Monday Morning Pastor – 4/23/17

April 24, 2017
Note: Each week we will have a guest writer who will share a few of their personal thoughts on Sunday’s sermon. Unlike Monday Morning Quarterbacking, from which this series gets its name, we aren’t looking to critique so much as share how we have been personally impacted. This week’s post comes from Dave Hallahan.

Title: Count the Cost
Verses: Luke 14:25-33

As I listened to Mark’s sermon I kept thinking about this idea that I’ve come across at least three different times in the last month. The idea of the “counter narrative.” The world – political, cultural, and social systems – are telling one story about how life should be lived. It’s the main narrative we come across. We hear it in the media we consume, we see it in the lives of those around us, and more often than not it’s the narrative our lives fall into. As Christians and as the church, we need to learn to tell better stories. If you want a better idea of what I mean here are the three places that had me thinking about this idea: First, I saw a short video where Matt Chandler says, “We should get better at presenting God’s ways as more beautiful than the world’s.” Then, there was another video with three different people discussing the topic of “Why God’s Sexual Ethic is Good for the World.” Finally, I listened to a podcast from Rob Bell where I got the term ‘Counter Narrative.’ He does an excellent job at talking about the importance of such narratives.

This is something Jesus was exceptionally good at doing. In the passage, we see the familiar words calling for us to follow Jesus and carry our crosses – a prime example of a ‘counter narrative.’ Rome had a story they were telling. On Roman coins was a motto that when translated means, “First victory, then peace” or “Peace through victory.” They would celebrate their military victories and call them advancements of peace. The cross was a clear example of how they interpreted both victory and peace. Hundreds of people would be crucified as a sign to those who would attempt to rise against the “peace” of Rome. The cross, as well as the crucifixion process, was designed to bring about maximum amounts of humiliation and pain. The physical pain belonged solely to the one being crucified, but the humiliation was felt by the crucified, his family, supporters and by extension all of the Jewish people. The cross was simultaneously the symbol of Roman strength and the Jewish people’s inability to do anything about it. There was no alternative story of the cross.

Then Jesus tells us to count the cost of following him and for us to carry our crosses, as if this was an enticing invitation. This is contrary, in every way, to the Roman narrative. The Roman story was that winning comes through strength and strength is seen in winning. Jesus is beginning to tell his story. Winning comes through losing. Peace through submission – not victory. The Roman story was that the world will be a better place by killing those who would oppose “peace.” Jesus’ story is that the world will be a better place through sacrificial love – a love that will stop at no cost. To follow Jesus is to live within that narrative and to tell that story – “not with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

All of that went through my mind as Mark talked us through verses 28-30, which say “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.'”

Here I started thinking about the ridicule that Christianity often gets in today’s world, especially in American culture. Jesus was surrounded by the irreligious and the ‘sinners’ and they were drawn to him. Yet today, these are the people who are least likely to walk through the doors of the church. What has changed? I wonder if we’ve stopped telling the same story. I wonder if we’ve stopped telling a counter narrative and instead have been taking the world’s story, making no edits, just sprinkling in Jesus. And because of this the world looks at the church and says, “They have begun to build, but they won’t be able to finish.”