Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Toledo, Ohio
A congregation of the Northwestern Ohio Synod
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Sunday, September 4, 2022
Introduction & Welcome
Thank you for accepting God’s invitation to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!
Called to contemplate the cost of discipleship, we might be helped by translating Paul’s request to Philemon into our prayer of the day: Refresh my heart in Christ. Strengthened by the company and forgiveness of Christ in holy communion and recalling God’s grace in remembrance of baptism, we can be strengthened in this hour to “choose life”—to choose life in God as our own.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
who is eager to forgive
and who loves us beyond our days.
Dear friends, together let us acknowledge
our failure to love this world as Jesus does.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God of mercy and forgiveness,
we confess that sin still has a hold on us.
We have harmed your good creation.
We have failed to do justice,
and walk humbly with you.
Turn us in a new direction.
Show us the path that leads to life.
Be our refuge and strength on the journey,
through Jesus Christ, our redeemer and friend.
Beloved of God:
your sins are forgiven ☩ and you are made whole.
God points the way to new life in Christ,
who meets us on the road.
Journey now in God’s abiding love
through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer of the Day
Direct us, O Lord God, in all our doings with your continual help, that in all our works, begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name; and finally, by your mercy, bring us to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Psalm: Psalm 1
1Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
2Their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and they meditate on God’s teaching day and night.
3They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall prosper.
4It is not so with the wicked;
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
5Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,
nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
6For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked shall be destroyed.
Second Reading: Philemon 1-21
While Paul was in prison, he was aided by Onesimus, a man who had run away from Philemon, a slaveowner and a Christian friend of Paul. Paul told Onesimus to return to Philemon and encouraged Philemon to receive Onesimus back as a Christian brother.
1Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, 2to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God 5because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. 6I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. 7I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.
8For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, 9yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. 10I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. 11Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. 12I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 13I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. 15Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, 16no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. 20Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. 21Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
Alleluia. Let your face shine upon your servant and teach me your statutes. Alleluia. (Ps. 119:135)
Gospel: Luke 14:25-33
Jesus speaks frankly about the costs of discipleship. Those who follow him should know from the outset that completing the course of discipleship will finally mean renouncing all other allegiances.
25Now large crowds were traveling with [Jesus;] and he turned and said to them, 26“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. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”
Meditation by Vicar Dave
Today’s readings are full of choices. In our first reading, Moses is laying out the choice that is before the people of Israel as they are about to enter the land that was promised to their ancestors. They can love and obey the Lord God and walk in his ways, or they can turn their hearts towards other gods. The cost of that, however, would end up being death. The Psalm is also offering us a choice, laying out the benefits of choosing to walk in the way of the Lord or to accept the counsel of those who are wicked. In Paul’s letter to Philemon, he is also offering him a choice. Paul says that he could order Philemon to accept Onesimus as his brother in Christ. But he would rather give him the option of doing so. Paul is asking him to make this choice so that it will be reckoned as a good deed that he had done, as opposed to something that was forced on him.
Finally, in our gospel reading, Jesus is laying out the cost of choosing to become his disciple. Jesus states that “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” (14:25). A few weeks ago, we read about Jesus saying that he had come to bring division. Father against son, mother against daughter and so on. This reading is continuing down that same path. To many this may seem contradictory, however. After all, one of the 10 Commandments tells us that we should honor our father and our mother. Jesus also tells us that we should love each other as he loved us. Telling us that in order to be his disciple, we have to hate our family doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to us.
I think it’s helpful here to look at the parallel reading in the gospel of according to Matthew. In Matthew 10:37, instead of saying whoever doesn’t hate their father and mother, he says whoever loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. Luke’s use of the word hate may have more to do with referring to who our primary allegiance is with. Luke may have also been using the word hate as it was used in Genesis when they were talking about how Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. And that Leo was hated by Jacob. The issue in that case also seems to be one of preference or allegiance as opposed to hatred as we use the word today. So, looking in the broader context, it seems clear to me that Jesus is not calling us to hate our families, but rather he is talking about who our primary allegiance should be with.
Jesus makes another point about the cost of discipleship and loyalty when he states that whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. At the time Jesus was saying this, his disciples didn’t know that he was heading for the cross. However, the cross must have been very potent imagery in the ears of the contemporary listener. After all, they were living under Roman occupation and had been for some time. The cross, or crucifixion, was the customary way that the Romans executed their prisoners. So this imagery must have evoked in those who were listening to Jesus at the time a very real sense of life and death for following Jesus. Here again, I don’t think that Jesus is expecting us to literally carry a cross and end up being crucified on it. I think this is more about making Jesus your number one priority in your life, even more important than your own life itself.
Jesus then uses 2 parables to illustrate the importance of planning out what you’re going to be doing and then follow through. This reading ends with Jesus telling us that the cost for being his disciple is to give up all our possessions. Here again, it is not my opinion that Jesus wants us all to be poor and destitute, living as homeless people do in order to follow him. Rather, I think what Jesus is saying is that serving our fellow man and serving Jesus should be more important than any of our possessions. More important than money or career. More important than a fancy house or a fancy car.
Sometimes it’s easy to focus just on the benefits of being a Christian. God’s saving grace, which is a gift from God. But following Jesus isn’t cheap. Jesus commands us to love God. He also commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. This requires us to give generously of our time, our talent and our treasure. The last command that Jesus gave to his disciples before he left was that they should love one another as he has loved them. That’s a pretty big order to fill. After all, Jesus gave up his life for us. And while we will probably never be called upon to give up our life, we should be willing and able to give everything that we can to help God’s other children.
Prayers of Intercession
As scattered grains of wheat are gathered together into one loaf of bread, so let us gather our prayers for the church, those in need, and all of God’s good creation.
A brief silence.
We pray for the church around the world and for the mission of the gospel. Refresh the hearts of Elizabeth & Daniel, our bishops, and Brenda, our pastor and of all your people, deepen our understanding of every good thing we share, and strengthen our partnerships in the faith. God of grace,
hear our prayer.
For the well-being of the earth and all its creatures: for trees and forests, for all that will yield fruit this season, and for streams and lakes and other bodies of water. God of grace,
hear our prayer.
For the nations and those in authority: for the elected leaders of our towns, states, and country, and for international organizations. Grant wisdom to those who govern and raise up citizens who make decisions in the best interest of their neighbors. God of grace,
hear our prayer.
For all in need: for those who suffer from disease, who struggle with homelessness or food insecurity, for those whose family life is difficult, and for all in this community who need your care, especially, those whom we remember on our prayer list and those we bring before you now. God of grace,
hear our prayer.
For this community of faith: for all our labors—begun, continued, and ended in you—that they glorify your holy name. Bless your people with the strength to live into their many vocations for the sake of the world. God of grace,
hear our prayer.
We give thanks for the saints who now rest from their labors. Give us faith, like them, to love you with all our hearts, and by your mercy, bring us to everlasting life. God of grace,
hear our prayer.
Gathered together in the sweet communion of the Holy Spirit, gracious God, we offer these and all our prayers to you; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.* On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
God, who gives life to all things
and frees us from despair,
bless you with truth and peace.
And may the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
guide you always in faith, hope, and love.
Go in peace, with Christ beside you.
Bless the world and be God’s grace
Thanks be to God.