Friday of Pentecost 13 – Luke 14:25-35

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Jesus speaks of the cost of discipleship today. It can be very expensive indeed. I am reading an account of the schoolgirls who were kidnapped from Chibok in Nigeria. You might remember the story. Even Michele Obama tweeted “Bring our girls home” from the White House not long after the story broke. While some of the girls made accommodations with their Islamic captors, even marrying them, a stubborn band clung to their Christianity, often suffering violence as a result. They hid a bible, burying it under a stone during the day lest it be confiscated. One day their chief tormentor gave them a stark choice. On the paper he presented before them, they must write their name. In green if they were willing to convert to Islam and red if they clung to their faith. The consequences would be dire, he assured them, if they did not convert. He gave them several hours to make up their minds. Immediately, Naomi, one of the older girls walked up and scratched her name in red. She did not need time.

Eventually, many of the girls were freed. Over 100 remain unaccounted for. Naomi was one who was released. Ironically, it appears that the world-wide media-storm of attention to their plight prolonged their suffering. The terrorists realized that they had a valuable commodity on their hands. Closely watched by their captors, the girls would pray into a cup of water, only pretending to drink it. Thus, they sanctified the water, using it to sprinkle and heal their fellow captives who were in need.

Their story reminds us that Jesus is not kidding here. Naomi’s good friend would marry one of their captors in order to gain a release from the relentless pressure which had been applied to them. It is not an account with a storybook ending. The pictures of Naomi show a woman with steely resolve and a significant scar where she was hit with the butt of a rifle.  But she has the right to teach me what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. I would sit and learn from her. She has counted the cost. Salt is good. She has not lost her saltiness. 

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