“It’s Costly…”

Pastor Matthew Best
9 min readSep 4, 2022

The readings for the day are: Deuteronomy 30:15–20, Philemon 1–21, and Luke 14:25–33.

The transcript for the sermon is as follows: CS Lewis is quoted as saying — “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

Thus, we have the readings for this Sunday that can only be summarized as the antithesis of the popular recommendations on how to grow a church.

Deuteronomy makes it pretty clear — obey or suffer the consequences. Good luck with that message in modern day America. That might work in some settings, but it doesn’t sound like Good News that sets us free. Sounds more like a message of fire and brimstone. A message of compulsion. A message that can be abused by humans who want to control people and guess what — that’s exactly how passages like this have been used far too often. But listen to the message itself. It is a costly message. The core of the message is give up what you want to do, and follow God’s ways. Or don’t and suffer the consequences. That’s costly.

The letter to Philemon is a short letter from Paul, sent while he is in prison. Sent to Philemon. And Onesimus is carrying the letter. Onesimus is a runaway slave from Philemon’s house, who, by the way, took some valuable items with him when he went. He ended up linked up with Paul for some time and did ministry with him. And now Paul is sending Onesimus back to his owner. Paul is risking Onesimus’ life with this. If that isn’t costly, I don’t know what is. It could go really bad for Onesimus. Onesimus especially, but also Philemon, is being asked to give up what they want to do and follow a different path. A costly path.

And then you have the Gospel — Jesus saying to hate your family, to hate your very life. To embrace the cross — the symbol of death — and do that every day. To give up all you have. All in order to follow Jesus. All of that is costly. Really costly.

Carolyn Sharp of Yale Divinity School had this to say in commentary on the Gospel — “Would-be disciples must acknowledge at the outset that following Jesus will cost them everything, and they cannot know what lies ahead until they take up the cross and follow their Lord.”

In other words, you aren’t going to be in control. And it will cost you everything. Great sales pitch, huh?

Pastor Matthew Best

My name is Matthew Best. I’m an ELCA (Lutheran) pastor who attempts to translate church and churchy stuff into everyday language.