Proper 18c, September 8, 2013

September 9, 2013

Hatin’ With Jesus
Luke 14:25-33
25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; 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. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For 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? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or 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? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

Prior to being elected as a bishop in the Southeast Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Will Willimon was the preacher at Duke Chapel in Durham, NC for several years. In addition to being a gifted preacher he is a prolific and engaging writer, and in an article he wrote about discipleship he shared the story of a conversation he had with an angry father who’s daughter was an undergraduate student at Duke. It went like this:

I hold you personally responsible for this! the man said.
Me? Rev. Willimon asked.
The father was hot, upset because his graduate-school bound daughter had just informed him that she was going to chuck it all (throw it all away, was the way the father described it) and go do mission work with the Presbyterians in Haiti.
Isn’t that absurd! shouted the father. A BS degree in mechanical engineering from Duke and she’s going to dig ditches in Haiti.

Well, I doubt that she’s received much training in the Engineering Department here for that kind of work, but she’s probably a fast learner and will probably get the hang of ditch-digging in a few months, Willimon said.

Look, said the father, this is no laughing matter. You are completely irresponsible to have encouraged her to do this. I hold you personally responsible, the man said.

Me? What have I done? said Willimon

You, you ingratiated yourself with her, filled her head with all that religion stuff. She likes you, that’s why she’s doing this foolishness, he said.

Now look, buster, Willimon said, struggling to keep his ministerial composure. Weren’t you the one who had her baptized?

Why yes, said the father.

And then, didn’t you read her Bible stories, take her to Sunday School, let her go with the Presbyterian Youth Fellowship to ski in Vail?

Well, yes, but…

Don’t but me, Willimon said. It’s not my fault that she believed all that stuff, and that she’s gone and thrown it all away on Jesus. Your the one that introduced her to Jesus, not me.

But all we ever wanted her to be was a Presbyterian, the man said.

Sorry. You’ve messed up and made a disciple.

I don’t know if all of Will Willimon’s conversations unfold like screenplay dialogs. In some ways that exchange struck me as a conversation that was made for preaching, but it does shine some light on the problematic nature of discipleship. It can put us at odds with the very people we care the most about and separate us from the things we cherish the most. Who would have thought that Jesus would turn fine upstanding people in to haters?

I like that word, hater. Something I enjoyed about being in campus ministry was getting to hear fresh slang. Of course by the time I usually heard it it wasn’t necessarily fresh anymore, but there was one student in particular who liked to say things that he knew I wouldn’t quite understand. I remember hearing him refer to a girl he knew as a hater, and what I knew about that situation was that he was a lot more interested in her than she was in him, so I figured that one out.

You’re a hater when you aren’t doing whatever it is that I want you to do. So for instance, I’d be wondering why you’re hatin’ on me if I sent you an email and you didn’t respond. And you might be wondering why I’m hatin’ on you by sending you an email asking you to do something. It’s easy to be a hater. We’ve got our annual Charge Conference coming up and that means I’ve got to find people to fill all kinds of positions within the church. There’s going to be a whole lot of hatin’ goin’ on when I start making those phone calls and sending those emails. And that reminds me of all those haters out there who don’t support the church like they aught to.

I am a hater. And you need to be a hater too if you want to follow Jesus. He said we’ve got to do some hatin’ if we want to be a disciple. But it’s not easy to hate the way he hated. I don’t think I’m hating like Jesus when I call you a hater for not answering my phone call. Jesus wasn’t undermining the power of that word when he said we need to hate the relationships we are inclined to cherish, he used that word in order to highlight the difficulty of being his follower.

Jesus used this extreme language in order to describe the high cost of following him. Jesus wanted us to know on the front end that following him is not a matter of tagging along on a sentimental journey.

We call Jesus the Prince of Peace, but the truth is that he tore things up. He undermined cherished traditions and encouraged counter-cultural behavior. Church-going people aren’t normally thought-of as rabble-rousers, and that is an indictment of the church. Most parents are more comfortable with their children being good Presbyterians or good Methodists instead of being actual disciples. There’s no telling what kind of trouble our children would get in to if they took discipleship seriously. There’s no telling what would happen to any of us if we allowed the love and the logic of Christ to take over our lives.

Our world is a mess. If you don’t believe it you need to change the channel on your television or delete whatever game app. has taken over your mind. I went to see this film the other night at Philander Smith College that was called “The House I Live In”, there was a bit of a contingency from our church and I was happy about that. But this film highlighted the terrible way our nation’s war on drugs has destroyed people’s lives. Certainly drug use takes it’s toll on people, but the laws that have been created in response to that problem have done more damage to people than the drugs. This film brought attention to the terrible problem of mass incarceration, and how it has been particularly devastating to people who are poor and have dark skin. I firmly believe Jesus would hate this system that we have in place and the people who promote it.

What I actually believe is that he would love the promoters of injustice so much that he would do what he could to stop them from doing their bad work. I think there’s a fine line between loving and hating. Hating isn’t the opposite of loving – the opposite of loving is not caring.

And Jesus wants those of us who aspire to be his followers to care so much that we hate for bad patterns of existence to continue. Jesus wants us to care about our world so much that we don’t do what our parents or siblings or children expect us to do, but that we allow God to be the guide of our hearts. You probably need to pay pretty good attention to what your spouse thinks, but the truth is that we are ultimately only accountable to God, and we need to do some accurate accounting of our lives.

Whether we know it or not we are all doing a whole lot of loving and a whole lot of hating, and we need to be conscious of where our affections lie. Those of us who call ourselves Christian are claiming to love Jesus, but that may not be who we are serving. Jesus knew this to be the case with the crowd that had grown up around him, so he decided to say something that would eliminate the people who weren’t hating the right things and who loved the wrong things. Jesus has always wanted people who will engage in some hatin’ with him and not be hatin’ on him.

I know it sounds kind of funny to be talking about hating with Jesus, and the truth is that what I mean when I say we need to be hating with him is that we need to allow ourselves to be overtaken by the transforming love of Jesus. It’s that depth of love that gives people the courage to care about the suffering of our neighbors. It’s a love that moves people to hate those powers and principalities that dehumanize and destroy. It’s the love of Jesus that can help us say no to the people who are behind those death dealing systems and policies and to work for actual justice.

Regardless of what Jesus said, he was no hater. Jesus was the one who loved so well he was unable to be destroyed by those who were guided by the worst form of hate. His love for us all cost him his life, but his love prevailed over death, and we continue to be touched and transformed by his love.

Thanks be to God for his powerful love, and for the way in which it empowers us to hate the thought of being anything less than his faithful disciples.



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