Friday, September 03, 2010

How much does discipleship cost?

Rhinestones, tattoo inspired design, and trucker hats have made the designer Ed Hardy world famous. You can even find Ed Hardy merchandise in our mall in western NY. The designer has continued to grow his lifestyle brand into accessories and now the perfume industry. As I walked through Bon-Ton earlier this week, I picked up a colorful Ed Hardy Duffel Bag, and my daughter said, " I saw an church sign photo online that said: Ed Hardy shirts will be asked to leave. Your rhinestones are not welcome here."

While the photo of this church sign is most likely a photoshopped image, it seems that the shift in street wear popularity is not limited to this church sign. While Ed Hardy designs have become more mainstream, his influence on the fashion design seems to be fading. A hip club called "Republic" in Chicago recently banned
their patrons from wearing clothing designed by: Ed Hardy, Affliction and Christian Audigier. "... if you can wear it to work out or to paint a house, you can’t wear
it beyond the velvet rope."

The dress code established by this business puts their foot down on bedazzled yet costly casual wear is no longer permitted in their establishment. This establishment isn't pulling any punches. They clearly inform the public of their expectations to moving past the style influence of rhinestone distraction. This style of dress simply isn't welcome, just like the church sign stated. I don't agree that churches should exclude people due to the brand name of clothing they wear, but the topic of distraction is one that comes through loud and clear in this week's gospel reading from Luke 14.

The affliction of distraction isn't limited to casual wear or perfume wearers, it seems that distraction can be an impediment to anyone - even in the arena discipleship or working towards living a life that honors Jesus.

The gospel reading in Luke is a reminder of the challenge that is foundational in the act of following Christ. Imagine being in the crowd listening as Jesus said:

26"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.
33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

These words must have been shocking to hear then, and today they still cause the listener to pause and say- "What is all this talk of hate, bearing crosses and giving EVERYTHING up all mean?"

Jesus consistent ethic of love makes it unthinkable that one would hate his or her own family. The original meaning of 'hate' in verse 26 does not mean anger or hostility. It's use is in reference to when a conflict arises, one's response to the demands of discipleship take priority over human relationships. Essentially, Jesus points back to his call to commitment in faith in Luke 10 :27. Jesus is calling his listeners to: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

Bearing a cross in vs. 27 does bring to mind the suffering awaiting Jesus in Jerusalem. Jesus warns his listeners that suffering is a traveling partner in the Christian life. Jesus wanted his followers to be prepared for the dramatically different focus life would require as they are called to put God first.

The meaning of giving up in vs. 33 means: to take leave o
r say goodbye to something. The early church was known for its ability of sharing resources in order to care for the needs of the entire community. If individuals become to connected or tied to material things, interpersonal relationships suffer and break down and a persons relationship with God becomes strained as well.

When relationships, frustration with discomfort and material things get between us and God our ability to follow Christ is impeded. People can become bound by these things in such a way that they become stuck and unable to move forward in their relationships with others and God. While it is acceptable to vent frustrations we face; it can become spiritually problematic when attitudes shift to a place of refusal to grow or move on into the areas that God calls us.

A disciple's or student's main job is to follow the teacher. In Jesus time, the disciples of any rabbi would say," I will walk so close to the Rabbi that I will be covered in his dust along the path." Following after Jesus, so that we are covered in his dust is not an easy lesson to learn. You would think that putting one foot in front of the other would not be that difficult, but in this case it is. It's as if in each step we take closer to Christ, that we need to let go of or move on from something we are so attached too.
When Jesus was speaking to the crowd that day, his words were hard to hear just as they are today. Jesus is not looking for superficial commitments or people to casually tag-a-long. Jesus requires a total commitment from his followers, if they were going to follow at all.

The challenges that Jesus shares with us are not meant to keep us away from following him. These honest expectations and realities are given so we can make an informed choice. Jesus always headed to the streets to share his message of hope, but he desires more from us than a 'casual' say "Hey, how are you?" when-I- see- you- on- the- street-relationship.

Jesus calls each one of us beyond being a casual acquaintance, and into a relationship with him that is close, honest and all-consuming. When we decide to volunteer and become a Jesus follower, the focus of life shifts. Bearing our cross requires that our priorities come into line with the command to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. It also requires that we love others as well as we love ourselves. The material things we own can either be an obstacle or a means to serve God and people. All these changes seem so opposite of the expectations of the world, but maybe that is the point. Discipleship means our path and purpose is not our own, or the worlds, but that of God's.

Jesus gives the invitation to follow to everyone, but the invitation comes with responsibility. Thankfully, Jesus is up front about the cost of following in his steps.

Following Jesus requires us to change, really to become more and more like Christ every day. It can be easy to become comfortable or distracted in our faith, but Jesus continues to call us into a sincere relationship with him. The changes that God calls us to may impact our families, our habits, our jobs, and our bank accounts. So what change do you sensed God calling in your life? Do you have a place in life where you need to become covered in the dust of Christ? We all have those places - and even in our humanness: God calls each one of us closer to him.

The kind of changes God asks, are much deeper and life-altering than changing out of a bedazzled t-shirt. The changes on the road of discipleship cost more than a piece of designer clothing, but the returns of living a life of true discipleship have more value than anything on earth.
“Follow the rabbi, drink in his words, and be covered with the dust of his feet.”
Ancient Jewish proverb.

Luke 14:25-33
25Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26"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. 27And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

31"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.


Mel said...

I like this.
No, I don't endorse 'if you wear this don't come into this church'--but I understand the message.

Lamont said...

Thanks Mel - The church sign was the result of an online photo tweaking application, so thankfully they were not establishing an exclusionary dress code like the club was. I agree with your point.

The not being distracted thing - I'm still working on tha...Oh look at that pretty thing over there...t one.

See what I mean?