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We are a Jesus-focused, inclusive community of faith that strives to live as Jesus lived in real, everyday ways. Come Thrive Go. Salt House is a Church on Seattle's Eastside located in Kirkland, Washington. 

Location: 11920 NE 80th Street, Kirkland, WA 98033.

BOUND

Sermons

BOUND

Jason Bendickson

September 4, 2016 / BOUND / Sara Wolbrecht / Luke 14:25-33

Friends, today, this Labor Day weekend, though we have been sloshed with some impressive rain, we also feel that sense of enjoying the final moments of summer as school begins this week for many, and as Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back in the rotation – Jason and I had one on Friday. We’re also finishing our summer series on Living the FLOW of God.  And with all of these pieces coming together, it seems appropriate that today would be the perfect morning for something fabulous – the grand finale of summer that leaves us feeling warm and inspired.  And something like a bit exclamation point on this incredible journey we’ve been on, living the FLOW of God.

And yet, where we’re headed, will mess with some of those expectations.  Today, we are creating space to experience the FLOW of God.  Again, what we’ve named this summer is that FAITH: is less about asking the intellectual question of: Do you believe or not?  And more a question of: FAITH: Would you like to enter the FLOW?  Believing that God is present and moving in this world, we explore rhythms we can adopt to enter the flow of God, like a song that is already playing, will we live in tune.  We’re making room to practice one of those rhythms together today. 

That practice is opening up scripture and letting it speak to us, engage with our passions, questions, with the current circumstances of our individual and collective lives.  And we’ll use the practice we’ve used a few times, Lectio Divina.

To explain it briefly for folks who may have missed it so far: This practice is called Lectio Divina. A practice used since the 3rd Century.  The Latin “Lectio” means word or reading.  And “Divina” means holy, sacred, divine.  And so what we’re about to try is called Divine Reading, or Holy Word.  Lectio Divina.

Lectio, the process uses repetition – reading through the text many times listening for a word or phrase that gets our attention, then prayerfully reflecting on how that word or phrase connects with our lives.

Listening to Scripture and contemplating it in this way, affirms two things.  First, it reminds us that we believe Scripture to be God’s LIVING word. It has a pulse and breath and continues to speak to us in fresh, alive ways – it’s not just a static, ancient text. It keeps flowing.  And second – Lectio affirms that we are also changing, living in transition, we are always being made new.  God’s word will speak to us in new ways TODAY because WE are in a different place today than we were five years ago or even last week.  There is always a fresh word to hear in the midst of the rhythm and reality of our lives. 

As I hinted before, where we’re headed is not an easy, trite, warm-fuzzy piece of scripture.  We’re hearing Jesus’ words today, in a passage that is assigned to this Sunday for Protestant and Roman Catholic churches throughout the world.  You may know that there is a three-year cycle of readings from the bible that mainline churches usually follow.  It is called the Lectionary, the Revised Common Lectionary.  And today this text is the lectionary text, heard by millions of people in churches throughout the world today.  And it made sense for us to practice the flow of God using this text today. 

So friends, let’s get ready to rumble.  To Lectio.  Let’s get comfortable and ready to listen. I recommend closing your eyes and just listening for the words.  But if you are a more visual person, pull out that bulletin insert and you can follow along with the words (underline, circle).      And get comfortable in your seat.  Roll your shoulders back.  Please become aware of your breath – and continue to feel the air flowing in and out. 

The first step in Lectio is READING.  Our first time reading is to listen for a word or phrase that touches our heart, that gets your attention. That’s what we listen for – one word or phrase.  Do not expect lightning to strike, just something that shimmers for you.  When the word or phrase is found, gently recite it, repeat it and reflect on it during the silence that follows. (We’re using The Message version, and again, it is a feisty piece of scripture).

Let us pray.  God, we let our breath slow down, we settle into this space, yet we also attune our ears, minds, hearts to you, with great anticipation that you are here – and we are listening now as we turn to scripture…Amen.

Luke 14:25-33 (The Message) - Sara

One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder their own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.

“Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘They started something they couldn’t finish.’

“Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?

“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.”

(Silence) If you are willing, I invite you to share out loud the word or phrase that has touched your heart.  Just the word or phrase, no commentary yet.

…Thank you for sharing.  The next step is REFLECTION (leave up). We each ponder the word that has touched our heart and ask where the word or phrase touches our life today. As we do this, do not be afraid of distractions. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of ourselves that, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of our self. Embrace those things that come up, listen to them. Continue to repeat your word while holding it in dialogue with God, listening for WHY this word grabs our attention today, as we hear the text again, this time read by Sean, with silence after.

Luke 14: 25-33 (The Message) – Sean

(Silence) We’ll have a chance to share what we’re hearing in a moment, after our final reading.

The third step is RESPONDING (leave up).  The third and final reading is for the purpose of experiencing Christ "calling us into the flow." What is God in this text calling us to do or to become today or this week? God is always inviting us into the flow, and into transformation, into seeing our lives in a fresh way.  How are we invited to be or to do differently?  We listen for our response, as we hear the passage a final time.

Luke 14: 25-33 (The Message) – Sara

One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder their own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.

“Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘They started something they couldn’t finish.’

“Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?

“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.”

 And now we make space to share, for those who would like to.  You do not have to worry about sounding smart or insightful or being articulate – you can be brief. I’ve noticed in my experience, our own willingness to speak up of how we’re experiencing God – God always uses it to speak to someone else. So let’s see together: what word/phrase spoke to you and what have you been noticing about it? How are you invited to respond?  (For this part we’ll use a mic so that we can be sure everyone can hear).

…Thank you for sharing, friends.  For experiencing the flow and sharing that experience. Before we get to the final step of Lectio, I want to pause for a reflection on this text, because it is not an easy one.

This passage, we hear it and think. “Jesus, if you want people to actually be a part of what you’re doing – this is not the way to do it!”  Not how to win friends and influence people.  This is a difficult text – I confess it is for me, too, and yet perhaps the best parts of scripture for us are those that are not easy, not figured out, but that leave us undone and opened up.   

There’s so much we could focus on here, but I want to drill into the most important words in this strange torrent of demands, the words about “carrying the cross.”

We have grown so accustomed to the domesticated presence of the cross. It hangs on our walls in churches – I really dig the teal blue version of our cross here at Salt House.  We see it on necklaces, tattoos, even decorating children’s bedroom walls.  We forget that when Jesus said – yeah, take up your cross – that the cross was not so domestic.

When these words were spoken and eventually written down, they were not metaphor, even for radical discipleship. No one would ever use “carrying a cross” as metaphor.  Because: the cross was synonymous with unfair, excruciating death. 

Crucifixion was not capital punishment, it wasn’t applied as a consequence for murder and other extraordinary wrong-doing.  Crucifixion was a tool Rome used to break the will of conquered people, in this case, the Jewish population of the eastern Mediterranean.  As Rome took power over regions of people, crucifixion taught a simple lesson: that Rome is willing to do anything (with no limits or exceptions) to hold power.  To this end they crucified thousands of people.  Often hundreds at a time, often randomly.  As a part of being crucified, you would carry your own cross on your shoulders to the destination where you would be hung to suffer a slow, painful, excruciating death. 

So, what does Jesus mean when he uses “cross-bearing” as the single identifier of those who would be his disciples?

I do not know.  Neither do you.

This isn’t the sort of thing one CAN know, and then be done thinking about.

These words shake the earth.  If they don’t shake you, you aren’t listening.

None of us knows what they mean.

So allow me to pretend that I know. 

Jesus isn’t trying to win friends and influence people, but naming that to follow Jesus has a cost.  I appreciate the way it is said in the version we read: “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.”

There is one other place where cross-bearing is mentioned in the gospels. As Jesus is on the way to his execution, his cross falls down, Jesus is exhausted, and Simon of Cyrene is there, and is compelled to pick up and carry the cross on which Jesus would die.  As Simon steps in, he would assume that he, himself, would be crucified.  And he was just coming in from the country that day.  His sons, named by the Luke, would never know what had happened to him.  It sends shivers down my back.

So maybe, just maybe, these harsh words about “cross-bearing” are a call to do what Simon of Cyrene did.  Once he picked up the cross, it wasn’t clear to anyone how the day would end.  It was only clear that his future was bound up with the future of the poor, unfortunate person who could no longer carry the weight of the cross.

Bound up, with the one who would walk out of his own tomb.  With the one who had extended radical grace and generosity to unsuspecting outsiders.  Jesus says there is a cost.  We ask ourselves: what are we carrying, and what does it bind us to?  To be cross-bearers, perhaps means to let our futures be unclear, yet bound to this one, this Jesus.

Maybe that is what discipleship is now.  Maybe it is what it always was.  Maybe this, too, is to live in the FLOW of God. 

The fourth and final step of Lectio Divina is to REMAIN.  To simply rest as the Beloved of God in the presence of God.  To hold what we have heard spoken through the bible, spoken through each other, as a word of grace and hope for us.  So as we finish this holy time together, let’s continue to hold that kind of space for each other as the band comes up.  Let’s pray as we remain with God, together:

God, if we’re honest, we are people who long to hear from you, who long to experience something sacred and bigger than ourselves.  And so we thank you for the beauty and fun and wonder of this time we have shared.  Thank you that you are a God who is not far-off and distant, but you are a God who is in this world, in our lives, and continues to speak to us – including through your Word.  This ancient text, this collection of writings, that we believe can form us and inform us even two-thousand years later.  That’s incredible.  Thank you for the brave words shared in this group.  We hold them in confidence and with the great privilege of being community for one another.  And as we sing now, we pray God that you would continue to percolate those words and possibilities and anything else you would have us hear from you today, anything you’d have us notice and pay attention to, and anything you might form in us for the sake of following Jesus into the flow of God.  We’re here, we’re thankful, and we remain with you as we sing of who you are, as our creator, forming us to become your people…