The Crowd, the Cross, and Counting the Costs | Sanctuary V | October 29

Worship Theme: Sanctuary People
Text: Luke 14:25-33

Did Christ count the steps between the crowd and the cross?
Did he calculate profits, cross reference with loss,
Adding the numbers, subtracting the costs?
For where he was headed, how much should he gloss-

Over the fine print.
Eyes that are blind, squint.
Hide from the shine; glints-
Of light he’s been tryin’ to hint
At all along. 

We shift focus instead to foot-prints.
Sandy witnesses, silently assuring us Jesus shoulders our struggles.
“That’s where he carried me” we softly whisper to soothe our sleepy souls
But Christ turns to the crowd and confronts us with the truth that that set of solitary footprints,
That’s where we turned back,
Like wandering Israelites pining for Egypt’s security,
trusting our lives not to the necessity of Truth,
but to the stuff we think will sustain us.

Did Christ count the steps between the crowd and the cross?
Did he number the feet that would fall away, step by step?

Knowing when each one
Would decide that it was too
Much to hold on to that three
Days-later kind of hope (be)fore
The fist-bumps and high-fives
Of a crowd high on (six)cess
And good news would realize that seven
Days of Jesus can make one weak,
No matter how much manna they ate.
Excuses, “not now”s, “no”s, “nyet”s, and “nein”s
Begin to add up, and all too of(ten)
Christ gets to the eleventh-
Hour and finds that even the chosen twelve
have disappeared like floor thirteen.
While all it took was some stranger things to make four teens
Believe in an upside down…kingdom.

Did Christ count the steps between the crowd and the cross?
Did he contemplate that well worn path between “hosanna” and “crucify him?” 
Did he consider that maybe, just maybe, he needs a better marketing department?

A seeker-sensitive savior should never use words like “hate.”
A seeker-sensitive savior should never make us squirm with talk of torment on crosses,
Or counting our losses,
Treating possessions like dross, as
Though salvation should exhaust us.

A seeker-sensitive savior is what will sell
In a world where consumers are king
And retail is queen.
Loyalties bound up in royalties from an economy of cheap grace.
Bonhoeffer’s scoffers proffer their offers just to fill Church coffers.
Pre-packaged pardons purchased to provide purity for people too preoccupied to pursue anything we can’t just pay for.
Modern day indulgences in need of a new thesis or two.
Crosses make much better Instagram photos when they’re gold plated
Than when they’re so boldly stated
As the cost of doing business.

A seeker-sensitive savior should place the emphasis
On the benefits,
Using eloquence
To establish relevance.
Market through elegance.
Don’t mention the elephants
In the upper room
Where crosses loom
Like nightshade blooms
Centerpieces for a story that leads through a tomb.

Hate your father, mother, sister, brother…

With all this focus on the family
We might needs some help from James D.
Because good ol’ J. C.
Doesn’t usually make us disagree
With him this easily.

Give up all our possessions?
How about some?
Or what if “give up” really means in my heart?
Jesus just wants my heart, right?

Does treating Jesus’ words as mere hyperbole
Make following him sound too toil free,
Undermining his calls to loyalty?
Do we tell his story in a way that is spoil free:
No crosses, no arrests, no need to embroil the(e)
Inquiring masses in the messes of becoming good soil. We
Focus instead on heaven so no one will recoil, flea,
Or retreat. If costs are too high will it foil the(e)
Aims of a savior who came to make us…comfortable?

Is the job of a sermon to soften Christ’s words,
Or to help us walk around inside them,
Meander the halls of museums filled with beauty that looks strangely like ourselves.

Did Christ count the steps between the crowd and the cross?
Have we? 
By what measure should we calculate this cost?

525,600 minutes
(Or so I’ve heard)
The number of minutes we have to spend this year.
Now I know that sounds like a lot, Jesus, but hear me out.
I think we can make this budget work.
If I sleep an average of 8 hours a night
(Ok, so maybe this budget is more aspirational than realistic)
That’s 175,040 minutes of sleep, which leaves me with just 350,400 minutes left to spend.
But if I average 40 hours of work every week, that’s 124,800 minutes
Which leaves me just 225,600 minutes
And I’m pretty sure Michelle Obama told us we need to exercise at least 30 minutes a day,
But let’s just make it 45 for good measure, which comes to 16,425 minutes.
And I looked it up and the average American spends 12,483 minutes a year doing housework,
But if you’ve seen the amount of cat hair roaming my house, you’ll understand why I’m just gonna round that up to a solid 13,000.
And when I do the math for the average amount of time spent prepping, eating, and cleaning up meals, it comes to 38,544 minutes a year.
And don’t forget travel and traffic and telephone calls to mom
(You want me to call my mom, don’t you, Jesus?)
(And now that I’m married, go ahead and double that.)
And at the rate Netflix keeps churning out content we might as well go ahead and budget those binges, am I right?
And subtract grocery shopping, and christmas shopping, and clothes shopping, and maybe just a little bit of window shopping

And there’s all minutes we spend on:
Airport security lines,
Bathroom breaks,
Cheese courses,
Defeating Donkey Kong in Mario Kart
Emailing everyone about everything…ever
Facebook! We can’t forget Facebook
Going to grandmas
Hiking in Hocking Hills

I…I could go on, but if we stop right there and subtract all these numbers,
Jesus, it looks like I have roughly…
2 hours a week to spare.
Is that enough to cover the cost?

Or is time not the best measure,
For appraising this treasure?
Like the man with the tower,
Should we count resources not hours?
Add up our money, take stock of our stuff
Just to make sure that we have enough.

Or like the king set for war
Do we settle our score
By counting odds of success
Like pieces in chess.
Do we end up calculating that price
By another man’s sacrifice?

On the one hand, the man with the tower fails to count the cost and ends up getting ridiculed.
On the other hand, the king surveys the field and ends up pursuing peace with his enemies.

Tell me, which sounds more like Jesus? 

If it’s not by our hours
Or supplies to build towers
Or even military powers
With what, then, shall we count this cost?

Or has it never been about counting anything?
As if we try to model our lives after an image of God,
The Almighty Accountant!
Adding up tallies, and marking the score
Making us feel there’s always one more
Thing to get done, good deeds, holy chores.

This kind of God leaves too many of us standing around humming old gospel tunes
Never feeling worthy of the Word.

But it’s never been about giving up just the right stuff,
Or figuring out just who to hate.
The crosses we bear on this journey with Christ
Won’t secure us some heavenly fate.

This thing that we’re called to is not just one more box to check;
It’s not just one more of anything
It’s a way of life and a way to life.

It’s about the difference between being a Christian and following Christ.
With all that we have and all that we are, Jesus asks nothing less.
It’s about the difference between the excitement of choosing to offer sanctuary and becoming sanctuary people.
With all that we have and all that we are

Do we ride the excitement?
Count one more job done.
Do our feet turn to stone
When it’s not quite as fun?

Does sanctuary become just another room in the Church
An attic where old trophies gather dust
Or can we allow it to become a heart giving life
Beat by beat, day by day, step by step, as we trust

A God who shelters us
In turn to become sheltering, sanctuary people.

When choices before us call us out from the crowd,
Will the risks make us freeze in our tracks?
Will we run out the clock while counting the cost
As we drown in a sea of cold, hard facts?

When weighing out justice
Becomes just about us
We’ll find that Satan always has a finger on the side of the scale marked “do nothing,”
Convincing us the status quo has enough moral weight of its own;
Persuading us we need more time to count all the costs;
Proving to us that real change happens slowly;
Assuring us that the problems are too complex to even try;
Urging us to trust that someone else is better suited.

Counting the costs and thorough discernment are important work to be done
But we shouldn’t expect the perfect excuse for following after the Son
For we never quite know where his call will lead or how the Spirit will blow,
But trusting in God, we offer our lives so that justice and peace may grow. 

And so,
My wish for us, my friends, this day
-Is that even though Christ demands all we are, we know we have all that we need
-That when counting the cost and weighing the risks we’re never too scared to bleed
-That the dust from Christ’s feet would cover us all as we follow so closely behind
-And that sanctuary becomes not a deed but a life with treasures untold we will find