COST – Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost—Proper 18, Year C; Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (RC)

September 4, 2022

Revised Common Lectionary
Jeremiah 18:1-11 or Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 or Psalm 1
Philemon 1-21
Luke 14:25-33

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Wisdom 9:13-18b
Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17 (1)
Philemon 9-10, 12-17
Luke 14:25-33

Did a parent or teacher ever counsel you to think before you jump? Do you consider possible outcomes when making a major decision? All too often we count the cost of our choices only in retrospect: “If only I hadn’t decided to make that late night run to the store, my car wouldn’t have been totaled.”

As I reflected on today’s Gospel reading in which Jesus advises us to consider the cost of following him, I thought of Frank. Some years ago, I got to know Frank while he was preparing to become a member of our congregation—an opportunity to renew his commitment to the Christian faith and to the promises of his baptism. After he and others in our group had been discussing the teachings of Jesus about peacemaking, Frank came to the discernment that his current career path in securing nuclear weapons was incompatible with a life of discipleship. He began taking steps to find another job that made use of his knowledge and skills.

Following Jesus sometimes requires us to make difficult choices, as Frank did. This hard truth, I think, is what Jesus is getting at in today’s Gospel reading when he says that if we are to be his disciples, we must “hate” our family members (Lk 14:26) and give up all our possessions (14:33). We cannot join him in carrying the cross if we are encumbered by other priorities.

Jesus advises us to consider the cost of following him not in hindsight but right from the outset, lest we end up like the person who “began to build and was not able to finish” (14:30). What do we need to change or give up if we are to be authentic followers of Christ? Are there attachments that we value more than our allegiance to Jesus and to the reign of God that he proclaimed? What will it cost to be a disciple?

A Hymn for Today: “A Follower of Christ”

Superintendent Joseph Harris founded Rewarding Faith Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in Detroit and served as its pastor. In addition to several leadership roles that he performed for COGIC, he was also a composer and performer of Gospel songs, including “Follower of Christ,” his best known composition. Black Catholic composer Kenneth W. Louis (1956-2020) arranged this song for publication in the hymnal Lead Me, Guide Me, 2nd edition (2012).

In keeping with the teaching of Jesus in today’s Gospel story, the stirring verses that express a desire to follow Jesus as a disciple lead to the difficult questions sung in the chorus, including, “Tell me what does it cost if I carry the cross? Just let me be a follower of Christ.”

To hear a 1981 recording of Pastor Harris commenting on this powerful Gospel song and performing the original version, click here.

I want to be a follower of Christ.
I want to be one of his disciples.
I want to live in the newness of life,
Just let me be a follower of Christ.

I want to be a fisher, now for Christ.
I want to bring other souls to him,
I want to help rid this world of its strife,
Just let me be a follower of Christ.

What do I have to do?
What do I have to say?
How do I have to walk
each and ev’ry day?
Tell me what does it cost
if I carry the cross?
Just let me be a follower of Christ.

Text: J.W. Harris, 1942-2015, alt.
Tune: J.W. Harris, arr. Kenneth W. Louis

Image Credit: Unfinished apartment tower, Dublin, Ireland

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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