Today Jesus is traveling with large crowds. We are at a bit of a turning point for all of these followers, who for several chapters now have been witnessing miraculous things in the presence of Jesus. Jesus has been healing people, casting out demons and sharing wisdom teachings in the form of parables. There is a lot of momentum, spirit and excitement. Imagine: crowds moving from town to town! You would think that such a leader would be excited for all of these followers - and yet Jesus turns to them and says something pretty shocking:
“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.”
What?! Certainly he hasn’t changed his mind about the ten commandments, has he? Honor your mother and father? Later in this chapter we even hear this commandment repeated as part of our way to eternal life… Love is an essential teaching. So why the hyperbole?
Not quite as shocking (but also extreme) is the statement at the end of today’s passage. Jesus says, “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all of your possessions.”
The other parables sandwiched into these seemingly harsh book ends (of hating family or giving up possessions) are about preparation: economic planning for building a tower, or strategic planning for war.
Jesus wants his followers to understand discipleship is a choice that requires putting God before all else. And that requires some preparation.
We know the phrase that Jesus is the way.
Following this way is not simply about jumping on the bandwagon of a popular movement. Jesus is not just trying to be popular. So, yes perhaps he needs to shock us! Wake us up! Walking the spiritual path is about waking up to choices. He is startling us with another form of wisdom teaching that (unlike a parable) gives us a very binary way of speaking; using Love and Hate to emphasize a decisiveness in decision making.
You’ll recognize this kind of teaching in other sayings:
No slave can serve two masters, for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Blessed are you when people hate you on account of me.
These are teachings that use extremes to force the point. “…the wicked are said to hate discipline, justice, and knowledge, while the righteous hate wickedness, falsehood, and gossip.” 
Perhaps there is no room for a grey area in some of the choices that we face. Jesus is saying this is a choice, such an important choice that you must hold it above all else. It is the highest choice.
There is a story of a brilliant artist and his friend of many years with a devoted faith life. One day the artist said to his friend, "How can you have so much faith and I have so little?”
His friend responded, "How often do you practice your craft?”
The artist replied, “I must practice every day of course!”
The friend then said, “I didn’t have more faith. Like you, every day, I practice faith. I made a choice because it helps me have a relationship I want: one with God.”
Lord, you have searched me out and known me; *
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar. You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Choosing a relationship with Love: with the merciful selfless love that Jesus exemplifies takes practice and preparation. As one of our Anglican tenants says “Praying shapes believing.”
“Hate your Father and Mother” is a hard teaching. It is shocking! But in Jesus’ wise way he is telling us that we actually need to soften, not harden; open, let go of our human trappings in order to truly follow him. He is saying we will be unable to truly follow him if we do not give up our unhealthy possessions (What possesses us). Possessions include our expectations, property, and even our attachment to family systems and other people’s actions or reactions.
Possessiveness keep us in states of inflexible self absorption. Often in a reactionary state. We have expectations, attachments and desires that end up trapping us. The World preys upon us by inflating these predilections on our part. Scripture talks to us about these timeless predilections. We start reading about it from the beginning in Genesis: selfishness, cruelty, jealousy, desire. None of this is new: Our desire for belongings and status. And when things don’t go our way we can become miserable. And it is a domino effect of repercussions for our selves and others.
Jesus is saying, to “Follow me” means to journey on a path which requires preparation in the form of learning to “let go” of all of this. The ultimate expression of this selflessness is Jesus’ crucifixion. He references this humility on our part by saying we must also pick up our cross: to give over to a love that is bigger than everything else.
In the New Testament reading, Paul is making this request on behalf of the young slave Onesimus. Onesimus has run away to be with Paul for a while. Paul pleads with Philemon let go of his anger, resentment, wrath what ever it is that he may be holding up against Onesimus. Paul says, I ask this of you on the basis of love. Welcome him, as if he is my own heart, as if he is me. (Skirt this cycle of misery I can already imagine unfolding!)
Living the way of Christ is about prioritizing Love over all else. “It is a love great enough to overcome a reason not to love…” as Monk and Mystic, Thomas Keating, describes:
“…It is a realization that The love of God is all that we have: Namely infinite mercy is the only thing that we can really lay claim to. And that is not ours, but is sheer gift. If you have any other possessions, then you are not quite ripe for the Kingdom of Heaven. Because any other possession besides the divine mercy, you’ve got useless baggage… Its not about wealth as such, but that we are attached…” We are inflexible.
Jesus is saying, “wake up” The Kingdom of Heaven is about selflessness: An outpouring of love which prioritizes the “way” over our own limited and often self serving perspective.
We don’t literally hate, but we choose to Love: to know God.
From another of Paul’s famous letters:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
1.Carolyn J. Sharp
https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-23-3/commentary-on-luke-1425-33-5, Sept 3, 2022.