O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God of glory,
touch our lips with the fire of your Spirit,
that we with all creation
may rejoice to sing your praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom then shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
of whom then shall I be afraid?
When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes,
came upon me to eat up my flesh,
they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
my heart shall not be afraid,
and though there rise up war against me,
yet will I put my trust in him.
One thing have I asked of the Lord and that alone I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the fair beauty of the Lord
and to seek his will in his temple.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 14.25-33
Large crowds were travelling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, ‘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. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 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? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” 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? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.’
Jesus said: ‘Gather round. I have a message for you all.’ Then, as the large crowds gathered around, Jesus outlined his manifesto for discipleship.
Unlike the unrealistic, and often unbelievable, promises we are used to hearing from politicians, Jesus’ manifesto is one of stark truth. Jesus does not promise a life of wealth and glory to his disciples. Rather, he speaks of isolation, persecution and poverty. In this rational and materialistic world, Jesus’ pattern of discipleship would not win any elections, and yet it is the only route to eternal life in God’s nearer presence for the whole of eternity.
Our reading opens with a demand that true disciples must hate those nearest and dearest to them. To understand this counter-cultural condition of discipleship we need to explore the meaning of the word translated as ‘hate’. For us, the word has connotations of extreme dislike, even detestation. In Jesus’ world it was different. To ‘hate’ meant to ‘love less’. Rather than encouraging his disciples to detest their parents, spouse, children and siblings, Jesus is reminding us of our calling to love God more. He emphasizes this call by warning us that discipleship can demand sacrifice. Not only may disciples be called to relegate their closest relations to second place, but they may also have to make costly sacrifices to follow the God who calls them to love and to follow him into eternal life. None of this makes easy reading.
There is another element to today’s reading that we should not ignore. Jesus speaks of buildings and battles within his description of true discipleship. At first glance, these words may seem to have little to do with the core message of today’s reading, but that is not the case. Jesus is talking about the way in which we live out our lives on earth. We plan, we hope and we dream. Those plans and hopes and dreams can, however, prove to be totally unrealistic. No matter how much we might long for wealth and influence, we live in a world where our status is dictated by negotiation and compromise. As Jesus outlines the challenges of discipleship, he also reminds us that there is one, infinitely greater than ourselves, who knows the path we should be taking through this life. Sometimes that path will be smooth, but there will always come a moment of challenge. It is during those moments of challenge that we need to be ready to place God before everyone and everything else … even if that means ‘hating’ our loved ones and sacrificing all we have.
Prayers of Intercession
For holy wisdom in the Church and in the world, let us pray to the Lord.
Keep the whole Church steadfast in faith, ready to bear the cost of discipleship. May all Christian people honour one another in love, and give thanks for their redemption.
Look with compassion on the world where many strive to fulfil tasks that are too heavy for them. Give wisdom to those who have power in disputes between nations, that they may count the cost of conflict before it is too late.
We pray that our human loves and loyalties may be blessed but never turn us from our spiritual duty. Make us considerate to all who serve our daily needs.
Have mercy on those who are distressed because they wrongly judged the consequences of what they desired to do. We pray for all who have fled from their homes, that they may find support and the way of reconciliation.
We give thanks for those who have fulfilled their work on earth and entered into rest. Grant them eternal life through the Cross that was borne for them.
We make our prayers through Christ who has called us to take up the Cross and follow him.
Prayer for the week
we praise and bless your holy name
for your saints of every time and place
who have served you faithfully in their generation
and have enriched the world by their lives,
their witness and their example.
Help us, by your grace, to follow them
as they followed Christ,
that with them we may be partakers of your everlasting joy;
through the merits of Jesus our Saviour and our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
O for a closer walk with God,
a calm and heavenly frame;
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
how sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
the world can never fill.
So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.
William Cowper (1731–1800)