Deanna also had mystical experiences that changed her life. She was, until recently, a teacher at Cheryl’s school. We had her over to dinner recently, after she shared with Cheryl a change in her life plans. Like Francis she heard the call to give up "normal life" and devote herself completely to God. In her case that means joining a Discalced Carmelite Convent and devoting her life to prayer. If she stays with the order, she will essentially cut herself off from family and friends for the rest of her life. As she shared her experiences with us we could tell that this is a sincere decision, but I must confess it is difficult to fathom.
Our text this morning is a call to follow Jesus as his disciples. The Good News Bible kind of softens the blow, but in more formal translations like the NRSV, the passage hits us right between the eyes:
"Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and even life itself, cannot be my disciple."
Like I said, there have been attempts to soften the blow of this passage. Consider how the Good News Bible puts it:
"Those who come to me cannot be my disciple unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, etc."
I thought Jesus was the patron of family values? Surely he isn’t calling us to loathe and despise our families. I hope that this is hyperbole, but even if it is, Jesus reminds us that being his disciple costs us everything. Bonhoeffer speaks of the call to discipleship being an invitation to death.
II. COUNTING THE COST
To get his point across, Jesus tells a little story about a builder of a tower. Before beginning this task, Jesus says that the builder will sit down and consider the cost, because no one wants to suffer the embarrassment of getting started and then not having enough money or resources to finish the job. Taking on something you’re not prepared to complete would not be "prudent" as Dana Carvey used to say in imitation of the elder George Bush. You have to count the cost before you head out on the journey of faith.
What I hear Jesus saying to us this morning is this: Being a Christian involves making choices. When it comes to making choices, I’m cautious by nature. Just ask Cheryl. She hates to go grocery shopping with me, because I have to analyze all the product codes so we can get the best deal. Why pay more for the same item? That wouldn't be prudent! But trying to be prudent makes shopping take longer.
What’s the cost in being a Disciple of Christ? For Francis it meant becoming a fool for Christ. For Deanna it seems to be the cloister. For Mother Teresa it was the lepers of Calcutta. And for Bonhoeffer it was a conspiracy to end the rule of a tyrant, a decision that led to his imprisonment and his death. Although Bonhoeffer never saw himself as a martyr, nor did Teresa see herself as a saint, their witness has been an inspiration to many.