Counting the Cost - Pastor April's Sermon - June 30

Tuesday morning, State Senator Wendy Davis woke up in Austin, TX.  She was careful not to drink many liquids and she made sure she put on her comfortable bright pink tennis shoes.  She knew what she was planning to do might not work – but she had to do what she could to stop legislation that she believed would have been an injustice to thousands and thousands of women across the state – as it would have closed nearly all the abortion clinics in Texas and made it more and more challenging for women to seek family planning methods.  

Wendy knew something of the challenges she spoke about as a teenage mother herself, who overcame tremendous odds to graduate from Harvard Law School.

She fought back tears as she shared testimony of the many women whose lives would be impacted by legislation.

 

By the end of the day – her 13 straight hours on the floor of the senate caused enough confusion and delay that the senate missed the voting deadline and failed to pass the bill.

 

I have been thinking about Wendy this week.  Both about the choice she made and also about the challenges she and others still face in the coming weeks.

It’s been an historic week.

A week where big decisions have come down on very big issues.  Where we have seen DOMA overturned and marriage rights restored and landmark environmental regulations enacted.

And regardless of where you stand on any of these issues – we have to acknowledge that none of these things have come without many, many, relentless persistent people like Wendy – who were willing to work long, tireless hours – who were willing to do whatever it takes - standing for 13 hours at a time because they are so deeply committed to the call to do justice in the world.

 

There is a cost to living this way

 

And I have wondered this week – am I willing to be one of those people?

 

Today’s Scripture marks a significant change in the Gospel of Luke.  Jesus has set his sights on Jerusalem.

Now, for the next 10 chapters – Jesus is journeying to Jerusalem.  There is a destination – there is a focus – there is a clear direction - and IMMEDIATELY – there is a cost.  Because Jesus has set his sights on Jerusalem – the Samaritans – a group that were often at odds with the Jewish community would not offer hospitality to them.

The disciples seem to get riled up by this setback, but Jesus is unfazed.

He knew there would be a cost – and he doesn’t allow this minor setback to keep him from his fixed gaze on the work that he has come to do and the place where he is headed.

Jesus then meets three people along the journey.

And they want to follow him.  They want to say yes to this call.

But they haven’t considered the cost.  They aren’t really prepared for the challenges that will lie ahead.

 

Jesus hasn’t been ambiguous about the cost from the beginning.  As his popularity has soared, and as the disciples have begun to answer that question – “Who is this?”

He has been telling them clearly.  I will be suffering.  If you are going to follow me, you are going to need to take up your cross.

 

And if you aren’t ready for that – OK.

But if you are going to follow me – you can’t turn back – you can’t do it half way…  you can’t squeeze it in to your busy schedule

Or  you aren’t fit for the kingdom of God.

The Greek word that is translated fit is “euthetos” which can also be translated – USEFUL.

If you aren’t ready to follow – to follow – then you aren’t USEFUL for the kingdom of God.

 

Ouch.

 

Now, I don’t know about you – but

 

I want to be useful.

 

But I also want a whole lot of other things.

I want to not have to worry about money.

I want to be well-liked.

I want my house to be clean at the end of the night.

I want to be the pastor of a well respected growing church.

I want the bishop to like me.

I want to have time off and rest and moments where I don’t have to think about church.

I want to be a great mother and wife and friend.

I want to have control over when and how those things come to me.

 

And the problem is.

I’ve got ADD when it comes to my vision.

 

And in those many moments – I’ve gotten sidetracked from who and what God has called me to be.

 

And here’s the thing that Jesus knows and keeps telling the people.

Keep your eyes on me.  On following me.

I know you have other things and needs and desires in your life.

But seek first the kingdom.  Make this your number one priority.

And all these other things you are worried about – They’ll actually work out BETTER – you’ll actually find yourself more at peace and less feeling splintered into a thousand pieces.  And much more likely to find them in the way that brings life – If your priority and your focus is on me.

 

Am I willing to be that kind of person?

 

 

This Sunday, marks my 3rd anniversary at Summit church.

It’s been an awesome 3 years.

 

I LOVE this place.  I LOVE coming to work every day.

I LOVE being in relationship with each of you.

And I LOVE doing the things that we have been doing together.

 

But I have to tell you – I have been convicted.

 

Because I was sent here to you three years ago to be your pastor.

To preach the good news, to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit working through me and through all of you and to LEAD where God is calling us to go –

And we began to discern together –

That God was leading us to be an intergenerational community – one that was known for building partnerships between the sacred and secular – a church known for cultivating spiritual growth and a church known for transforming the neighborhood.

We began to clarify the role we had to develop young leaders

To teach about an inclusive faith

And to work with our most vulnerable children and families.

 

But I confess to you that I have gotten a bit sidetracked at time.

I’ve gotten caught up in the busyness of the church – making sure things keep running as they should be – making sure all of you are as happy as possible – and making sure we can pay all of our bills –

doing the things that I like to do – and I’ve often avoided the hard choices and decisions that we’ve needed to make –

 

So – this spring, I asked 12-14 people in this church – all laity in the church.

To look at this church.

To REALLY pray and listen and look at the ways that we ARE and ARE NOT living into this call.

They were an audit team and they spent the month of May – asking questions, making observations and then sharing their findings.

 

And they found some remarkable things.

That there are a lot of things we are doing well.

But there is A LOT of room to grow.

 

And as we were talking about the hard things – the hard decisions and changes that we would need to make in the next 6 month to a year.

As we gathered together to have these conversations – the question kept coming -

Are we willing to be one of those churches?

Are we willing to count the cost – to pray and follow and have a singularity of focus – to put everything we have into living into what God has called us to be –

EVEN

If it means letting go of some of our preferences

If it means talking about things we are uncomfortable with.

If it means reaching out in ways we have never done before.

And even if it means opening our mind and perspectives to things we never thought we could.

 

Are we willing to be one of those churches?  Who is really following God – despite the cost?

 

I hope the answer is YES.

 

But what it will take for Summit to be the kind of church that is living into this -

It will need to be filled with individual people – who are willing to COUNT the COST and follow Jesus – using the gifts that God has given them

 

In 2013 – this is our focus -

Discipleship.

Learning how to FOLLOW Jesus with all that we are.

To focus our heart and our energy on this.

The first half of this year, our leadership has been preparing for this – planning, talking about what this looks like, and thinking about how to help us do this faithfully at Summit.

 

But Today begins the season where we aren’t just talking about it – we are DOING it.

Where we will be challenging ourselves to hear the words of Jesus and FOLLOW.

 

In just a few weeks, we will begin a Series on the Sermon on the Mount – Following the RADICAL Jesus.

Each week we will be unpacking more and more what it means to really Follow Jesus – and how we can make that our singular focus.

 

On August 4th – we will take our All Church Retreat – and we will talk more about what it means to follow Jesus and where each of you are being invited to take another step forward.

 

Now – I know – there are a lot of you – who have been coming here and you are tired and this is your place of rest and refuge.

And that is a wonderful thing.

We are glad that this place has led you to healing.

 

But there are some of us who have been resting for a while.  And there are some people like the disciple Jesus called who have become ALIVE in the Spirit and who have been WAITING for the time for you to put it into ACTION.

 

So – today I ask that you consider – where is it that Jesus is speaking to YOU.

Are you willing to be that kind of person?  Who is trying to put Jesus as the primary focus?

And are you willing to help this church be that kind of place?

Where we are focusing with laser clarity on where God has called us – and ready to make the hard choices?

On the back of your cards today, there is a place for you to prayerfully consider where God is inviting you to take another step forward, both in your own journey and here at Summit UMC.

We need people who will pray about this – fervently.  I have a hope that we'll have a team of people ready to gather on Sunday mornings before church to pray for the future of this congregation.

WE need people who will be willing to participate in honest conversations – not about what hymns you like – but how we can utilize our hour of worship to bring meaning and transformation into our diverse context.

WE need people who will be willing to step outside their comfort zones – to welcome people in this place – both people who are here for the first time and those who have been here now for some time but who still haven’t quite connected.

We need people who are ready to serve – to use their gifts to listen to where God is tugging and leading them and then who are ready to put on their tennis shoes and not sit down until the work is finished.