Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
When I was nineteen, I worked for a summer as a Bible Camp Counselor. This job represented a transition in life for me. For the first time, I wasn’t being the one disciplined; rather I had to be the one doing the disciplining kids not much younger than myself. So, I sought out to think of ways to make the punishments creative and memorable. The perfect solution existed outside the cabin; there was a wood pile for campfires. This wood pile led me to a solution. One time a kid named Jared who was around 15 refused to go along with directions. So, I figured this wood pile would serve as a perfect opportunity to teach a lesson. I took Jared outside and told him that I didn’t like where the wood pile was currently. I instructed Jared to move this whole pile of wood, five feet to the right. Jared moved this wood in about 10-15 minutes. As soon as Jared thought he was done, I told Jared that I didn’t like the way the wood pile looked where he had moved it. I then asked Jared if he could move this pile of wood, five feet to the left. As soon as I made this request, a huge smile came upon Jared’s face. He understood that I didn’t care one iota about where this wood sat. I was instead seeking to convey to Jared the message that you don’t know, how the world works like you think you do. This is the most valuable of lessons for us as Christians.
Last week, I went to visit a friend of mine named Josh. Josh works as a Middle School Teacher. Josh is involved in a very interesting marriage. Josh is married to a girl named Katie. Katie grew up Wisconsin Synod. Katie’s Dad is a Wisconsin Synod Minister. Katie’s Brother is a Wisconsin Synod Minister. Katie’s Sister is married to a Wisconsin Synod Minister. When Josh asked Katie’s Dad for her hand in Marriage, Katie’s Dad said he needed to think about it. He only relented with several conditions placed upon his blessing, most of all an insistence that any kids be baptized as Infants. Josh didn’t see this as much of a problem because he didn’t see the Baptism as nothing more than the act of getting the baby wet. Josh tends to be skeptical of traditional religion. Josh is a strong Christian, yet he views traditional forms of religion as being dead religion. Josh sees too many people going through the motions on Sunday morning and in their everyday lives. Josh believes that Christians need to be expecting dramatic miracles and healings around every corner. Josh believes that if someone really has faith than any sort of life outcome is possible. Josh thinks Christianity is marked by progress of the human potential to become like Christ. So, this is why the notion of Infant Baptism seems so foreign to Josh. What evidence is there that God is really working in the life of a smelly, crying, wailing infant?
Today’s Gospel comes to us from Luke 14. It’s a passage that speaks some very harsh truths about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus associates discipleship with hating one’s mother, father, brother, sister, wife, and children. Jesus speaks of discipleship involving the cost of hating life itself. Jesus defines Discipleship through the act of carrying one’s own cross. What should we make of Jesus words for us, this morning? Jesus language giving about hating one’s family is given for a dramatic effect. It’s a speech that’s given to a large crowd of followers. It’s a speech given to group that Jesus knows will see many people struggle in their faith during the times ahead. To assure people that following Jesus will not be easy. Jesus spoke his words today because too many people were misunderstanding his message. They assumed that following him was going to instantly lead to all sorts of good stuff in return. Where as when Jesus speaks the language of “carrying one’s cross”, he is seeking to remind his followers of the reality of a Christian’s life in the starkest and most honest of terms.
How can we make sense of today’s lesson? I wish to tell you a story about the meaning of discipleship. At the end of the 2011 NFL Season, the Vikings Adrian Peterson suffered a tear of his MCL and ACL ligaments in his knee. There were pundits proclaiming that Peterson will never be the same again. One’s ability to make cuts on these ligaments is essential to being a good NFL Running Back. No one thought that Peterson would be the same type of player in 2012. Only then something remarkable happened. Adrian Peterson was the best player in Football. This leads into an interesting cause and effect.
Week 4 the Vikings are playing in Detroit when a player asks Peterson “Adrian, what are you taking? What juice you using? I gotta get me some of that.” Peterson’s response to the question was “I’m juicing on the blood of Jesus. Faith is what got me to this point.” 
Now to my good friend Josh this statement might serve as evidence that God is really working in Adrian Peterson’s life. God performed a miracle in his recovery because Adrian had faith.
The way that Adrian Peterson portrays his faith is problematic; Peterson goes way beyond acknowledging God for being one of the rare people on the planet with his talent. Where Peterson is wrong is his implication that it’s because of Jesus Juice that he achieved what he achieved. Adrian Peterson is presenting a flawed understanding of how God works in people’s lives. You go over to William Kelley High School and you have nice kids and kids with devout faith. Kids that could pray to get Jesus Juice like Adrian Peterson every single night. Yet these kids will never become Adrian Peterson.
As pointed out by Religion Blogger Matt Patrick, Adrian Peterson’s success is noteworthy because it’s so rare. Number 28’s success is so rare that it doesn’t provide an accurate representation of a normal Christian’s life. A Christian’s life is not marked by MVP awards. A Christian’s life is more likely to be marked with failure, disappointment, and struggle.
The average Christian’s life is marked by wishing that things could be different by the time they get up the next morning. I have no doubt about the sincerity of Adrian Peterson’s faith. The problem with Peterson’s message is that if one places their faith on the basis of their everyday experiences. One’s faith will soon experience crushing blows for which there are no good words to say. The question that needs to be asked today is “Where do we encounter God?” Does God encounter us in victory or failure? Does God encounter us in our MVP awards or does God encounter us in Baptism? These are the big questions.
To answer this question I wish to tell another Football related story. Tony Dungy was a former QB for the Gophers and a former Defensive Coordinator for the Vikings. In 1996, Tony Dungy was hired to take over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Before Dungy’s arrival, the Buccaneers weren’t very good. They hadn’t made the playoffs in 14 seasons and were considered the laughing stock of the league. In 1997, Tampa stunned the league as it won its first five games. The season though quickly began to unravel. The Buccaneers had a kicker named Michael Husted who started missing kicks. Husted was not only missing field goals, he was struggling to make extra points. Husted quickly became public enemy number 1 in Tampa. The media and fans shouted how Husted needed to go before it was too late. Any coach other than Tony Dungy would have brought in another kicker.
Tony Dungy had set out that if he ever coached a NFL Team that he was going to model his leadership on the principals of his faith. Dungy was going to seek to encourage rather than threaten. Dungy wished to go against the grain in how he sought to achieve victory and success. Dungy had waited years for his big break. He knew that teams weren’t going to hire him because of his worldview in relating to people. Tony Dungy was going to run his team in his own image, no one else’s.
Tony Dungy knew something much deeper was at work in Michael Husted’s life then just missing kicks. Michael Husted’s Mom was dying of Cancer up in Virginia. Husted thought he could be a professional, yet this burden began to overwhelm him. Husted’s burden carried over to the Football field. After the Buccaneers lost their third straight game due to Husted’s troubles, Husted thought it was all over for him.
The next morning, Dungy called and Husted was sure he was being let go. Dungy’s words were different. Dungy just told Husted “You’re a Buccaneer, you’re part of our family, and you’re our kicker.
The next week, the Buccaneers go up to Indy where Husted makes the game winning kick. Dungy went forward not by ignoring the situation with Husted’s mother. Rather Dungy saw to it that she came to games that season and sat in the box with his wife. Husted’s season turned around as a burden was lifted from him.
Dungy’s story stands out because it is such sharp contrast to how the world normally works. This is the message of the cross. This is the message of our gospel. God reaches us in failure. God reaches not at the moments when we achieve our potential, but rather God reaches us at the moments we understand the limits to our power. When we say the cross is at the center of everything we believe. We are not issuing a statement of belief but rather a statement about life.
In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus is presenting us both with a challenge and an assurance. The challenge is what lies ahead isn’t MVP Awards. What more likely lies ahead are wounds scars, as we journey towards our own inevitable deaths. Yet Jesus offers words of assurances as he promises that your victory has already been won through his death and resurrection. The crosses you carry today are not worthless ventures like moving the wood pile. Your crosses point towards that what you experience today will one day be put to death at the moment of your resurrection.
Luther summed this up beautifully when he proclaimed “God receives none, but those who are forsaken, restores health to none, but those who are sick, gives sight to none, but the blind, and life to none, but the dead… He has mercy on none, but the wretched and gives grace to none, but those who are in disgrace.”
In just a few moments we’ll sing our Hymn of the Day “Onward Christian Soldiers”. This is a hymn that has fallen out of favor in many churches. It’s a hymn that’s seen as glorifying violence. Yet this hymn has nothing to do with earthly warfare. This hymn has rather to do with the spiritual conflict that engages us everyday. It’s a hymn that deals with the reality of sin and evil in our world. It’s a hymn that doesn’t seek to present life in sanitary terms. When people ask how we’re doing too many of us wish to say “fine” or “ok” even as we’re being eaten up inside. “Onward Christian Soldiers” is a hymn that portrays as we go forward from this place today, we do not march alone. We rather march forth led by the Cross of Christ which promises us that God can and will bring victory out of defeat. Amen
 Luke 14:26
 Luke 14:26
 Luke 14:27
 King, Peter. “10 Things I Think I Think: Every Record Means Something’ ” CNNSI. 21 Aug.2013. Web. Sept.3.2013
 King. “10 Things I Think I Think: Every Record Means Something’
 Patrick, Matt. Adrian Peterson’s Theology of Glory (and Why It’s Unhelpful) “ Mockingbird. Christ Episcopal Church- Charlottesville, VA. 28.Aug.2013. Web. Sept.3.2013
 Yasinskas, Pat. “A Dungy story you may not have heard”. ESPN NFC South blog. ESPN. 12. Jan.2009. Web. Sept.3.2013
 Habib, Hal “On his terms: Colts Dungy stays true to principals”. Palm Beach Post. 23. Jan.2007. Web. Retrieved September 5, 2013 from Wikipedia- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Dungy#cite_note-28
 Yasinskas. “A Dungy story you may not have heard”.
 Yasinskas. “A Dungy story you may not have heard”.
 Yaskinskas. “A Dungy story you may not have heard”.
 Luther, Martin. Weimar Ausgabe 1, p. 183f. Retrieved on September 4, 2013 from http://www.mbird.com/glossary/theology-of-the-cross/