Now great crowds accompanied him, & he turned & said to them, "If anyone comes to me & does not hate his own father & mother & wife & children & brothers & sisters, yes, & even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross & come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down & count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation & is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build & was not able to finish'". - Luke 14:25-30
Ash Wednesday is early this year. Lent will begin while the cool breezes from Canada & the Arctic are sill wafting through the Bayou City. Easter may arrive to find a day that is cool & pleasant, & not humid & sticky. The weather may be nice & comfortable, but the season of Lent was never meant to be nice, pleasant, or comfortable. In fact, it was designed from the beginning of the church to be as unpleasant & uncomfortable as possible.
Lent, if you pardon a labored & strained metaphor, is like a complete home renovation. Jesus speaks of counting the cost for discipleship, in order to impress upon His disciples just how important & costly it is to earth-bound mortals. But He did not mention what is the shattering of the steps in building, & that is the destroying. Rehab starts with demolition, the destruction & removal of all that is old, cracked or useless. It fills the house with dust, dirt & debris. It brings everything to a halt. And even if you start with an open lot, construction can only begin after earth-moving equipment has scraped, graded, graveled, & prepared for a foundation. Yes, even before the first inch of concrete is poured, before the first nail is driven into wood, & before the first stone is mortared to another, things must be torn down, ripped apart, & thrown away.
Jesus doesn't mention these things when He speaks of building a tower. He zeroes in on the expense of foundation, stone, & labor, without a singly syllable wasted on sledge hammers, shovels or dumpsters. He doesn't talk about any form of dismantling because we are all too familiar with the mess & He is the one that takes care of the cost of demolition.
Our Lord speaks of denying everything in exchange for following Him. He even talks of hating family & life to hold onto Him. And even after all other earthly things & relationships have been placed behind us, it is a cross that awaits our shoulders. That is a lot of cost to be His own. All of that given up to meet the pain & suffering of our cross, just to have a place beside Him in His kingdom. But all of that apparent expense is nothing compared to what He has paid for the destruction of the old, useless, & broken lives we leave behind.
You see, Jesus is not just the great Architect that plans out our future life with Him. He is more than the almighty Carpenter, who constructs our eternity with Him day by day, & joy by joy. He goes beyond being our great Leader, Savior, Brother & Friend, who vies us more love to share with family, friends & the world. He is also the ultimate & awesome Wrecking Ball of our past, sinful lives. He is the one who destroys the sins & guilt we have built up, along with clearing away the consequences of all that rebellion, green & self-centeredness. We could not have done it alone because we had lived in it so long, we had grown accustomed to it. We would actually miss our faults & failings & weaknesses if we ever had a rest from them. Like a family of hog farmers that live right next to the pens of swine, they no longer smell the pigs in all their mud- & manure-filled splendor, we had lived since before birth in our sins & could never imagine living without them.
And so Jesus needed to do the destruction, the ripping out, & the removal of all the filth we had become so comfortable living in. He dismantled our sinful, hurtful lives in order to build us clean, new, & working futures. He picked up all of the junk & detritus of our souls & carried them to the cross, so they would never be able to hurt & hinder us again. He bore the price & the pain of our rehab because it was all too much for us. He did it for us because the renovation would have ended in our death & not new life. He gives us all that new life free, but expensively free, paid for at the cost of His life.
That is why Lent is so uncomfortable, because we must ponder on the truth of our sins, & what they led Christ to do. We must fully know why He came, He suffered, & He died, so we can see the true miracle of His resurrection & the true glory of His gracious gift of life eternal. We enter this early this year, but here's to wonderful razing of our life, so we can enjoy His life.
In His Peace, alone,
Pastor Red Etzel