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September 4th, 2022

Sermon By Rev Joel Crouse

This summer, in Nova Scotia, Erin and I found the simple life on the ocean. Or perhaps,

I should say, it found us. It took a while – human nature tends to look for complexity

even in simplicity. But eventually, we got there – those moments when all the noise and

buzz of life goes quiet, and you find yourself in the world that God must have imagined

for us in Genesis. 

We have an old jalopy sailboat, one passed down from my parents. It is nothing fancy.

We might be able to sell it for a few hundred dollars. The sails are old, the rigging is

loose, the cabin is musty, the lights don’t work, and the 5-horsepower engine on the

back starts when it wants to (and when we remember to bring gas). Usually, our sails

start with lots of chatter – and a little bickering – about the best way to get off the

mooring, what destination we will take, where the best wind lies. But at a certain point,

calm settles on the boat. We listen to the hum of the swing keel. We watch for a chance

encounter with a porpoise. We feel the sun and the wind, and all the stress drifts away.

What matters in life – this peaceful moment, this gift from God – becomes our focus, a

time to think deeply about our place in the world. To find clarity.

And ultimately, this is the point of our gospel this morning. This is the message that

Jesus is trying to impart to the large crowds travelling with him, filled with people who

seek to be his disciples. His words sound harsh; whoever doesn’t hate father and

mother – and the rest of your family – can’t be a good disciple. Whoever doesn’t carry

the cross can’t be a disciple. Whoever doesn’t give up their possessions cannot be a

disciple. The cost of discipleship is certainly high.

But what is Jesus really saying? Certainly the gospel is not asking us to abandon our

families. It is not asking us to give up what we own. It is not asking us to be perpetually


Sometimes, Jesus swings the pendulum far to one side to make a particular point. In

this case, I think it is this: to be a true disciple, you must silence the noise and buzz of

life, and see what truly matters.

And who is often noisier in our lives than our families – who may write a narrative for our

lives even before we have had a chance to write it for ourselves. Even when done out of

love, this can be toxic. Who are the people most able to get under our skin? Even the

most generous families can confuse our own beliefs and stifle our own independence.

The least generous families conscript us into their way of thinking and become a source

of conflict.

Yet to be disciples of the gospel, we must know ourselves. We must be independent

thinkers. We must go against the common narratives. We must be clear about what we


And what of our possessions, or our desire for them? Surely, they are equally

distracting. We are taught early to want for more, never to be happy with good enough.

But the desire for bigger and better is also a dangerous distraction. It has done great

harm to our natural world. It has corrupted our souls. It is toxic to the gospel. And so

Jesus says you cannot crave bigger and better – at all costs – and be a true disciple. 

So the cost of discipleship is simple. Indeed, it is a simple life requiring strong willpower

and endurance. We must resist the voices of those we love most when they distract us.

We must shed our desire for possessions. We must silence the human world around us

to hear the voice of God. 

It may seem like a paradox: the gospel is a complex creation, requiring wisdom and

nuance, hard to hold and easy to lose. But to find it at all, Jesus says to us, we must

first distill life down to its most simple ingredients: love, kindness, generosity. From that

starting point, we can begin a path of true discipleship.

No sail is ever the same. It is different every time because the ocean is always

changing. Sometimes it is as flat as a shiny plate. Sometimes it is rolling with white

caps. Sometimes the wind blows from the east, and sometimes from the west. And it is

the same with the world, the one that the disciples of the gospel must navigate. It is

always changing, unsteady under our feet. Yet in that complexity, we may find

simplicity. From there, our steps may be more certain, more sure, and more true.

Did we hear the voice of God on the water this summer? I certainly returned to land

after every sail feeling more clear-headed, more at peace. 

In one of our most quiet sails, watching the horizon, we saw a whale crest the water,

splashing back down into the deep. That is not something you see every day. It is

something wonderful we would have missed had we been fussing about human wants

and needs.  

There is indeed a cost to true discipleship, a challenge pressed upon us. But there are

also many gifts. Silence the world of unnecessary noise, and we hear the voice of God.

Clear our view of what blocks us from the gospel, and we may glimpse the beauty of

creation in its truest form. Amen.

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