When we hear the gospel I am sure, are astounded at how
harsh Jesus sounds. "You can't be my disciples if don't hate
your mother, your father, your spouse, your children. You
can't be my disciple." What is happening? Well remember.
Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem. He's about to be handed
over to his enemies. He is going to be tortured. He is going
to be executed. He is a dead man walking.
Yet here is this crowd still looking for signs and marvelous
things. They're having a good time. They're not serious.
They have not really listened. They think they are following
Jesus, but they haven't really figured out what it might
cost to be a disciple of Jesus.
How many of us are that way? Have we really taken the time
to consider what it might mean to follow Jesus? How
different we might have to be from those in the world around
us? If we are really going to be a disciple of Jesus, can we
really be just like everyone else? Or what might we have to
pay a price?
Back in World War II, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a great German
theologian and Protestant minister, was in the resistance
against Hitler. He was jailed. During the time in jail he
wrote a book called the Cost of Discipleship. For him the
cost was execution, because he stood up against powers of
evil. Again have we considered the cost for ourselves to
really be a disciple of Jesus?
St. Paul in the second lesson today gives us a radical
vision of what it means to follow Jesus. We don't know what
cost Philemon might have had to pay, because we never hear a
response to this letter from Paul. There probably was one,
but it has never been kept, preserved. But Paul was asking
Philemon to do something totally out of the ordinary. Roman
law required that a run away slave had to be punished, even
executed. Paul was sending Onesimus back and saying, "Look
everything is different. Jesus has come. Jesus has made us
all brothers and sisters. There can't be slave or free, male
or female, rich or poor. We are all one in Jesus. So you
must treat Onesimus different now. Go against the law. Free
this person. He is your brother in Jesus."
That is the radical vision Jesus gives us, that we are all
brothers and sisters. One human family. We cannot hate one
another. We cannot do violence to one another.
St. Peter Claver was an extraordinary example of this. He
lived in a time when our very own church condoned slavery.
It's hard to believe in a way, but we know it is true. It
happened in this country. Bishops owned slaves. Peter Claver
lived in a time when that was very common. In fact, Africans
were being brought over to Colombia were Peter Claver went
to be a missionary. He ministered among them. He couldn't
break the whole slave trade, but he went among the salves
and he said, "I will be a slave to the slaves. They are my
brothers and sisters." He was demonstrating the vision of
Jesus. He gave his life in total service to the slaves.
When we think about what is happening in our country right
now - it's not hard to discern how we might have to be
different, because we are living in time when our nation has
been engaged in a war since 1991 really. We have devastated
another country. We have killed hundreds of thousands of
innocent civilian people. Pushed two million into exile.
Destroyed their whole infrastructure. Caused suffering that
is beyond comprehension. Now we are going to get a report
before our Congress that is going to tell us, "Keep on
going. Wage more war." And the president is going to address
us this week and tell us that we have to persevere in war,
Is that the way of Jesus? Is that the vision of Jesus?
Martin Luther King Jr. showed us a totally different vision,
which is the real vision of Jesus. We have to strive for
peace within ourselves, seeking to be a peacemaker in our
daily lives. We have to accept suffering rather than inflict
suffering. How often he preached that. We have to refuse to
retaliate in the face of provocation and violence. We must
return love for violence, love for hatred. Dr. King paid a
high price because he followed Jesus. He spoke out against
the advice of his closest friends and colleagues. He said,
"I must condemn the greatest purveyor of violence in the
world today, my own government."
It seems to me that this time in which we live it is ever
more clear that we must follow the way of Dr. King, which is
really the way of Jesus. A new vision, an extraordinary
vision. We are all brothers and sisters in the human family.
We must reach out in love to one another and in forgiveness.
Love even our enemies, return good for evil. That is the
vision, the vision of Jesus. Paul preached it to Philemon.
Paul is preaching it to us.
Jesus shows us the way. He invites us, come follow me. But
sit down first and think about what it might cost. Don't be
like the builder who doesn't make those plans or like the
king going into battle without knowing what will happen. No.
Count the cost.
Then if you are ready to pay the price, if you're ready to
pay the price it takes to follow Jesus, then this morning,
once more as we celebrate this Eucharist, recommit yourself.
When you come forward to receive the body of Christ and you
say, "Amen," that should be a commitment to follow Jesus.
Take up your cross and follow him no matter what the cost.
Can we do it? Well perhaps among many others we can pray
this morning to St. Peter Claver, Martin Luther King, Nelson
Mandela, others who have shown us the way and we too will
have the courage to count the costs and say yes I will pay
that price. I will follow Jesus. His way of love. Rejecting
all violence, all war. Follow only Jesus.