Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Following Jesus

Once upon a time, there was a church that thought they wanted to follow Jesus.  I'm not sure what it was, maybe it was the new pastor, and the fact that, after a few years of decline, people were beginning to visit the church.  Some of them even joined!  For the first time in a long time, they were hopeful about their future.

That new pastor even encouraged them to have dreams, to think about who they wanted to be and what they wanted to do.  She asked them what they thought God wanted them to do.  Groups of people from the church began to meet and consider what the gifts and needs of their community and their congregation might be.  They studied and they prayed.  And when they looked out of their back yard they saw something -- they saw a piece of property that they had had for a long time.  Many years before, they had been growing and they thought that their church would be larger.  They bought that empty land then but they had not kept growing and the land became a playground and a ball field.  They even considered selling it once or twice.

But after studying this time, when they looked out of the window of their fellowship hall, they had different dreams.  They had learned that there was a need for senior housing in their area, and so they had a dream about creating housing for senior in that back yard.  They even went a little farther, and considered that in the middle of the senior tower -- they should create -- a day care for children -- so that the old and the young could learn from and bless each other.

The members of the groups were excited about their ideas.  They knew that they were challenging goals, and that they probably would not be able to do everything at once.  But they called a meeting of the congregation one evening, where they shared their dreams with others.

After they got done sharing, one of the older members of the congregation stood up.  He opened his Bible and began to read from Luke, chapter 14:

"For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'"

That was it.  That was all he said.  Then he sat down.

But it was enough.  The disciples who had come to the meeting dreaming of following Jesus did not have a reply for the gentleman who spoke.  They did not know what to say.  They left their dreams behind when they left the meeting that night.

I wonder about the large crowds who were traveling with Jesus, and what happened when he told them this parable, and the other one, about the king going out to make war against another king.  I wonder what those large crowds following Jesus thought when he told them that they needed to hate their lives and carry the cross if they wanted to be his disciples.  I wonder if the large crowds got smaller after that.

Why were they following him in the first place?

He was eating and drinking with those who were left out; he was giving sight to the blind and restoring lepers to community and making the lame leap for joy.  He was multiplying loaves and casting out demons.  He was giving life, but there was a cost, and it was everything.  They should know that.

I wonder still about the dreams of that little congregation.  Maybe it wasn't what God wanted us to do, after all.  Maybe it was all right to give up when we heard those words about counting the cost.  But is that why Jesus spoke those words to the crowds?  Did he want them to turn away?  Did he want them to give up, knowing it was too hard?

Follow me, he still says, knowing that it is too hard, knowing that we will fail.

What does he want us to do?

Maybe he wants us to ask the question.