Counting the Cost

Counting the Cost

The Joy of Tidying Up

Marie Kondo started a global movement centered around creating a living space that is organized, tidy and full of joy.  She has written a book and also now has a Netflix series where she explains her method for organizing a house and helps people tidy up their own spaces.  The basic idea is that she has people go through every single item in their entire home; this means you actually physically hold and think about every single item you own- when you do this she has you ask a simple question- does this spark joy?  If it does you put it away with intention, if it doesn’t- you thank the object and find it a new home.  If you have ever moved or remodeled your space, you have had to go through all of your things at one time or another- and it is not easy.  Physically moving is always a lot, but just as hard is the mental and emotional commitment it takes to engage and make decisions about all of our stuff.  Marie Kondo has sparked some controversy with her method- and some people really don’t like it, but if nothing else, it makes you think about the amount of things we own and the time and care it takes to own things, and how sometimes our possessions can end up controlling us.

A Call to Discipleship

We believe that God has given us all that we have, but we don’t always take time to take stock of it all.  And while we attempt to be good caretakers of what we have, Jesus calls us to a different kind of life all together.  A life that isn’t about possessions at all; instead he calls us to a life of discipleship.  And being a disciple includes getting rid of all the things in our lives that control us, so we can give our whole selves to God.

Jesus’ message for us today is about calculating the costs of discipleship and it is also about freeing ourselves from all the stuff that can distract us from God.  His steps might seem a bit extreme when we first hear them:

  • Step 1: Hate your family.
  • Step 2: Add up the cost of being a disciple.
  • Step 3: Take up your cross- which can include giving up your life for God.
  • Step 4: Give up everything you own.

Jesus isn’t messing around here- he wants us to really hear what it takes to follow him.  This isn’t a half-way commitment, or something we sign up for impulsively.

Jesus calls us to examine not only the easy things- possessions, money, earthly goods- and setting all that aside.  We are asked to also take stock of our families, friends and loved ones.  What are our relationships like with them?  Are they healthy?  Are they harmful?  Are we trying to exert control over anyone in our lives in an unhealthy way? Then we are asked if we doing what God is calling us to do?  Are we using our gifts and skills and privilege- really our lives- for God’s will instead of our own?   And we expand it out one more time- what systems are we apart of that are preventing us and others from living fully as children of God?  Where have we fallen short in our call to care for one another as siblings in Christ?  Are we willing to take up our own crosses?

What’s the Cost?

Have you ever thought about how much it costs to follow Jesus?  Have you done the math?  Because it might be more expensive than you realize and even if we think that love and grace and mercy sound good- there is a cost to actually living it.  Because disciples of Christ do things that other people wouldn’t.  Disciples of Christ put God first.  They don’t put their families or their children or their jobs or their countries first.  And when God is first, our priorities change.  If God is first than grace comes next, loving other people becomes a reflex and most importantly- if God is first than we aren’t.  We aren’t the gods of our lives.  Disciples of Christ are willing to live with humility- seeing other people’s points of view, having compassion, and forgiving others— Because seeing things from another person’s perspective, loving someone who is hurting and true forgiveness are all about handing over the control we want to have to God.  And when we recognize that when people suffering, when we suffer- that wasn’t okay, there are hurts there, but disciples of Christ also aren’t going to let that wrong, that hurt keep controlling us—just like when we take stock of our possessions and stop letting them control us when tidying up— we are called to do that with our relationships too.

This summer I got the chance to stay for a few days up at the Porcupine Mountains State Park in Upper Michigan.  I stayed in a yurt- if you aren’t familiar with yurts (I wasn’t either) it is a type of permanent tent shelter with a wood frame, canvas sides, floor and windows.  Inside there were bunk beds, a table and a wood stove.  To get to this yurt, I hiked on a ½ mile path, which doesn’t seem that far, unless you are carrying in your own water, food and supplies.  I was able to pause and find my own rhythm, for all of us who function as a part of a community, a workplace and a family— to be able to take a break and rest was a gift.  While I was there, I hiked, I had campfires, I sat by Lake Superior and read a book.  I prayed.  And when I got away, I had time to take stock of what I have, of who I love and of what really matters- my own Marie Kondo method of evaluating my life.  It wasn’t easy to get away like this- even finding time to evaluate being a disciple costs us something.  But I was also reminded while I was taking stock of it all- that it isn’t what I have or what I do or what I accomplish that makes God love me.  And that is a realization I need every day… that it isn’t really about me- it’s about God, who creates us, redeems us and loves us all.  And just as God loves us- we are called to love others without putting conditions on it or expecting anything in return.

Without Conditions

We budget the cost of a lot of things in our lives- we figure out how much money it takes to retire, how much we need to save for college, and how much we can spend each month on housing.  Sitting down to count the cost of discipleship sounds like a strange task- but it ultimately points to the love God has for us; it points to the seriousness of this commitment.  And it points to the passage we heard last week about inviting people to the table who cannot repay us.  And after this passage, Luke included 2 beloved stories about God’s grace for us- the lost sheep and the prodigal son.  If our identity is in Christ and if we ground ourselves in putting God first, and rest in God’s love- suddenly the cost of being a disciple might not seem too high.  Because when we are lost, God finds us.  When we run away and humbly come back, God welcomes us with open arms.  When we think we don’t have a place at the table, God helps create extra seats.  When we love others like Jesus does, even if it is hard, we find deep joy.  Being loved without conditions is freedom- we get to share that some love and freedom with our Christian family.

Today, we also heard the letter of Philemon.  This short book of the Bible a letter from Paul to Onesimus about his runaway slave Philemon and it fits right into this message of what it looks like to be a disciple.  Because Paul is writing this letter to remind both men that in Christ they are brothers. Through baptism they have become family.  And as disciples of Christ- they put God first- they don’t put their anger at one another first and they don’t put the system of slavery set up by their society first.  They come together in love and with freedom.  Because with God first, there is no slave or free, no male or female- we are one in Jesus Christ.

Dear friends in Christ, take stock of what you have, count the cost of being a disciple, and then let’s take on this life together- loving one another as one family in Jesus Christ.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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