Year C Proper 18 Luke 14
The Cost of Discipleship
Andrew died on a cross
Simon was crucified
Bartholomew was flayed alive
James (son of Zebedee) was beheaded
The other James (son of Alphaeus) was beaten to death
Thomas was run through with a lance
Matthias was stoned and then beheaded
Matthew was slain by the sword
Peter was crucified upside down
Thaddeus was shot to death with arrows
Philip was hanged
The demands that Jesus makes upon those who would follow him are extreme. Christianity is not a Sunday morning religion. It is a hungering after God to the point of death if need be. It shakes our foundations, topples our priorities, pits us against friend and family, and makes us strangers in this world. We sing, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." But, we must come to see that on many occasions he is not our friend but our adversary.
One day, as Jesus was being followed by a large crowd, he turned on the them, sensing that the demands of discipleship were not getting through, he told two parables. In these parables we learn the three great requirements of Christianity. To follow Jesus:
- We must establish our priorities.
- We must count the cost.
- We must pay the price.
The most famous journalist saying of all time is arguably "if it bleeds, it leads".
Rolling Stone magazine decided to take that adage literally. The 18 August 2010 cover of Rolling Stone magazine featured a bloody mess--and it was a huge hit, creating a big stir, selling lots of copies. Wearing nothing but dripping, smeared, puddling blood, the three young stars of "True Blood" posed in way meant to sell magazines rather than report on the series. "True Blood" is an American television drama series. It premiered on HBO exactly two years ago, on September 7, 2008. (please be careful: you must see this magazine cover before mentioning it in the pulpit. Only you know the sensitivities of your people, and while your people will see this magazine cover at the newsstand, they may not want to see it in church. Only you know how best to deal with controversial issues like the growing nudity and violence in our culture)
"True Blood" is one of a growing number of vampire soap operas, and there are a bumper crop of these teenage-vampire-love-story shows. Anne Rice sold 80 million copies of her "Vampire Chronicles" to boomers and Gen-Xers in the late 70s, 80s, and 90s. But the last five years have belonged to Stephanie Meyer, whose red-hot "Twilight" series reignited vampire-mania among newer generations, especially those twenty and under. The blood-thirsty, blood-sucking "undead" have become the darlings of young adults everywhere. Vampires aren't creepy, they're cool. Or in the bad-is-good language of pop culture, "Vampires Suck" (a current movie playing in cinemas everywhere).
In fact, as mere mortals in all these "love stories" come to believe, vampires are "to die for."
If teens and twenty-somethings are attracted to these blood-smeared sweethearts, their parents and grandparents are notoriously "hemophobic." We have a tendency to get weak-kneed and wobbily at the mere mention of blood.
Don't believe me? Want proof?
Check your hymnbook. When was the last time (or first time?) you sang "There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood" or "Power In The Blood." Have you ever even heard "Alas and Did My Savior Bleed," or "Oh, The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power"? Fanny Crosby's hymn "Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb" is long forgotten, as is "Nothing but the Blood." How ironic that the more the most bloody century in history (160 million people died in 20th century wars) was bloodied by a killer blood disease (HIV/AIDS), the more the church became squeamish around blood and even hemophobic. Like the neatly packaged, plastic wrapped meat packets we bring home from the supermarket, any suggestion of sacrificial lifeblood left Christians skitti...