single sheep has value. Finding a lost one is a time for joy.

This joy is how Jesus describes the response in heaven when any sinner repents. “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance,” Jesus says. Heaven rejoices and all the angels in heaven rejoice as sinners are brought into contact with Jesus, as sinners are forgiven by the words of Jesus, as sinners are transformed into saints by the blood of Jesus. Heaven rejoices when sinners are brought to Jesus because this is the very thing that Jesus came into this world to do.

In our epistle reading today Paul says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Jesus came into this world to seek and save the lost; to seek and save sinners, from sin, death, and the devil. That is why Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners. He has come to save these people, to save sinners.

Jesus came into this world to seek and save sinners because they are valuable to Him. Jesus eats with sinners because He values them. He hangs around with tax collectors and other societal rejects because He values them. Heaven rejoices over sinners because sinners are valuable to Jesus. It’s not that their sins do not matter or are inconsequential. Not at all. All sins are deadly. Sin is always rebellion against God and leads to eternal destruction apart from God, but Jesus came into this world to save sinners. To save them from the death that is the result of their sin. Jesus values sinners so much that He will give up His own life on the cross and bleed and die for sinners and heaven rejoices at this work.

You are one of those sinners that Jesus values and came to seek and save. Our hearts are in a constant struggle between being faithful to Jesus and full and outright rebellion against God. Our thoughts are full of things that a Christian ought not to think. Our actions don’t always seem very Christian. Sometimes words come out of our mouths that don’t sound like something you would want Jesus to hear you say. These are all symptoms of the sinful condition we were born with. We are sinners, we sin in thought, word, and deed every day. We are sinners by nature. And nothing about sinners like us would seem particularly valuable. But Christ Jesus came in human flesh to seek and save you.

Today we eat at Jesus table. Just like He did back then, Jesus still invites sinners to eat with Him. Today Jesus invites us to come to His table and He will eat with sinners like us, better yet, He will feed sinners like us with His own body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus eats with sinners, He eats with you.

And Heaven rejoices over you. Heaven rejoices that your Shepherd, Jesus, has found you and brought you home. Your presence here at the table really is a reason to rejoice. What was lost has been found.

It is amazing to think this way, to think that we are of such value to our Saviour. But Jesus is also warning us here not to think of ourselves more highly than others. There is a danger that we become like the Pharisees in our Gospel reading and start to think that we are better than other people. When we read “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” that means everyone. Christ Jesus came into this world to save each and every fallen human being who is under the same curse of sin that we are under.

That means that as we encounter people every day in our lives we encounter people for whom Jesus died. The rude person we bump into on the street, the drug addict who hassles us for change, the self-centred people who take advantage of us, all of them, and everyone else, are sinners for whom Christ died. We rejoice in what Christ has done for us and we should also rejoice over what Christ has done for every other person. They are valuable to Jesus too. Heaven rejoices over them too.

The Pharisees begrudged Jesus for taking time for sinners and tax collectors. They could not see the value in people like that. We might feel the same about people sometimes, but these are people for whom Jesus died. Heaven rejoices over people like that, over sinners, not over “righteous” people who need no repentance.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” this saying is trustworthy and deserving of acceptance. We are those sinners and there are a lot of other sinners out there too. All of us are so valuable to Jesus that He came into this world to save us from sin and death. There is joy in heaven over the salvation that Jesus has accomplished for all us sinners. Let us join in that joy and join in the celebration because what was lost has been found through the cross of Christ. Amen.

What are we holding onto?

Text: Luke 14:25-35

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

When I worked as a salesman in retail stores I quickly learned that if you are trying to sell someone some kind of product and it is a little bit pricy you don’t start out talking about how much it costs. You talk about the benefits first and then, after you have them convinced, you quickly try to mention the price in passing. TV commercials do the same thing. First they show you how great something works and then, right at the end, they sneak the cost in: “Only 4 small payments of $29.97!” Jesus does not sneak the cost in. Jesus talks openly about the cost in our gospel reading. His words in our gospel reading about hating your father, mother, sister, brother, children, and even your own life don’t sound very nice. They aren’t very appealing. This is probably not the kind of message that we as a church feel compelled to advertise. This is not church sign material. A message like this is going to turn people away.

At this point Jesus has huge crowds of people following Him, massive crowds waiting to see what He will do next, and Jesus turns to those massive crowds and delivers this message: “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.” This is what it is going to take to follow Jesus, this is the cost. If you want to follow Him you need to be ready to renounce and give up everything, even forsaking your own family, friends, and even yourself, as you journey through life with Jesus. How many people from that crowd do you think went home? I’m guessing a lot of people left Jesus that day. The cost was just too high.

Jesus speaks these same words to us today. He calls us to be singularly focused, without distractions, on Him. Our attention cannot be divided. “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” In other words: unless you are prepared renounce and give up everything, even your family and even your life, you cannot be my disciple.

It’s not that Jesus hates families, not at all. Our families our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, and children are gifts from God. After He had created Adam, God looked at Him and said, “It is not good for man to be alone, let us make a helper fit for him,” and He created Eve. God created family, God blesses family telling Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply; family is a good gift from God. On top of all of that, in the Ten Commandments we are told to honor our father and mother, not to hate them.

The word hate is strong, but Jesus is trying to shock us so that we understand the serious cost of following Jesus. He is calling us to think about what we are holding onto, what we are unwilling to let go of. We need to be prepared to renounce or give up everything for the sake of following Jesus. Family is just one example of that. Jesus uses family as His example because that will hit close to home for many of us. We love our families and rightfully so.  Family is a good gift from God, but if family comes between us and following Jesus we need to be ready to give up our family and follow Jesus. Anything that might come between us and Jesus needs to be gotten rid of otherwise we cannot be His disciple. Following Jesus is not a part time job. We might need to let go of some stuff that is getting in the way.

Following Jesus means fearing, loving, and trusting Jesus above all things, loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. That is the simplest way to summarize the first of the Ten Commandments, “You shall have no other God’s before me.” But our sinful nature, with some encouragement from the Devil and the sinful world around us, fears, loves, and trusts a lot of things more than God.

We hold onto a lot of things in this life. There are things that we think are so important that we cling to them is if our life depended on it. These are the things that we work for everyday of our lives, things that we protect with every ounce of breath that we have, and that we love more than anything else. It could be something like family, but it could be something else. Whatever it is that we are holding onto, we need to be ready to let it go. These things aren’t necessarily bad things, but we make them bad things in our unhealthy sinful obsession with them. Anything that we cling to so tightly that it comes between us and Jesus is a problem.

Jesus is warning us about these distractions that we cling to because if our eyes are off of Jesus even for a second, we lose sight of our Saviour, the one who has saved us from sin and death. All the other things that distract us and grab our attention, the things that we hold onto and make into little gods for ourselves, cannot save us from our sin. We treat them like gods, but they cannot save us like our God has saved us through Christ. Our eyes need to constantly be concentrated on Jesus and never looking away because we are in constant need of the forgiveness, new life, and salvation that He gives to us.

So Jesus calls us renounce everything, to take up the cross, and follow Him. Taking up the cross means almost nothing to us today, but to people back then it meant taking up death. To people at Jesus time the cross was a very real thing. People were executed on crosses all the time by the Romans. Crosses were well known tools of violent execution and death. Taking up the cross was no small matter, taking up the cross meant giving up everything being ready to die. And Jesus says that is what being a Christian means; that is the cost.

It is a steep cost. In fact, it is a cost that we can never fully pay. Try as we might we will always fail and come up short. Our intentions our good but our follow through leaves something to be desired. Consider Peter, one of the 12 disciples. Shortly before Jesus was arrested in Jerusalem Peter insisted that he could follow Jesus, he was willing to lay down his life for Jesus. But, just a few hours later as Jesus stood on trial in the courtyard of the high priest, Peter denied Jesus three times. “I do not know Him,” he kept saying. Peter couldn’t pay it and neither can we.

This is a price that Jesus has paid for us, we can’t pay it ourselves. All the things that cause us to stumble, the price that is too high for us He has paid. He left behind house and home, comfort and ease, peace and quiet, reputation and status, and even His own family and life. One day as Jesus was teaching his mother Mary and His brothers came looking for Him. They had heard what He was doing and wanted to take Him home because they thought He was out of His mind. When they arrived looking for Him Jesus said, “Who are my mother and brothers? Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother!” Jesus leaves behind His own family for us. And from there He went on to Jerusalem where He did take up the cross and He carried it out to Calvary where they crucified Him. He gave up His life for us. Jesus paid the price, the whole cost, for us. This price that Jesus paid was put on us when we were baptised. Our bill was stamped PAID.

When we count the cost as Jesus urges us to do in our text today we quickly see how short we come. We can’t pay that price. Our sinful nature holds on too tightly to the things of this world that distract us and lead us away from complete and total focus on Christ. We will always stumble, but because that price has been paid we are forgiven for our stumbles, for the times that we cling too tightly to the wrong things and get distracted from our Saviour. Each time we stumble Christ extends a new and constant invitation to us to leave everything behind and come and follow Him.

Leaving it all behind and letting go of the things we cling to is still a pretty daunting thing, but we are baptised children of God. We have died to this world in baptism and we have died to sin. Jesus has already made us His own through His death when we were baptised. It’s done, He did it. And we know what the future holds. We do not need to cling to the things of this world. This world is not the end for us, we look forward to the world that is to come, the Kingdom of Christ where we will live forever. Because of what Jesus has done we can follow Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we can fear, love and trust Him more than anything else, because He is our God and He is our Saviour. We can join with the apostle Paul when He says:

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:8-11

Amen.