Are we encumbered?

Who do you love the most (Luke 14:25-33)? Can we become Jesus disciples?

I remember lying in bed on a Sunday morning after a hard week’s work when Kath and I were early Christians and saying to Kath, let’s not go to Church today, I am too tired. Alright she said let’s have a lazy morning. Then in come our 2 young girls aged around 5 and 8 bounding into our bedroom shouting to both of us ‘Come on it’s time to go to Church!’sleep

Church is the place where we meet with God and each other, where we know his presence with us and, no matter how bad the vicar is, Christ will come and put our lives into perspective and we grow in his love and in his likeness. We leave Church with a different view on our life to the one we came in with and sometimes we need encouragement, especially if we haven’t been in Church for a while.wp04d9fd52_05_06

Our Church is made up of many people who have been invited to come by their friends and I wonder who it was that encouraged you to first come to Church or once you had arrived at Church, encouraged you to come again?

I remember our 2 girls encouraging their friends to come along to Church and soon their friends encouraged their parents to come along. I remember one couple who came saying they would come occasionally for their children and within a year they were confirmed and 5 years later he was Church Warden.

Sometimes it’s really good to share with our friends and our family the beauty of Church and the welcome we know and the place where we meet with God. It’s good to invite those people that we love and respect to share with us something we love and enjoy and that gives us a different perspective on life with those simple words “Would you like to come to Church with me?”

September 18th is Back to Church Sunday where we are encouraged to invite one person someone we love and respect to come with us to Church or to our Harvest Festival on 2nd October and we have some invitations available at the end of this service that split in two, one for an invitation to handout and one for prayer.

Life for many people can so often become encumbered with many different things that the intention to come to Church gets lost, life is full and hectic and even Sundays are taken up with many things.bagage

I often think it’s like picking my two daughters up when they finished University. They wanted to come home, unfortunately they had acquired far too many possessions and we couldn’t get them in the car, never mind our home. They had become encumbered and it had stopped them doing something they wanted to do; come home.

This is the message that is coming from Jesus to the huge crowd that is following him. He talks to them about what is stopping them becoming his disciples. The crowd saw him as a Teacher of God’s kingdom, they saw him as a healer, they saw him as a comforter, they saw him as the son of God and they saw him as their Saviour, God’s promised one. He was going to bring them home.

But Jesus was walking towards Jerusalem, he was walking towards his death, his load was heavy because he would take the sin of the whole world onto his shoulders so that they and we don’t have to and he turned to the crowd and saw those who came to watch and those who came to listen but not to follow. He saw them with all their baggage and things that encumbered them that stopped them following and being his disciples and he warns them that they will need to get their priorities in order. They will need to know a greater love for him than they have for their family, a greater love for him than their possessions, than their own life even – can they follow him on the journey he is going on? Jesus even puts it in terms of “hate” to exaggerate his meaning that they need to disentangle themselves from worldly ties to follow him. Do they have that love for Jesus Christ, God’s son? Could they even carry their own cross to suffering, humiliation and execution in order to follow him? Is their love that great? Is our love that great? Have they considered the cost, have we considered the cost?

It’s a really hard passage I think, but it helps us think about what our priorities are and what we are encumbered with that stops us following Christ and knowing his love and power in our lives? Knowing his grace in our lives? Knowing his encouragement and love through his Church?

Tom Wright, one of our popular biblical scholars who used to be Bishop of Durham, puts it very well I think, when he says that if a politician spoke Jesus words, no-one would follow at all, but if it was a friend showing the way to a new life then many would follow.  Like my daughters who wanted to come home, but to do so they needed to be encouraged to disencumber themselves of some possessions.

Jesus isn’t really saying to us, hate our family, sell our land and possessions and give up our life to follow him, but he is asking us what is our priority in life – the love of God or the love of other things. Can we trust God to look after those gifts he has given us in our life that he knows we need, so that we are free to follow Jesus Christ and be his disciple or are they encumbering us in our Christian journey?

Sometimes then we need encouragement from our friends to come and be part of Church with us so that they we are able to rediscover the priorities of life and discover Christ in our lives.

When I read these words of Jesus I also think of some of his other words.

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“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone?  Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?  If you then, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! “ Our Father knows what we need and they are his gifts to us.

Jesus tells us, get our priorities right, live our life for him and then receive with gratitude his blessings.

In our passage from Deuteronomy (30:15-20) we hear Moses last speech to the people of Israel as they move into the Promised Land. He puts it quite starkly. Follow God and his commandments and you will know life and prosperity, turn away from him and you will know death and adversity. They were asked to think about their priorities and choices very carefully.

Following Christ and being able to disencumber our lives brings us God’s purposes and priorities and moulds us more to be like Christ and sometimes we need that encouragement to come and join with others in Church with that personal invitation  “Would you like to come to Church with me?” So I pray that there may be someone you love and respect, someone that God puts in front of your path who you can invite to Church for Harvest Festival or Back to Church Sunday and together we can discover God’s priorities in our lives.

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