September 02, 2010
by Jenny Williams
Over 60% of teenagers admit to having texted while driving.
Someone is injured in a car crash every 14 seconds.
Car accidents are the leading cause of acquired disability nationwide.
The risks of traveling by automobile are tremendous, and yet most people drive or ride daily. Why would we do such a thing?
We have decided to get in the car because we have more important things to do than live in fear of the road. We have to shop for groceries. We have to take the kids to school. We have to get to work.
In Luke 14, Jesus issues a disclaimer about the risks involved in following him. It’s not even hidden in the fine print. It’s right out in public before the crowds, like a warning sign on a roller coaster: do not ride if you are pregnant, have back problems, or a heart condition. But whereas the amusement park posts those signs in their own best interests, Jesus’ warning is in the best interest of those who are considering following him. He warns us that submitting ourselves to His lordship could mean division in our families. And in a move at the end of the lection which nearly gives us whiplash, Jesus tells us that following him means we have to part with our stuff.
It’s risky business, indeed, striking at the heart of two institutions prized by Americans—family and ownership.
The sacraments may give would-be disciples some insight as to why Jesus would choose to announce these two risks in particular. We might have to hate our family of origin? Yep, following Jesus could create that division. But through God’s grace and the application of water, you’re welcomed into a whole new family, loaded with brothers and sisters who love Jesus, too.
We have to give up all our stuff? Yep, but people who eat around the same table know that God calls us to participate in the weird financial arrangements of economic sharing. Your stuff won’t be yours any longer, but you’ll know that the people with whom you eat will have what they need.
So you have to be willing to part with things and people—dear and cherished things and people—to follow Jesus. But the sacraments remind us that our loss does not go uncompensated. Surrounded by our dinner companions at Christ’s table, we know we’ll never be wanting for what we need. Because of our baptism and place in God’s church, we will always have family. Even in loss, there is security. Even in the crosses we carry, there is new life.
Jesus, however, is not only looking out for us in his disclaimer. He’s looking out for the integrity of the good news. If you begin building a tower only to have to halt construction half-way because you ran out of money, you’re going to have an unfinished spectacle on your property for all the neighbors to behold…and laugh at. If you don’t think about the cost of discipleship in advance but enter the journey anyway, people are going to ridicule you when you give up. And your giving up will compromise your living testimony to our Holy and Powerful God. The loss of the saltiness of the salt of the earth affects more than the salt itself.
So given these risks, why on God’s green earth (as my mother used to say) would anyone decide to get in the car with Jesus? Because we have decided that we have more important things to do than to live in fear of the risks. We have people to feed and work to do. Just buckle your seatbelt. It’s going to be a wild ride.