I always have a hard time reading and preaching this text from Luke.
It is hard to know what to say.
Jesus gives us a difficult teaching here.
Sometimes when we are reading Scripture and we get stuck with what we are reading it is helpful to look at a different translation to see if we get any additional insight into the text or possibly a new perspective.
With this reading from Luke, I decided this past week to look at it from the translation, The Message.
The Message is a translation of the Bible through the lens of our modern language.
It is not a perfect translation as no translations are.
All translations of the Bible are filtered through the lens of the people who are translating it but still The Message is a fairly good translation that I enjoy reading from.
It’s also a translation that I like to use with my confirmation students because of the modern language.
The Message reads almost like a novel.
Now with the NRSV, the New Revised Standard Version in mind, which is what we have in the bulletin, I would like to read that text again but this time from the Bible, The Message:
A reading from the Gospel of Luke chapter fourteen:
One day when large crowds of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them,
“Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters- yes, even, one’s own self! – can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.
Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: “He started something he couldn’t finish.’
“Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?
“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple”
There is certainly a different feel here with a different translation.
The same message from Jesus but given in a different light.
What Jesus is getting at here, I believe, in this particular teaching is that he is pointing out our very human tendency towards idolatry.
Idolatry is extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.
Jesus is teaching us here that God is to be source of our admiration, love, and reverence.
We are to place Jesus and his cross central in our lives.
Our sanctuary points to this truth as the cross is at the center of our worship space.
The cross is the point of our focus and worship.
I love that verse in The Message: “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.”
Probably here the use of the word, hate in the NRSV translation, which again is in your bulletin, was not meant to mean the definition of hate that we have today in our context.
A more accurate translation for us would be what The Message uses, which is letting go, meaning that we hold on to Jesus in a way that we do not hold on to other people or possessions.
For example, I love my family but I do not worship my family or look to my family as the source of my life.
I receive help from my family and love from my family but I know that the gift of my family comes from God and the love that I receive from my family comes from God.
I am grateful for the possessions in my life but I know that possessions can be here one day and gone the next.
My savings in the bank can look good one day and then be gone the next but God’s provisions continue and God continues to provide even during times of scarcity.
We worship God and God is the source of our lives.
Through the cross of Christ, we look forward to the resurrection and we trust in God’s ability to give life and to make things new.
When we lift up the cross and follow after Jesus, we are given by him a new direction and a new path for our lives.
In Christ we lay a foundation for our lives that he helps us to finish.
We will be like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither.
Last month I came down with Covid and I was knocked out for about a week.
So, I had a lot of time to think and also to pray.
And one thought that continued to stay with me during that time is this… that if everything was taken away from me the one thing that remains is my faith.
My faith grounds me and keeps me close to Jesus and his cross.
Fortunately, I did recover well, and I certainly pray for the families that have lost loved ones because of Covid, but for me, the blessing that lingered after my recovery from Covid is that my illness gave me a different perspective on my life and on my faith – just like how a different translation of Scripture gives you a different perspective on the text or texts that you are reading.
And so may we, walk more closely with Christ and cling to his life-giving and healing power.
It is a power that sustains us in this life and it is a power that can even bring life in death.
With God’s help may we let go of those things that prevent us from following him and from picking up the cross.
May we lift high the cross of Christ. Amen.