September 5, 2010
Labor Day Weekend
Pastor Ron Glusenkamp
“Choices for Life”
25Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26"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. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For 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? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 31Or 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? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. Luke 14
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Those are hard words. There is no doubt about it. They reflect a command, a demand that to be a follow of Jesus one needs to be “all in.” There is nothing partial about following Jesus. One either does or one doesn’t. There isn’t any in between. These words of Jesus describe the hard work of what it means to be a Christian on this Labor Day weekend.
Take in hand if you will, the ELW and turn to page 1160 (which is at the back of the book). We will read together the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods.” What does this mean? “We are to fear, love and trust God above all things.”
It is that simple. It is that complex. At first hearing, we might be a little defensive and bristle at these words. We say to ourselves, “I/we are not like those folks who wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years. I don’t have any golden calves in my backyard or in my life. And yet, we just confessed earlier that we do not always fear, love and trust God, but rather sometimes fear, love and trust in things.
As park of my Weight Watcher regime, I try like Jared of the commercials to make healthy choices when it comes to eat at a restaurant. So, when I go to Subway I know that there are health choices, choices for life if you will to be made. What kind of bread do I want? Wheat, white, Jalapeno, Italian, Monterey Cheddar, or Roasted Garlic? Toasted or not? And then I am asked to state my choice of onions, lettuce, tomato, olive, pickles, oil & vinegar, salt/pepper, mayo, mustard, peppers, and cheese, Swiss, American or Provolone. Last but not least, is this for here or to go?
Good old Moses was near the end of his career. He had seen it all and done it all. Long after being called through the mystery of the Burning Bush, Moses experienced “burn-out” and being “hot” under the collar throughout his decades of trying to lead the people of God to the Promised Land. Now they were just about there. All they had to do was to cross over the river and they would enter the destination they had prayed for, walked for, sweated for and worked for all these years. Moses presented the choices they had:
15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Deuteronomy 30
The other morning in God’s Word for the Week someone asked, “Who would choose death?” Of course, in the hypothetical, in the non-real situation, who would choose death? But in the very busy-ness and business of our lives, it is clear that often people make the wrong choices, choices for death, not for life. Listen again to the words,
“Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him;”
There was a study done by Sheena S. Iyengar and Mark R. Lepper entitled “When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?
Basically, it tells the account of an experiment where shoppers were confronted with the choice of 24 types of jam on one occasion and just 6 types of jam on another occasion. People actually purchased more jam when their choices were limited thus challenging the notion “that the more choices, the better-that the human ability to manage and the human desire for, choice is infinite.” (page 995- “When Choice is Demotivating”)
It is the comedy of the Holy Gospel that Jesus choose to carry the cross, to die on the cross experiencing total forsakenness (My God, my God, what have you forsaken me?) for our sakes. Let’s just stand there, stand here at the foot of the cross and ponder that amazing Good News. Jesus chose death, so that we might have life.
This being Labor Day Weekend, we are lifting up vocations. Frederick Buechner has written, “… The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet [emphasis added].”
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC
The phrase “God’s work our hands” is what that means. It is the work of God, holy stuff when you think about it, that we human beings, made of flesh and blood are called to get our hands dirty in choosing life and not death.
I often point out to the Bible class members that I am studying with that Jesus, as well as Moses where (and here comes a shock, not Lutherans). I always soften that news with the phrase, “they of course would have been, if they could have been). So, what today’s texts, the one from Deuteronomy about “choosing life and not choosing death” as well as Jesus’ words about the cross (Jesus said, “whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” raise the discussion about justification and sanctification. In other words, we as Lutherans talk about how we have been saved. We quote St. Paul,
“by grace you have been saved through faith.” That tells us how we have been “justified.” The next step is how in the world do we live out in the world the very good news that we have been saved? That too is where we quote St. Paul, “in Christ we are new creations.” So, we do “choose life” and carry the cross.
Which can of course, mean vulnerability, conflict and sadness.
Diana Butler Bass describes this phenomena as moving from “tourist to pilgrim.” She eloquently summarizes the journey of Nora (pages 216-217) in Christianity For the Rest of Us. Nora discovers that she could “never really understand Christianity unless she lived it.”
Jesus has made the choice of us. Today we celebrate Hannah Elizabeth and Mollie Anne being chosen. We give thanks that God has entrusted God work to us. Choices for Life-God’s Work our Hands.