What It Takes To Be A True Disciple Of Jesus Christ

Fred Thompson

13PentecostC-Proper18

Luke 14: 25-33


Imagine you are scrolling through your favorite social media site

or looking at an article

and you see an advertisement for a job.


It catches your eye with its pretty fonts and colors,

so, you glance at it and read:

Full-time, meaningful work you can do anywhere!


* Benefits start immediately and last a lifetime!

** Meet interesting people and travel regularly!

*** Inquire now to get in on this grassroots company!

**** You think that sounds intriguing and

wonder where you can get more information,


…when you notice

there are asterisks at the end of each statement

that are matched to small, almost minuscule font

at the bottom of the ad.


Being a wise person,

you know you should always read the fine print.

And so, you take a closer look.


The first one says:

*You will be working day and night everywhere you go

because you are required to follow a man named Jesus

who is bringing about the reign of God here on earth.

This is a lifestyle, not a diet.


The second one declares:

**Once you go through the ritual of baptism and

join your new family of Jesus-followers,

you may perish by a number of means,

usually being ridiculed and tortured first,

and then being nailed to a cross

(or stoned to death or imprisoned unto

death or countless other ways).


However, you will also be resurrected and

have eternal life at some point…

hopefully sooner rather than later.


Next, it says:

***In following Jesus, you will be required to travel—

literally, mentally, and emotionally—

to meet people where they are,

and virtually all of those people are not

in your family or friend group.


You probably will not like most of them

because they are different than you;

but hey, won’t that be interesting?


And finally, the fourth one says:

****There is not a phone number or

website or address of any kind to

aid you in your inquiry.


Instead, look around your town

to see if anyone is behaving oddly

(compared to what you are used to),

especially in any of the above ways,

and ask them about Jesus.


That is a lot of fine print!


Our advertisement illustration is a bit ironic…or is it?


In our reading from the Gospel of Luke today,

Jesus explains to the crowds that were traveling with him

that they must come to discipleship

with their eyes wide open.


The demands he makes seem harsh—

hating your own family and your own life,

carrying your cross,

giving up your possessions—

and they are also crystal clear:

discipleship is dangerous.


It changes lives, communities, and the world.


The examples he uses about building a tower and

waging war are sobering considerations

for someone who is considering following Jesus.


This warning to really think about what you are doing

in joining the Jesus Movement

continues to be sobering today,

in our modern world, in our modern time.


In the early centuries of Christianity,

it took more than just hearing the good news of Jesus Christ

to become part of a church community.


Oftentimes, catechumens

(people who were studying to become Christians)

would be required to have one to three years of instruction

before they could be baptized and participate in the Eucharist.

They understood that they

would have to change their manner of life

in order to be a Christian, so much so

that it limited both the types of jobs they could hold

and restricted their activities in other ways.


Imagine if you were a Christian soldier.


You could not swear allegiance to the Emperor

(a bit of a problem when you are working for Rome)

and had to refuse orders to kill.


A Christian sculptor could not make idols.


A teacher could not teach pagan myths and philosophies.


In a society,

where that was the traditional way of teaching and learning,

this was a difficult choice to make.


To make things even more difficult,

if you made the decision to change your manner of life,

you were then set on a path of instruction

which only gave you a little bit of information at a time.


Could you imagine

being only able to hear the Liturgy of the Word

and then being asked to leave at the beginning of the Peace,

as, since you had not been baptized,

your greeting was not considered holy?


And you certainly would not have been allowed

to participate in the Eucharist.


Maybe some of you want to leave early at the Peace,

but there is a difference between having a choice

and following a requirement.


The early catechumens had no choice but to follow the requirement.


Finally, after you had gone through three years

of learning about Jesus and

really understood what it meant to be a Christian,

it was time for you to be initiated through baptism.


You have no idea what is about to happen.


You go to a room or a nearby water source

where there is a full pool of water

that has been prayed over by the priest.


You are asked to strip off your clothes,

and then the chrism oil is blessed.


After that, you are exorcised,

renouncing Satan and

calling out any demons from you.


Then a deacon places their hand on your head

as the priest asks you if you believe in God the Father.


When you affirm that you do, the deacon dunks you.


You come up for air and are asked if you believe in God the Son.

You say yes; they dunk you again.

Finally, the priest asks you whether or not

you believe in the Holy Spirit—

and then you are dunked again!


The baptism finished,

you get anointed with oil of chrism and

say a prayer of thanksgiving.


Only then can you get out of the pool,

dry off, and put on a white robe

so that you can go into the church for

the next part of the service,

where the bishop lays hands on you,

anoints you, and exchanges a kiss of peace.


The whole congregation prays together,

the peace is exchanged, and you would finally

be able to participate in the Eucharist.


As time went on, you would receive further instruction

from the bishop about

the sacraments and other elements of faithful living.


In your years as a catechumen,

the way you lived was scrutinized closely

to see if you were really following in the way of Jesus

and ready to make a lifelong commitment

to being a Christian.


The church created this process

so that people would truly appreciate and

fully embrace the effort and resources that it took

to become a disciple of Jesus.


How does this compare

to the way you came to follow Jesus

in our modern age when we no longer have to live

and worship clandestinely for fear of persecution?


What would it be like for us to do the catechism

in the ancient way—

dismissing people at the Peace and

having your every move scrutinized by your church?


Following Jesus is not a whimsical response to

a moment of inspiration or feeling,

but rather a deliberate, life-changing decision,

like planning for war or taking a new job.


We may respond immediately to Jesus’ call of,

Come, follow me,”

but it will take a lifetime for us

to see how that decision plays out,

and if we did not read the fine print,

we may fall away from the path.


It is a more serious decision than many of us may realize,

and each of us knows what we must sacrifice in order to do it.


We are called to put our faith in a process that is unknown to us,

which takes immense courage

in a time where we have more information

than we know what to do with and

often feel like we are in complete control of our lives.


Discipleship is a process, not an instant transformation.


Thankfully we are not alone in making it happen.

God is with us, beckoning us to read the fine print

and respond with our lives to experience something more

than we can ask for or imagine.


The only guarantee is that we will be transformed and so will the world.

Amen.


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