Have you ever signed up for something and it’s turned out to be something different to what you expected?
Or have you ever committed yourself to something and not realised just how much effort it was going to be?
Did you know that nearly two billion dollars a year on gym memberships is wasted in Australia?
Around 30 per cent of the population have a gym membership but around 30 per cent of those barely use it — going less than once a week.
This adds up to a staggering $1.8 billion.
Many people struggle to find the time to go to the gym, but seldom do they cancel their memberships.
Likewise, more than 50,000 students who started university in Australia this year will drop out.
Commitment – sometimes it looks easy from the outset but ends up much harder once you’re involved.
In today’s Gospel reading this is what Jesus is addressing – commitment for following him – for calling yourself a Christian.
In our Gospel reading Jesus faces 3 different people – one who called on him and others he called to follow him.
The first one comes up to Jesus and says: “I will follow you wherever you go.”
He sounds like the man last week who was healed from his demon possession and wanted to follow Jesus.
He also sounds a bit like Peter who said that he would never fall away from the Lord – even if everyone else does – I never will – but who would later deny him three times.
Jesus says to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
So Jesus is saying – it’s not going to be easy.
Jesus is heading to Jerusalem where he will die a brutal and painful death through crucifixion on a cross.
Is this really what this man wanted when he says he will follow Jesus wherever he will go?
Saying you’ll commit and committing are 2 very different things.
Remember the rich man who came up to Jesus and said – what must I do to inherit eternal life?
Jesus said to him: You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.
“Teacher,” he said, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
He found it easy at that level.
Jesus looked at him and said. “One thing you lack,” “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Are you prepared to commit and experience the good with the bad?
To go the whole distance as a Christian?
Are you prepared to allow Jesus to lead you and all that it means?
To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
The first question I would ask here is whether his father had actually died yet?
He doesn’t say so and maybe he is putting off a full commitment to following Jesus.
Today he might have said:
I’m too busy – I need to focus on my career – or a myriad of other reasons.
This is not in any way criticising anyone but acknowledging that life has encroached into church commitments.
Whether it’s Sunday sport – 24/7 work seeing more demands on Sunday shifts – growing expenses of mortgages and household expenses, childcare expenses needing extra shifts or just tiredness – the reality is that commitment to the church is being challenged.
Jesus’ reminder to the person is that the Kingdom of God needs to be proclaimed.
That was Jesus’ very first message – repent – the Kingdom of God is near.
In another place he says that no one knows the day or the hour of the coming judgment and there are so many parables like the unwise bridesmaids who were not prepared when the bridegroom came and missed out on eternal life.
And that’s what Jesus is concerned about.
This person wanted to wait until his life was more freed up, before he followed Jesus, which might have yet been years away.
That sounds like so many people today who put off following Jesus until some other day.
But how do we know precisely when our or our loved one’s last day will be?
” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
A person who has committed themselves to following Jesus will be tempted to look back at what they’ve missed out on especially if the way forward looks daunting.
Israel kept looking back to what they believed were the good old days when their bellies were filled in Egypt as slaves rather than looking ahead and continuing to eat this detestable manna, as they called it.
Even Peter when he was on the mount of transfiguration didn’t want to come down from there but stay and offered to build three shelters because the present looked better than the future.
Maybe the future looks uncertain for the church.
We remember the good old days when Sunday Schools were overflowing – when church pews were filled – when finances weren’t a problem.
We remember when Christian values were the norm rather than an offence to society.
We remember when youth groups were how children entertained themselves and met their husband or wife.
The good old days.
Jesus calls us to follow Him and not look back or stay static.
When Peter again misses the point and wants Jesus to not go the way of the cross he rebukes him and says – get behind me Satan.
And make no mistake, following Jesus is costly.
But following Jesus is actually freedom though it might not look that way from the outset.
Many believe that following Jesus restricts our freedom.
They’ll quote you the 10 Commandments – Thou shalt not!
But Paul talks about freedom in a different way in our Galatians reading today:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”.
Paul warns that freedom can be understood in the wrong way.
You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.
Somehow people will believe that freedom means I can do whatever I want.
But sadly, because of our human nature, freedom to do whatever I want leads to enslavement.
And Paul lists a whole lot of behaviours that on the outset look like they are an expression of freedom when in fact they actually devalue our lives and some will trap a person with addiction.
This is what he says:
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness (which means to being promiscuous or unfaithful, idolatry, sorcery, enmities (or hostility), strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions (or disagreements), factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing (or abuse of alcohol), and things like these.
These are things that begin as expressions of human freedom – seemingly fun even – but end up controlling us.
And that’s what Paul is warning against and says that following Jesus allows us to escape from them.
That’s why Jesus, seemingly over the top, warns against looking back or putting off commitment for now – because he knows what our human nature is like.
Following Jesus allows us to see true freedom that is not wrapped up in lights and glitter like what the world believes freedom looks like.
Just look at pictures of Las Vegas and all its lights and glitter but inside are people trapped – addicted to gambling ruining their lives and the lives of others.
Jesus offers us a different way – the way of the Holy Spirit whose fruit is seen in a different light:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
There is no law against such things, Paul says – because they don’t trap or devalue human life
For many, maybe some of you, following Christ has been costly.
Maybe you’ve had to give up something or sacrificed something.
Maybe you’ve given up an opportunity.
Maybe you’ve had to say no when everyone else is saying yes.
You’ve given up weekends – finances – free time – and much more.
Yes it can be costly to follow Christ but what Jesus gives to us is priceless – eternal life which cost Jesus a lot more than it will ever cost us.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that freedom means to be free to do whatever I want.
Freedom is to be free from the stranglehold of things that offer us plenty but deliver nothing.
There’s no such thing as “the good old days” to look back to;
I’m sure in those “good old days” they too were looking back.
Keep looking forward because your salvation is one day closer today than it was yesterday.