Sobering. Humbling. Crucifying. Such are the words Jesus places on our hearts in the gospel for Pentecost 16.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).
His words stir up in my conscience endless personal vignettes of grudging, half-hearted discipleship. His words pierce my prideful papering over of that reality by claiming to be more devoted than most. All excuses are silenced by the painful evidence of an all too salt-less path trailing behind me. It’s a wickedly winding path of difficulties for the sake of Christ avoided, sidestepped, abandoned.
Who’s sufficient for this task of pastoral ministry? Wait. It’s worse. Who’s sufficient even to be called a disciple at all?
You are. And so am I. It is only because he who calls us to hate father and mother, even our own life, did precisely that. My perfectly prioritized record of devoted discipleship, and yours, is that of he who hated the praise of the religious elite, willing to be despised by them for hanging around with sinners like me (Luke 15:1). “My beloved,” “my child,” “my disciple,” he so wondrously calls me even though I’ve thrown down my cross so often. “Bride,” “heir,” “under-shepherd,” he graciously declares me, because he never refused to embrace his cross until it killed him in my place.
Don’t we long to offer such a loving Lord more devoted discipleship that learns not even to fear a loved one’s frown? Wouldn’t we love to delight more readily in counting the cost of discipleship as nothing compared to the cost paid to make us his? Don’t we desire to recognize more quickly not to resist any cross he sees fit to give?
That’s why Grow in Grace put together this year’s study package: Reclaiming Our Christ Centered Lutheran Devotional Heritage. Our daily devotional life isn’t in the least about impressing God, dutifully fulfilling another burdensome “to-do” on an already overburdened list. It’s about the image of his cross being impressed ever more deeply on my heart until I fear not at all the weight of the cross those pierced hands lovingly place on me.
If you haven’t done so, read just the first essay to see what the package is all about. If you are a circuit pastor, suggest to your circuit a study and discussion of the essays (or make that suggestion to your circuit pastor).