Sunday, September 4, 2016

Making Plans

Jeremiah 18:1-11
1The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2”Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

5Then the word of the LORD cam to me: 6Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. 11Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the LORD: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Luke 14:25-33
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 where 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 ends 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.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

We don't talk much about the Cost of Discipleship these days. We may hear about it a little during Stewardship season, when churches are working on establishing their budgets. We may hear about it a little at the beginning of the church year, when we call for a world Made new by Christ's return. We may hear about what Jesus requires of his followers from time to time, but we would much rather talk about what we get from our faith, rather than what we give.

Maybe it's because Preachers like me are afraid that they won't attract new members, or will drive off the existing ones if they talk about costs too much. Like we're scared of scaring others away. Or perhaps Preachers like me don't want to lose sight of the free gift of God's grace. After all, God cannot be bought, and grace cannot be earned.

God chose us from before the foundation of the world. We were saved almost 2,000 years ago when Christ was crucified and was resurrected. It’s not because we’re so talented or so wonderful, or because God knew that we would be worth saving ahead of time. We are redeemed because God freely chose to do so.

We know that Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us. There is a seat at the Lord’s Table reserved for each of us, and our presence at the meal is expected. But the meal is not free, and you'd be wise to count the cost before you sit down.

The cost of discipleship is that you may get squashed isn't a lump of clay that is unrecognizable to anyone other than the potter who is re-forming you according to what pleases his eyes. Transformation is the cost of discipleship. "When 'reshaping' comes, it will be the means for recreating the people into what God desires and plans. Not just individual disciples, but communities and peoples are being reshaped in God’s hands.

When we take our seat at the Lord’s Table, and find ourselves sharing a meal with Christ, we will not be the same when we rise up as when we sat down. As disciples of Jesus, we may find that he has seated us next to someone we did not expect.

Every time we dedicate ourselves to Christ, we must consider the ways in which God is reforming us. 'Reformed" is not a destination, it's a process. We are always being reformed according to the Word of God. Every time we eat of this bread and drink from this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s saving death until he comes. If we choose to sit at this table, we are choosing to live in between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God.

And if you’re not sure if you belong at this table, if you’re not sure if you can share in this meal, if you’re not sure you can afford the transformative cost of discipleship, I offer you this advice:

Eat indulgently when the bread is broken. Drink deeply when the wine is poured. 

The banquet to which we are invited is a celebration. The broken bread and the poured out cup reminds us who has set the table for us, and that our whole lives are reformed in his hands. When we get stuck by all the thousands of worries and struggles, we can come to this table and remember.

We can remember our God, who loved this messy creation so much that he doesn’t discard the spoiled old potter, but refashions it into someone new, something he can once again call good. We can remember our Savior, who loved us enough that he made plans to go to Jerusalem even though he knew that betrayal and arrest waited for him there, all so that when we are betrayed and abandoned, we would not go there alone. We remember the Holy Spirit who is constantly working in us, on us, and through us, guiding us to be closer to one another and to God.

There’s an insert in your bulletin, it comes from our denomination’s directory for worship, telling who is invited to this transformative meal. This is an open table, for all whom God has called through the waters of baptism. When we gather around this table, we find assurance of God’s love and grace in Christ Jesus. I want you to take this insert home with you, slip it into your bible, or post it somewhere in your kitchen.

Let this statement put a reminder in your head of the plans God is making for you. Let the bread we creak and the cup from which we drink put a reminder in your body of the ways that God’s presence among us transforms this community into a family, into the body of Christ, into a conduit of grace.

The people of God are making plans, not to raise a tower, not to go to war, but to be transformed by the gospel. God is making plans to cleanse and renew us, to transform us so that we can, with every breath, every action, every though, show love for one another.

We don’t talk much about the cost of discipleship. The cost is to be reformed by the Word of God, and shaped by his hands. We find that transformation at this table.

Drink deeply, eat heartily, and we will find that the depths of our hearts and renewed by the LORD who holds us, and reforms us, no matter the cost.

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