- Jeremiah 18:1-11
- Psalm 39:1-5, 12-17
- Philemon 1-21
- Luke 14:25-33
The cross has long been the definitive symbol of Christianity and its founder. As early as the 50s of the first century, Paul used “the cross” as a recognized symbol of a much larger set of ideas and beliefs:
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning will I thwart.” (I Corinthians 1:17-19)
Christians must become aware of the radical nature of discipleship. “Bearing the cross” means bearing the pain of injustice and suffering that is so evident in the world. The church and individual Christians are called to be involved in the struggle for wholeness and justice. As in today’s Psalm, we are fully known (our actions, thoughts, lifestyle, and speech) by God. We are vulnerable and dependent on God’s presence in our lives. Living out our Baptismal Covenant, we promise to put Jesus’ work ahead of everything. This can be the cost of discipleship – giving up all that we have for the sake of bringing about the Kingdom of God. No one can be Jesus’s disciple without giving up all that he/she has.
- “Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s your new definition of greatness.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
- “The call to discipleship . . . means both death and life . . . [It] sets the Christian in the middle of the daily arena against sin and the devil. Every day he encounters new temptations, and every day he must suffer anew for Jesus Christ’s sake. The wounds and scars he receives in the fray are living tokens of this participation in the cross of his Lord.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) from “The Cost of Discipleship“
- What are the specific conditions for discipleship that Jesus lays out in today’s Gospel passage? What is your initial reaction to these requirements?
- Why do you think Jesus made these particular demands of those who would follow him? As you read these words of Jesus, how are the priorities of your own life challenged?
- In verse 27, Jesus challenges his followers to “carry the cross.” In your own experience, what are some of the challenges as well as the unique blessings today of being a follower of Jesus in the world today?
Jealous God, you call us to hate the life that is an echo of death and a whisper of fear: give us the courage to pass through shadows and count the cost of a love beyond measure; through Jesus Christ, the one who is fully alive. Amen. Prayers for An Inclusive Church by Steven Shakespeare (2009: Church Publishing)