Way back many years ago when I was in high school, I had this buddy, Colby who drove a 1976 arctic blue Chevy station wagon. It was a great vehicle to load up lots of people in and just drive around. And, for the most part, things went really well on our journeys in Colby’s station wagon. But, one time, on the way up to a campsite outside of Hickory, the normally reliable Arctic blue station wagon broke down. There we were on the side of the road somewhere on 321.
Now, this was in the days before cell phones so, we were kind of stuck. But, thankfully, where the car died wasn’t but a half-mile or so from a roadside gas station/convenience story. There were like 6 of us so we decided to push the car on the shoulder down the road to that gas station.
The skies were threatening that day and, wouldn’t you know it, just as we resolved to push the car, the rain started pouring.
I tell you what, pushing a 1976 Artic Blue station wagon in the pouring rain, man, that’s hard work. After pushing for what seemed like an eternity, I realized we were only about 25 yards from where we began. It was then I did something I regret to this day. For the rest of the effort, I kind of half-heartedly pushed. Colby called out from behind the wheel, “get your backs into it!” Which, I assuredly wasn’t doing.
Long story short, we got that car pushed into the gas station that day, thanks primarily to my friends. I was there, but I hadn’t really done as much as I could’ve.
A lot of those guys, well, they’re still my friends to this day. Whenever I get together with one them, someone will always want to reminisce about that day. That day we scrappy friends triumphed over misfortune.
And, well, I was there. But, inside, I’m a little embarrassed because, well, I know, I didn’t really get my back into it that day.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus speaks frankly to His disciples. What he calls for is, I believe, the Spiritual equivalent of getting our backs into this work of Christian discipleship. I read to you now from the Gospel of Luke Chapter 14, verses 25-33. Hear now the Word of our Lord.
“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.’
I’ve been so starved for sports during the quarantine that I’ve found myself flipping through the channels stopping on a channel to watch a poker tournament for a few minutes. For the most part, I’ve gotta tell you, professional poker is about as dull as watching paint dry. Just when the prospect of flipping to another channel starts making a whole lot of sense, several players get really good hands at the same time. Each wants to maximize their winnings so they keep on upping the ante. The stakes climb higher and higher. Then, one player physically shoves all of his remaining chips into the center of the pot and says “all in.”
Now from what I can glean, “all in” means something like this. I’m willing to wager every nickel I’ve got that my cards are better than yours. If I win, great! However, if I’m lose, I’m done. Out of the game. But regardless of the outcome, I’m going risk everything I’ve got into the pot.
Today we’re going to talk about “all-in” Christianity because it seems to me that’s what Jesus is telling the gathered crowds about.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus has got a host of followers around him. Now keep in mind, it makes a lot of sense that there would be so many people following this man around Judah. He’s done some pretty cool stuff by this point in Luke’s Gospel. Perhaps most importantly for gathering a crowd, he’s healed and fed a great many people!