I managed to get the sermon written. It will be a risk preaching it to the congregation this Sunday, but I believe this is what the Good Lord wants me to put out there.
This week, I wrote my letter of resignation. Yes. You heard me correctly. I wrote my letter of resignation. Please allow me to read it to you this morning.
To the congregation of St. John Lutheran Church of Cat Spring and Bishop Mike Reinhardt of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod,
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you to tender my resignation as pastor of St. John Lutheran Church and as a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In the past week, I have discovered that I am not qualified to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Since I cannot be a disciple, that means I cannot shepherd a flock of His followers.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time serving the church. In fact, I would love to continue to serve; however, I have discovered that I am an unrepentant sinner. There is an aspect of Jesus’ teachings that I cannot and honestly will not comply with. I stand condemned. In good conscience, I cannot continue to serve.
Rev. Kevin Haug
St. John Lutheran Church of Cat Spring
What made me write this letter? Take a look at our Gospel lesson this morning. It starts off innocuous enough. A large crowd has come to listen to Jesus and travel with him. Seeing all of them, he turns to them and begins to teach:
“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.”
I thought to myself, “That’s pretty harsh, Jesus. In order to be your disciple, I have to hate my father and mother, wife and children, my sister, and even life itself? I’m not sure I can do that fully. I mean, I’ve had my moments. There are certainly times where I can say that I have hated the things my parents have done, my wife and kids have done, my sister has done, and yes, there have been times when I have hated life itself, but is this what you are talking about? Do I have to continually hate them? Or are you saying that I am to make sure that I love you more than my parents, wife, kids, relatives, and life itself?” On one hand, I would sure like to put this spin on what Jesus says, but am I adding a layer of interpretation? Am I trying to gloss over what Jesus is saying? Perhaps I am. Jesus’ words are pretty clear, and they are troublesome. As I read them, my heart dropped a little because I knew I couldn’t do what Jesus was saying here.
Then my hopes rose a little as I continued to read His teaching this morning. “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For 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? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or 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? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.”
This is something I can relate to. I see what Jesus is saying here. He wants me/us to make sure we stop and think about the consequences of being His disciple. He wants us to dig down deep within our hearts to see if we are really and truly prepared to accept what it means to carry the cross of following Him. We aren’t to simply jump in and think that everything is going to be perfect and that our lives are going to be exactly what we thought they should. We are to carefully evaluate what Jesus says and what He calls us to do and be as we seek to be His disciple. I understand this. I can do it. No problems here.
But then, Jesus drops the bombshell, “So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”
OUCH! Did I just read that correctly? O.K. That’s in the bulletin. Let’s look at our Bibles in Luke Chapter 14 and see if it’s the same thing there. Let’s see, page.... Verse 33. There it is again. Same wording.
Well, let me try a different translation. Maybe the translator messed up here. Let’s look in the NIV instead of the NRSV. Let’s see. Ah ha! That one’s a little different. Here we go, verse 33, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Wait a minute, it’s phrased differently, but it still means the same thing. Give up everything I have. I simply cannot do that.
Let’s try another translation. Let’s go to the good old King James Version. “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” That’s still the same thing! I can’t do that.
Might as well pull out the big gun. It’s been a while since I’ve messed with the Greek itself, but I’ll do my own translation from the Greek to English.
οὕτως ον πς ἐξ ὑμν ὃς οὐκ ἀποτάσσεται πσιν τοϛ ἑαυτο ὑπάρχουσιν
Therefore All of you who not say farewell All That he himself possesses
ού δύναται εναί μου μαθηἠϛ.
Are not able to be my disciples.
No luck there either. Jesus is plain and to the fact. One of the main requirements for following him is to say farewell–to give up all of one’s possessions. No matter how you try to spin it, this is Jesus laying down the law, and I simply cannot do it. I cannot give up all my possessions. And what is even worse, I am not even trying to. I’m not even attempting to give them up, and I’m not sorry I have possessions. In this very sense, I am not repentant at all. I can’t even remember the last time I asked for forgiveness for having possessions, and honestly, I am not convinced that having possessions is sinful.
But this is not what Jesus says. Jesus says that we cannot be his disciple unless we give up all our possessions. I can’t do that. Therefore, I am not worthy to serve as your pastor or as a pastor at all. Confronted with my sinfulness and unwillingness to repent, I cannot continue in this manner–that is unless God’s mercy and forgiveness extend even to me at this point. Do you think Jesus forgives me for having possessions? Do you think Jesus forgives me even though I am unrepentant about having them? Do you think Jesus still calls me His brother even though I do not meet the qualifications for discipleship? Do you think He does the same for any of us who own property, homes, cars, televisions, beds or any other sort of thing?
How far does God’s grace extend in this area? Must I resign because of the law, or do we live by the gospel? I hope you will not accept my resignation. I hope you will extend God’s grace and love to me, because I believe He extends it to you. Amen.
We'll see just how many people truly get God's grace this week.