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Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Michael Moffitt, September 8, 2019


It’s as Simple as That


Text: Luke 14:25–33

Last Sunday Jim Conley preached about not just knowing who you are (identity) but whose you are (belonging). Who do you belong to? If you weren’t here, I recommend that you go to our website and watch the video of that sermon.

As I reflected on that sermon, it brought to mind that last year our daughter, Amy, bought both Teresa and I a DNA test from Ancestry.com. I’m sure that you have seen them advertised on the TV or magazines. I had always meant to do it but never got around to it, probably because I’m so cheap. It’s very simple, you send a sample of saliva and five or six weeks later you receive the results. My DNA showed that I am mostly from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales with a little of Northwestern Europe, primarily Germany. I knew quite a bit about my family history especially on my mother’s side, but very little on my father’s.

I decided to join Ancestry.com and for the next six or eight weeks I had a lot of fun tracking down my ancestors. Amy joined in the fun, and we would call each other when we made a real breakthrough to share the results. To my surprise, a lot of work had already been done by people who I don’t know but who are down the line in my family tree. After only a week I had an impressive ancestral network and it revealed names and supporting documents that I would have never known how to find were it no for others.

There were some really unsavory characters in my family and some who were really amazing people. On my mother’s tree I was able to go all the way back for 12 generations on her father’s side and close to that on her mother’s. On my father’s side, I went back 11 generations on his mother’s side but only two on his father’s.

The really exciting thing that I found out was related to my father’s father, Captain Burpee Moffitt. I already knew that he was born in 1894 in Randleman, NC, and I had always been told that his mother died in childbirth and his father abandoned him and his older sister and brother to a neighborhood family, with the last name Trussler. I was told they raised my grandfather and his siblings and even sent my grandfather to college for a year, which back in the early 1900s was unusual. He joined the Army during World War 1 and fought in France. My father didn’t know any more than that, not even his grandparents' first names. I’ll never forget my daughter calling me one evening and excitedly telling me, “I found the name of your great grandfather on your father’s side. His name was John and his wife’s name was Annie.” Sure enough, there it was, and it also showed that Annie likely didn’t die in childbirth either. I won’t go into what appeared to be the problem and why certain things were hushed up.

For a short while we had a lot of fun tracking down our ancestors but eventually it got old and didn’t seem to matter that much anymore. To me it was history, and although it was good to know where I came from and to learn some stories about my ancestors, I never felt the closeness of family because I never really knew them. I never met either of my grandfathers but did get to know one of my great grandfathers, which brings back some warm memories.

As I contemplated Jim’s sermon I was reminded that our culture has changed a lot over the last two generations. We don’t often find the scenario where three or four generations live in the same house and there is a rich history that is passed down from generation to generation. I have hundreds of pictures from my grandmother Moffitt, but I can’t identify most of the people in them. Many of us never had that type of family situation and we are the poorer for it.

For many of us, our children live far away and we seldom get to actually experience what it is to touch them and hug them. Teresa and I have actually been with our granddaughters, who live in Colorado Springs, less than 10 times and they are nine and eight years old. We see them and experience them through a computer screen, but I can’t remember what it’s like to hug them or what they smell like. Everyone has their own unique smell and when you live with them for a long time that smell is familiar and comforting (hopefully).

For many there is no strong family identity or remembrance of family history and I have been wondering if that has played a big role in our lack of understanding of being in the family of God. Some of you here this morning have lived long enough to appreciate family and have many fond and precious memories but others, like myself, don’t share that blessing. So, for me to ask the question, “Whose Am I?" is vitally important. It would never occur to me to find the answer to that question through my family history because I don’t have a strong and compelling family history. I’m an only child and except for my wife and children, have only two cousins and one aunt left.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not complaining, you can’t miss what you’ve never had. However, more and more I find people who innately sense that something important is missing and they seek to find an identity to fill up that hole. Unfortunately, unless they here the good news of the gospel, they will look everywhere but Jesus. I love the quote from St. Augustine of Hippo, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Augustine rightly identifies the problem, we were created for relationship with God as Father, Jesus as Lord and elder brother and the Holy Spirit as the power, love and binding agent in the family.

In every one of our scripture readings this morning the same message resounds, that God’s people must obey the commands of God. Why? Because he is not only the creator and sustainer of all things, but he is the Father of the family. He must never take second place to anyone or anything. His commands are always good and right because they are given for the good of the children within the family. Deuteronomy 30:15–18,

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

For 40 years while wandering in the desert, Moses taught the children of Israel the identity of the one who had miraculously brought them out of the land of Egypt, had given provided them with everything they needed and had set them apart as those to whom he had given the law. To turn away from their Heavenly Father was to bring disgrace on the family and they were warned that they would lose everything if they chose to turn away from God. The inheritance of the Father is always given to the children in the family, not to enemies.

The Psalms are a compilation of songs to be sung in worship by the children of God. Psalm 1 and 2 should be understood as instructions on how to read the rest of the Psalms. Psalm 1 begins with a comparison of those who walk-in righteousness and those who are wicked. The righteous are characterized as those who do not:

  1. Walk in the counsel of the wicked
  2. Stand in the way of sinners or,
  3. Sit in the seat of scoffers.

What they do is delight themselves in the law of the Lord and meditate upon it day and night.

Why would they do this? Because the law is holy to them for it is given to them by their Father who expresses to them his Holy will. It’s to be seen as a gift of love and to be cherished. It’s a family matter and those outside the family will be like the “chaff,” another word for trash, refuse, debris or husks and dust from the harvest. In other words, useless. Our gospel reading from Luke 14:25–33 is troubling to some because Jesus is speaking so boldly about the difference between our love for our earthly families and our love for Jesus. Listen again to Luke 14:25–27,

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Some commentators seek to calm down the intensity of the word “hate” that Jesus used here but in truth the word is miseo and it means to “hate, pursue with hatred, detest.” I think it's helpful to see how Jesus uses this same word in another place. Let me read to you Matthew 6:24,

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

In both cases Jesus is drawing a strong contrast between one thing and another. Our love for God should mean that nothing has the place of importance that he has. Our love for him should be so strong that our love for anything else, including family looks like hatred. Having money isn’t wrong and having family isn’t wrong, but neither can hold the place in our hearts that Jesus does.

So, in our gospel passage this morning Jesus tells those who would be followers of him that they should count the cost. He tells them upfront that they will need to carry their own cross and follow him. This was a real “buzz kill” to most and they probably, like most today, walked away shaking their heads.

Jesus was too much of a zealot and his concept of following God wasn’t how they wanted to follow God. His God was oppressive, bigoted and narrow-minded, not like their god who was uber friendly, happy to see them and just wanted them to be happy. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, they were only considering one part of Jesus’ warning to count the cost. Jesus wanted the disciples to consider what it costs to follow him and what it would cost to not follow. Ultimately, which was more costly?

Jim Conley reminded us last week that there will be a day of judgment and the only question that must be answered when standing before a Holy God is not “Who are you?” but “Whose are you?” As Jim reminded us Matthew 7:22–23 says,

“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Jesus wasn’t denying that they existed, He’s denying that they had a relationship with him. I can’t imagine anything more terrifying than Jesus saying, ‘I never knew you; depart from me…”

As you know this is my last week here for a while and I wanted to tell you something two things about me before I leave. I don’t know what God is doing in our lives — yours and mine but I do know that I have counted the costs and will follow him wherever it leads. I want you to know that I love you and want to encounter Jesus with every one of you in his kingdom. I don’t excel in that many things, but I know whose I am and hope you do too.

Let’s pray.

©2019 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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