Contributed by Aaron Matson, Watertown, SD

Warm-up Question

Share a time when you bought something and it did not measure up to your expectations.

Always Read the Fine Print

shutterstock_70638826editBefore iTunes and Amazon, there were mail-order “music clubs.” To entice you to join their “club,” companies such as Columbia House used to send out mailings offering 13 cassettes (and later CDs) for a dollar a piece. When I was pretty young I remember going through those catalogs – I could pick out 13 CDs I wanted easily, but my parents would never let me send in the order form and join. Finally I asked why, and they showed me the fine print in the offer – you had to buy so many CD’s for about $20 a piece in the next year, and if you ever forgot to send in the mailing saying you didn’t want the CD of the month, they’d send it to you and you were on the hook for $20 for a CD you didn’t want in the first place.

In life, we all have those kinds of experiences.  We have gotten ourselves into situations where we weren’t really sure what we were getting ourselves in to, and then find ourselves in over our head. In our gospel reading today, we see that Jesus doesn’t want that happen to his followers; he wants all who follow him to know what they were getting themselves into, and to be aware of the costs of discipleship.


Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever been tripped up by “fine print;” i.e., has anyone ever tried to get you to do something without letting you know all the details of what you were getting into?
  • What kind of clubs or organizations are you a member of besides the Church? What kind of expectations or requirements do they have for members? What kinds of costs are involved in belonging to these groups (i.e., time, membership fees, expenses for supplies, etc.)?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, September 8, 2013 (Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost)

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Philemon 1-21

Luke 14:25-33

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

In a nutshell, Jesus wants us to know that following him can be really, really hard and painful. These words are hard to hear, and are a lot different from what we hear sometimes in popular Christianity. Too often, there is an attitude among Christians that following Jesus means nothing bad will happen to you, and that, if you just have enough faith, you will be blessed with prosperity, riches, good health, and good fortune.

How different that attitude is from the words of Jesus in Luke. Being a disciple of Christ means taking up your cross and following Jesus; it means the kind of commitment that can cost you friends, family, possessions, and even your life.  Following Jesus takes us places that we would sometimes rather not go, and find ourselves in the company of some people we might not choose to be around—stooped over women, the sick, the dying, the outcasts living on the margins of society. But that is where the call to discipleship calls us to go, and that is where the gospel of Jesus leads us.

This is quite a commitment! I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure if I can quite live up to this commitment or totally fulfill my role as a disciple. Fortunately for me, and fortunately for us, Jesus doesn’t ask us for an advance guarantee of our ability to fulfill all that he asks of us. If he did, none of us would be able to a disciple. While the life of a disciple is a costly one, our salvation in Christ is a free gift. Because we have this great gift, we have comfort and hope in those times when we fall short, and empowered by the Spirit, we can continue our walk of discipleship. And we do not walk alone! We walk together, as the Church, the body of Christ – and Christ himself walks with us.


Discussion Questions

  • What has discipleship cost you? How are your priorities in life different because you are a Christian?
  • How might the costs of discipleship in America be different than they were in Jesus’ time and place? How might they be the same?

Activity Suggestions

  •  If your congregation is participating in the “God’s Work, Our Hands” day of service commemorating the ELCA’s 25th Anniversary, take some time to discuss how this is living out the call to discipleship.
  • In the early days of the Church, many Christians gave their lives for the sake of the gospel. Look up some of stories of these martyrs, from the book of Acts and texts on church history. Look to see if you can find the stories of some more recent martyrs, such as Archbishop Oscar Romero.


Closing Prayer

Holy Lord, we thank you for calling us to be your disciples. Give us strength and encouragement to live out this call, even when it is costly to us. Give us encouragement when we fall short. And help us to always remember, even when we aren’t the disciples you call us to be, that we are still yours and you will always love us. All this we pray in the name of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.