25Now large crowds were traveling with [Jesus;] and he turned and said to them, 26“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”
This morning, after I got up, I picked out clothes to wear, decided on some Cheerios and almonds for breakfast, and got into the car to drive to church. On the way, I tried to figure out which route would be best to avoid the construction, and chose to take a way I had never taken before. Turns out, I made a bad choice—Google Maps failed me, and I ended up getting here much later than I had planned. Choices have consequences!
Every day, we have choices to make. Sometimes it’s as simple as deciding what to have for breakfast, or whether to mow the lawn today, or tomorrow. Other times, it’s much more complicated—we are presented with decisions about medical treatments, or employment opportunities, or relationships . . . decisions that have very high stakes. Whether big or little, the decisions we make have an impact on our lives. Choices have consequences.
Sometimes, I just want the decisions to be made for me. Have you ever had this conversation in your house? “What do you want for dinner?” “I dunno, what do you want?” “I don’t know, food?” “But what KIND of food?” “I don’t know . . . . “ And sometimes, when the unknown of the future looms large, I just want to look up at the sky and read a big neon billboard, telling me what I am supposed to do, and what will happen next . . . but so far, God has not come through on that one!
If we ever had any illusion that living a life of faith would be easy, clearly laid out, no confusion or wondering what is the right thing to do, this week’s readings show us the truth: following Jesus is hard! For one thing, far from providing us with a clear singular path to follow, our scriptures tell us, there are and will continue to be choices for us to make on the journey. Our reading from Deuteronomy tells us that God invites us to choose life—to follow the way of God’s love and mercy and justice. And in our humanness, sometimes we do choose life, and sometimes we get lost and put other things ahead of God. None of us are perfect. We will make mistakes. And our choices have consequences!
Jesus makes it clear in today’s Gospel, this is not an easy life that is free from trouble and conflict. Jesus spoke difficult truths—today he tells his followers, “hate your family,” meaning that we are to be willing to face ridicule even from those closest to us for doing what we know is right. Following God’s lead, putting God first, requires us to be willing to sacrifice our own agenda and comfort, for the sake of living out God’s call in our lives. It requires us to stand for the highest ideal of love and mercy even when it’s hard.
Following God, much as we wish it were clear and free of confusion and conflict, is hard! It would be so much easier if there would be a neon sign in the sky telling us what to do next, and what to expect, so we could all plainly see the plan laid out in front of us. But as our scriptures tell us today, this life of faith isn’t about certainty or guarantees.
Jesus tells those listening that as we walk this road together, we are to weigh the cost of the choices we make. I couldn’t help, as Jesus described the person being ridiculed for building a tower, but think of the ridicule Noah faced for building the arc in the middle of the desert. In spite of the cost, he built it anyway. Noah chose to follow God, in spite of the fact that almost everyone thought he was making a huge mistake, and in doing so Noah chose life.
As you move forward together as a community, God invites you to start from where you are today and choose life. To explore the options and weigh the costs, knowing that following God’s call in our lives is not easy. Choices have consequences. The path forward may feel confusing and frightening, and uncertain, and truthfully, it is! But there is one thing we can count on: God’s love and mercy knows no limits. We can trust God in the midst of the chaos and uncertainty, knowing that when we put God first, we are being led to a life full of abundance and promise. Thanks be to God!