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Category Archives: Epistles

And When You Pray: The Times of Temptation

(a sermon for August 6, 2017, the 9th Sunday after Pentecost; sixth in a series, based on 1 Corinthians 10:1-17 and Matthew 6:9-13)

Well, not counting my time away, now we’re six weeks into this sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer, and I have to tell you: speaking both as a preacher and as a hearer of God’s Word, I have been amazed by just how many big questions we’ve had to address as we’ve gone along!

I mean, from the very existence and nature of God (“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name…”) and his unending grace and providence (“…thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”), to the gift of both sustenance (“…our daily bread”) and forgiveness (“…forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”),  this seemingly little prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples not only touches upon many of the central issues of our Christian theology but also encompasses just about everything we hold dear about our faith; and friends, that’s a lot!  In fact, it can all be a bit overwhelming; and I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that even in preparing these messages I’d find that for every one of these big questions I’d hoped I was answering for the sermon and for myself, I’d discover that there was another question to take its place (and trust me, that’s not something you want to happen late on a Saturday night!).

Honestly, sometimes it’s enough to make your head swim (!); but then, that’s sort of the nature of a life of faith.  What’s the expression about the unexamined life not being worth living?  Well, I’d suggest to you this morning that the unexamined faith is, well… impossible!  We reach out our hearts to God, knowing that God’s Spirit will intercede for us “with sighs too deep for words;” (Romans 8:26) but then we are left to prayerfully discern what the nature of that intercession and its meaning for our lives might be!   We seek to live, as the old confessional puts it, “a godly, righteous and sober life to the glory of God’s Holy name,” but then we have to wrestle with what that actually means in today’s world.  And we know that ought to be in accordance with biblical truth, however that happens to apply and based on what we’ve come to understand about scripture, and absolutely it needs to adhere to the teachings and the example of Jesus Christ.  But then in trying to do that we make a very interesting discovery: that it’s not so much what we don’t understand about scripture or about Jesus that raises up the bigger questions for us; it’s what we do understand about our Christian faith that gives us pause, leaves us confused, and sometimes, absolutely scares us!

You see what I mean?  Big questions, one right after another…

I tell you all this today because now we’ve come to the next to last petition of this “Prayer of Our Savior” that arguably raises as many questions for us as it answers:  “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  Now, on the face of it, this is pretty straightforward language that represents a necessary shift in this prayer to a tone of stark realism.  Mickey Anders writes that this has to happen in the Lord’s Prayer, because ultimately “life is about more than lofty language about God’s kingdom, God’s will, daily bread and even forgiveness.  There is [also] the reality of temptation and evil, call it what you will… [and] we face the temptation to evil every day.”

Now, I love that quote; but I still have to ask, what does all this mean?  I mean, ordinarily when we talk about temptation we’re apt to be speaking about the need to avoid those worldly enticements that are bad for us and which keep us apart from God; ranging from the temptation toward eating too many sweets to being unfaithful in one’s relationships.  It’s all about ethics and morality, self-care and righteousness before the Lord; and while that’s most certainly a part of it, this prayer to God to “lead us not into temptation” really does seem to go much deeper than this.

And while we’re on the subject, are we really praying that God not “lead” us into temptation?  Why would the Lord who loves us beyond limit and who wishes us to be in a relationship with him ever be leading us into temptation to begin with?  If God is good, then why would God ever deign to tempt us to do evil, especially as we’re praying that he deliver us from said evil?   And here’s another question:  is it even possible to forever be led away from temptation?  That’s a question that’s at the heart of our reading this morning from 1 Corinthians, in which Paul – lifting up the example of generations of the faithful who had come before – says to these new Christians, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind,” or to quote one very apt paraphrase, “If you think you are beyond the reach of temptation, be careful,” because nothing that comes your way is any different than what others have had to face!  Bottom line is that none of us are totally beyond the reach of temptation; quoting Mark Adams here, “All of us are tempted. The monk who lives behind cloistered walls wrestles with it just as much as the salesman out on the road.”

So… if temptation is an inevitable reality that all of us have to deal with; and if we understand that God’s would never be responsible for leading us into that place and probably cannot completely remove us from it; then what are we asking when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation?”

Questions…. Oy veh, the questions!

Actually, part of the problem here has to do with translation.  The Greek word that’s used here for “temptation” is “peirasmus,” and this is a word that just as appropriately can be translated as “enticement or temptation,” or (and listen to this!) “a test or trial.”  That’s how in a number of biblical translations, including our own NRSV, this verse in Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer can be read, “And do not bring us to the time of trial.”   This might seem like a subtle change, but for me it brings this prayer from seeking refuge from a place of hopeless repetition of inevitable mistakes to… a way of enduring and triumphing over the trials and tribulations of life; in particular the life of faith. For me, you see, what we’re praying for is a way to confront the struggle we all have with this thing we refer to as temptation, but which is in fact the effort that it takes to face up to the reality of evil and live that “godly, righteous and sober life” in a fallen world: “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” (we’ll get to that second part in just a minute…)

So… here’s yet another question: what is the nature of temptation; what is the time of trial we you and I will so often have to face?  Actually, to answer this I always come back to a verse from Romans – and by the way, friends, if there’s any verse in Holy Scripture that seems tailor made to make one’s head spin, this is it – “…for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (14:23)

Let me just repeat that just one more time so it can sink in:  “…for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

Now, understand that Paul is saying this in the context of admonishing the Roman Christians to not be a stumbling black to those whose practice of the faith might differ from their own (specifically, what is permissible to eat under the canon of law).  In other words, this is a stern message not to let one’s faith become a means of arrogance because if your actions and attitudes aren’t wholly attuned to your faith then it’s no longer faith but sin.

Opens up a whole bunch more questions, doesn’t it?  What that means is that even our most well-intentioned behaviors, as good and even  as “religious” as they might well be, end up not proceeding from faith at all if they are not rooted in our “own conviction before God.” (v. 22) Worship, outreach, mission, stewardship, the things we do for the church, the things we do for the world, the things we do for each other, to say nothing of our own personal piety; the applications to such a truth as this are literally endless!  I remember back in seminary, when we had to “exegete” this particular passage in our systematic theology class, our heads pretty much exploded (!); and if that’s your reaction when you go home today and start thinking about all this, I’m truly sorry; although, if it ends up in some spiritual self-evaluation, then so much the better!

But I also have to tell you that this very difficult assertion from Paul ends up connection with this every Sunday prayer I pray that my God “lead[s] me not into temptation.”  If, in fact, there is so much that apart from my faith is sinful behavior, then I need God, in Jesus Christ, to save me from it; to lead me beyond the barren and empty temptations of the world so that everything that God has given me and has empowered me to do and to be in this life can work to deepen the relationship I have with God, and to strengthen me to be more fully a disciple of Jesus Christ in my walk through these days of, to say the very least, confused situations.  I need my Lord to save me from this time of trial; understanding I can avoid it, but I can triumph over it.  It won’t be easy, for the evil in this world is real and relentless, but I won’t be alone in the effort either.

That’s where the second half of this petition comes in:  “…but deliver us from evil,” or, as our gospel reading puts it, “…rescue us from the evil one.”  Now whether one takes the view that the “evil one” depicted here is quite literally the figure of Satan, or rather a representation of the whole curse of a sinful humanity from back in the time of Genesis (now there’s a big question for another day!), the meaning is nonetheless the same: there is ever and always going to be the temptation before us to succumb to the evils of this world.  And lest we forget the story of Adam and Eve, evil can come in very attractive and enticing packages; even sometimes in what looks all the world like goodness and light.  We need to be delivered from that kind of evil; and that only comes in walking arm and arm, heart in heart with God himself!

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  A hard prayer this is; but a necessary one.  And, might I add, nothing new for any of God’s people past or present.  Remember that passage from 1 Corinthians?  “Our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank from the spiritual rock tha followed them, and the rock was Christ.”  And it was not always easy; the way was very often filled with temptation, and very often they failed in the midst of trial, to the point, Paul says, “that God was not pleased with most of them.”

But they persisted on the journey, seeking to live unto their faith in the Lrod their God… generation after generation, from age to age, through countless challenges and in the midst of a thousand or more big questions;  and today they are part of a communion of saints of which you and I are part and which we celebrate at this table set before us; indeed, “there is one bread, [and] we who are many are one body.”

Let us today allow this holy meal, and those with whom we share it, be our inspiration as we walk the walk of faithful discipleship in Christ’s name, having been lead beyond the times of temptation… and delivered from all evil.

Thanks be to God.

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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And When You Pray: The Hardest Prayer to Pray

(a sermon for  July 2, 2017, the 4th Sunday after Pentecost; third in a series, based on Matthew 6:9-13 and Colossians 1:9-14)

“Your kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” 

Two brief sentences contained within a single verse of Matthew’s gospel that are considered by theologians and biblical scholars to be the second and third petitions of the Lord’s Prayer; and yet it’s a sentiment that just kind of flows together as one as we quickly repeat the words on any given Sunday morning (“thykingdomcomethywillbedoneonearthasitisinheaven”), to the point where we might not notice, much less wholly understand what we’re saying!  And that’s unfortunate, friends; because it’s precisely at this point in our praying the Lord’s Prayer that things, as they say, get real.

It has been aptly suggested that there are essentially three levels of prayer; and how and when you and I transition from one level to another says a great deal about our own personal and spiritual growth.  Now, the first level of prayer is very basic and, well, very self-oriented: these are prayers that we say quite naturally as children, and which sometimes continue on as adults; where God is the heavenly giver of all good things, and you and I are the ones placing the orders!  It’s “O Lord, please give me a pony!”  It’s “O God, I don’t ask you for very much, but could you please, please, please not let the teacher call on me today because I didn’t do my homework and I’m not prepared!”(That’s the kind of school prayer that will always be with us, friends!) It’s “O Lord, help me get this job today… let me get the car I really want at a price I can afford… please, God, won’t you make this person I’m about to ask out on a date say yes?”

And on it goes; not that it’s inherently wrong to pray these kind of prayers (sometimes they even work out!); it’s just that as we live and grow and reach a deeper understanding of God, we do begin to realize that prayers like that can be a little frivolous, not to mention materialistic; that God’s not to be seen as merely some cosmic Santa Claus, and that just maybe our prayers to our Lord really ought to be a little bigger than that.

And therein lay our transition to the second level of prayer.  We still ask for God to give us what we’re asking for, it’s just that now we’re asking for things like life and health and food; for comfort and healing and strength in the midst of sickness and sorrow; for insight and clarity in times of discernment; for the inspiration we need to make good and right decisions regarding employment, relationships or any other number of challenges we end up facing in this thing we call life.  We are literally and spiritually asking that God “give us this day our daily bread,” and by the way, we’re also praying that those around us might be given that bread as well.

I dare say that this “second” level of prayer is the place where the most of us dwell in our spiritual lives; and I do mean that as a compliment!  It’s the place where we are profoundly aware of God’s abiding presence in our daily lives; it’s where we begin to truly understand that God’s Holy Spirit is alive and moving in and through all his people in ways that are transformative and empowering;  it’s where we are moved to truly love our neighbors as ourselves; and it’s how we as the church are, as the Rev. John Dorhauer, our General Minister and President in the United Church of Christ, said in a speech yesterday at our General Synod in Baltimore, equipped to be “one of the greatest agents of social transformation that this world has ever known.”

The truth is that many of us, as we say in our communion liturgy this morning, who “confess Jesus as the Christ and who seek to follow Christ’s way,” might well spend the whole of our spiritual journeys at that level of prayer.  And that’s not a bad thing; I mean, there’s communion with our Lord, there’s great spiritual depth; it’s good and nurturing, and brings us hope, and comfort and strength.  And moreover, we discover that life is not all about us, but about reaching out to others in Jesus’ name, and seeking to live together in a just and loving community.

So spiritually speaking, you see, this second level of prayer is fineexcept…

… there’s this third level of prayer; a higher level, but one that’s more difficult. And it’s all summed up in what might be the hardest prayer of all to pray: those two simple and yet all-encompassing phrases, “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, one earth as it is in heaven.”

Thy will be done! Think with me for a moment about the sheer weight such a prayer; for it represents the polar opposite of those level one, “give me what I ask for” prayers, in that God’s intent and desire for our lives and our are placed at the forefront rather than our requests and petitions; we’re not asking God to change his will, nor are we asking God to bless ours.  We are coming to the Lord God and saying, whatever you wish, whatever you desire, whatever you plan for my life and for this world, O God, so might it be according to your will!

The thing is, friends, we pray this prayer every Sunday and at nearly every gathering we have as God’s people:  “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  We know the sound and the flow of the words; but the question is, how many of us truly understand what that means?  How many of us are willing to give up the control that we at least like to think that we have over this life, and to surrender ourselves, our lives, the lives of those we love, and the well-being of our very world and willingly place it all in the hands of God; trusting God and God alone to care for us and bring us into his kingdom?   That’s what makes this the hardest prayer to pray; for in doing so you and I are forced to shed this notion, seemingly part of our human nature and reinforced again and again by the popular culture that we are so-called “self-made” men and women, and instead live wholly unto the truth that we are God’s children, precious and chosen, and subject to God’s will for our lives, and not our own.

“Your will be done on earth:” I love what the Rev. Dr. Thomas Long, of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, has written about this particular petition of the Lord’s Prayer; he writes that these words bring us right back “to the pew where we sit, to the shop where we work, to the relationships where we struggle to be responsible, to the place where we try to serve.”  That’s because when we are faithfully living unto God’s will rather than our own, there is going to be a strong and essential connection between that decision and everything else we do here on earth. “A cry to the God of salvation leads us in God’s name to our neighbor in need” because, writes Long, “a plea for the heavenly God to save empowers to be earthly agents of reconciliation.”

To put this another way, for us to surrender our priorities to those of God doesn’t mean we’re surrendering altogether.  This is borne out of our text this morning from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, in which the Apostle, perhaps writing from prison and toward the end of his life, tells these newly minted Christians that “we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understand, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord.”   Paul’s prayer for them is that they be filled with strength and joy and purpose and patience in their lives and living, bearing fruit “in every good work” even as they continue to grow “in the knowledge of God.”  Make no mistake; what Paul is saying here is that the spiritual journey begun by these believers in Colossae is only at its beginning, and likewise, their discipleship in doing the will of God in the name of Jesus Christ is a work in progress; much, as it turns out, like the kingdom of God itself!

There’s a reason, I believe, why those two petitions – “thy kingdom come,” and “thy will be done” – follow one another so closely in this prayer that Jesus teaches us to pray.  Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God are central to his message and “good news,” but if you read through the gospels, you’ll find that there’s this dichotomy of thought to what he says about that kingdom.  On the one hand, Jesus says again and again that the kingdom is already here in the midst of us, by virtue of Jesus himself; and yet Jesus also says that this promised kingdom will, but has yet to emerge in its fullness.  And so it is a work in progress, this blessed kingdom to come; and when you and I pray, “Your kingdom come,” we are also humbly and yet boldly praying that God’s will be done for the sake of that kingdom.  We are asking God to bring that kingdom to fruition; so that God’s reign of love and justice and peace and true prosperity will be extended to all of God’s children everywhere.  But above all, we are praying that this all important work of the kingdom might be furthered in and through you and me, so that God’s will might be wholly and wonderfully done “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Anyone who’s ever had to do so, in any fashion, knows just how hard it is to “let it go.” As I alluded before, as people we’re simply not wired that way; even as we pray to God for life and health and food, even as we ask God to bless others in Jesus’ name it is tempting and much easier for us to try to keep our own handle on things.  But isn’t it also true that it’s when we do “let it go” that we’re enabled to truly experience the wonder and adventure of life?  I think of our children learning to ride a bicycle for the first time; how it was only when they decided to have us stop running beside them and let go of the bike they could experience the incredible sense of freedom that the two-wheeler could provide.  Or how it was, not too many years later, to let go of those same children so they might be able to build lives of their own as adults.  For that matter, how it felt for us to let go of old fears and apprehensions so that we might be ready to engage in the next great adventure that life sets before us! Indeed, so much of what makes life meaningful and fulfilling has to do with letting go with that which holds us back from being who we really are; and so it is with our walk with the Almighty. To release from our own grasp the need to do everything “our way” ultimately keeps us from living and walking in God’s way; and what an adventure we’d be missing!

For you see, for us to pray that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven” not only shows forth our true allegiance to God in Christ, it also means that we are participating in the greatest adventure of all: the gospel’s good news that God’s kingdom is already at work among us and is coming, soon and very soon, in all its fullness.

And so let us not be afraid to pray this amazing, wonderful, utterly hard prayer that Jesus has taught us; placing ourselves and this world in God’s hands… for even now, and even right here, the kingdom comes!

And thanks be to God for it!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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But Now You Are God’s People!

(a sermon for May 13, 2017, the 5th Sunday of Easter, based on 1 Peter 2:2-10)

I have a question for you to ponder this morning, and it’s this: Who are you?

Seriously… just who are you, anyway?

It’s a question that truly does require some pondering, for it’s one that can well be answered in a multitude of ways.  The first and most obvious answer, I suppose, comes in a name:  for instance, “Who am I?  I am Michael Lowry.”  But then again, that simply gives rise to more specific answers; like, “I am Michael Lowry who lives in beautiful Concord, New Hampshire,” or as it happens in my case, “I’m Michael Lowry, pastor of East Church,” which inevitably leads to the question, “So… is that Reverend Lowry, Pastor Lowry, Father Lowry… and yes, I’ve even been asked this… Rabbi Lowry?”  So granted, the title might vary from time to time; but at the heart of all those titles lay at least part of who I am!

Because yes, there’s more to me than just that; I’m also Lisa’s husband; I’m “Dad” to Jake, Sarah and Zachary; I’m still very much my mother’s son (in fact, there are places up in northern Maine where I am still known primarily as “Keith and Sylvia’s boy”), I’m Dale and Sylvia’s son-in-law, and around this neighborhood I’m afraid I’m also known as Ollie’s person (Ollie is our Jack Russell terrier!). I’m also an uncle, a brother-in-law, a neighbor and friend, a member of the United Church of Christ who happens to be a New England Congregationalist at heart; I’m a music lover, guitar player and singer of John Denver tunes, and, oh, by the way?  I’m now the bearer of two brand new titanium hips that I’m told will set off airport security in a single bound!  I’m a person who works reasonably hard from day to day, who probably… no, strike that… certainly worries way too much about stuff I can’t do anything about, and who sometimes despairs as to the state of the world.  But that said, I’m a person who loves and who knows how blessed he is that he is loved by others… that’s who I am, and so much more besides.

But enough about me (!)… the stated question was, after all, who are you?

You see, what I suspect is that your answer to this question is at least as deep and layered as mine; likely even more so!  For such is the tapestry of our lives: who we are, friends, is revealed by a lifetime’s worth of experience and the wide array of relationships we’ve had with others along the way. How we “identify” ourselves so often ends up being the sum total of all that we’ve seen and moreover, by how we’ve been seen by others. In fact, for better or worse, it could well be said that who we are is largely informed by what we’ve been told we are; by our parents, our children, our nation, our jobs, our friends, our schools, our culture, even our bank accounts.

This is no small truth, friends, and sadly, it’s not always a positive one. There are so many, maybe even some who are sitting here today, who deep down in their hearts truly believe themselves to be less than worthy of any kind of love or respect, or who have come to think of themselves as somehow inadequate and no good at all; and this, all because somewhere along the way, someone identified them as such by their hurtful words and through an attitude of degradation.  Who am I? There are those among us who cannot even answer this question because all they’ve ever heard all their lives is that they’re nothing: the kind of condemnations that have all too often been reinforced in the kind of deep seated cruelties and societal prejudices that sadly pass from generation to generation.

So isn’t it good news that amidst all those who would tell us that we’re nobody and amongst all those who would seek to degrade and marginalize for the sake of their own self-assurance that there is a single voice that belligerently shouts forth that as God’s cherished children we identify as something far greater than the world can every understand; that as believers, “we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.”   Who are you?  Who am I?  We’re mortal… mortal and rejected in so many ways, and yet we are chosen and precious in God’s sight.  No matter what anyone else might have to say about it, no matter how the powers and principalities of this world might choose to define it or seek to diminish it, this is our identity.  “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”  That’s who we are, beloved; that’s who you are!

This first Epistle of Peter, from which our text is drawn this morning, was addressed to a group of early Christians living and ministering somewhere in the Mediterranean world, most likely in the Roman provinces where Turkey exists today.  These were people brand new to the Christian faith; frankly unfamiliar with the ideal and reality of living in Christ and serving Christ; and that’s why they get compared here, and I should add not unkindly, to “newborn infants,” longing “for the pure, spiritual milk.”   Understand they believed; they “identified” as followers of the risen Christ, but you also have to know that it wasn’t an easy identification, for these new Christians were essentially living as strangers in a strange land, facing persecution both direct and subtle at every turn.  History tells us that for the most part, these believers were being dismissed as little more than religious fanatics; in the words of one 1st Century Roman leader, as purveyors of a “perverse and extravagant superstition.”

Men, women and children; all rejected by the world, and yet, as the Epistle makes clear, they were “chosen and precious in God’s sight,”  set apart by the Lord as “living stones” to “be built into a spiritual house,” after the manner of Jesus Christ himself, the very cornerstone of this whole new world.  Men, women and children; all called as “a holy priesthood”  to proclaim the mighty acts of God in that strange place where they were to dwell; to continue the reality of Christ’s own life and ministry in their lives and living! But more than an honorary degree, so to speak, this identity as “God’s chosen” represents how every expectation of the world and its power structure gets turned upside down and inside out, all because of these heretofore mis-identified people who are now the royalty of God’s own kingdom!

In other words, friends, never mind what those who’ve rejected you have said you are!  What this epistle makes clear is that while once you were nobodies, people with nothing in common, now you are the church!  Now you are family; now you are God’s people, and that says it all; that tells the whole story, because that’s who you are!  By the grace of God made manifest in Christ’s resurrection, this is the identity that permeates and recreates anything and everything we’ve come to assume ourselves to be.

The truth of our baptism is that it’s not about what we ought to be, or should be, or what we can be if we only try a little bit harder.  Our baptism in the risen Christ asserts who we are: we are a new creation, a new people.  We are a holy nation; we are royalty because God in Christ says so.  We are God’s own with no doubt or hesitation about it at all; and that is good news indeed.  But understand: with this clear identity comes the challenge to live that way, right here and right now, both as persons and as a people of faith

Even here at East Church, in our own little corner of God’s Kingdom, we are that holy nation; we are the people called to proclaim the mighty acts of God:  at home, at work, in our relationships with our families and as friends, in the ways we that we seek to shape and change the structures of culture and society.  We are the church; and as the church, we’re the ones who “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” whether that happens in lifting the fallen and working against injustice in the world, or if it come to pass in some random act of kindness or simply offering up a shoulder to cry on.  You want my opinion?  This is what’s going to move us through these very difficult and downright confounding times in which we live; this is what creates the atmosphere of peace, and justice and love in the world; it’s knowing who we are and then living out of that identity; and it starts right here in this place and with us.  As G.K. Chesterton once put it, “We do not want, as the newspapers say, a Church that will move with the world.  We want a church that will move the world.”

In his book with a great title, The Gospel for the Person Who Has Everything, William Willimon tells the story of little boy named Clayton; who when asked what kind of party he wanted for his fifth birthday, replied that he wanted a party in which everyone invited was a king or a queen.  So he and his mother went to work building a whole array of silver crowns, each one made of cardboard and aluminum foil; then purple robes made of crepe paper; and finally, royal scepters built from sticks that had been spray-painted gold.  And on the day of the party, as the guests arrived each one was given his or her own personal crown, along with a robe and scepter; thus becoming a king or queen. It was all very regal; there was ice cream and cake of course, followed by a majestic procession up to the end of the block and back.  Everybody had a wonderful time; and the best part was that not only did everyone look like kings and queens, they got to act like kings and queens!

And that night, when the guests had all gone home, things were all cleaned up and as Clayton was being tucked into bed by his mother, Clayton said, “I wish everyone in the whole world would be a king or a queen – not just on my birthday, but every day.”  Well, Willimon goes on to say “something very much like that happened two thousand years ago at a place called Calvary.  We, who were nobodies, became somebodies.  If we could all believe that, perhaps we could start acting like that.”

It seems to me, beloved, that we would do well to believe that.  To know who we are, not just on Sunday mornings when we’re in church and it’s easy, but every morning and all throughout every day as we seek to live out of that identity.

Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”

That’s who we are, beloved.  So may we go forth as the people of God with lives of faithful service in Jesus’ name.

And in that, as always, may our thanks be to God!

AMEN and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Church, Discipleship, Epistles, Sermon

 

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