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Security Blankets

(a sermon for August 11, 2019, the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, based on Luke 12:13-21)

(Note: an audio version of this message can be found here)

I’m sure that anyone here who’s ever been involved in the lives of very young children knows a little something about security blankets; because, as you also know, just about every child has one… and it matters!

Now, this might be an actual blanket, something along the line of that which Linus always carried in the “Peanuts” comic strips (and from which the very term “security blanket” became part of the language), or else it might be a favorite pillow, a tattered teddy bear or beloved doll.  But the form is much less important than its function: a “security blanket,” you see, serves as something tangible and comforting for that little one to hold on to during anxious times.

And I remember this well; when they were young all three of our children carried around with them some form of “luvvy,” as we referred to them in our house. And I’ll never forget because over those years I engaged in many a scavenger hunt for the sake of recovering a lost or misplaced luvvy!  In the wee hours of the morning, in the midst of torrential downpours, on family car trips turning around to go back home one hour into a three hour drive:  I remember once driving across town back to church on a Sunday afternoon through a blizzard just so I could dig around on all fours in a snow bank (!), all so Jake could have his luvvy and stop crying!  Because, as Linus himself once remarked after a struggle with Snoopy over his blanket, “The struggle for security knows no season!”

But it was okay… as a parent you know that if an old piece of quilt or a rag doll can bring some warmth and comfort to your beloved child on a cold, dark night, that’s what you want; and if it garners you a little bit of extra sleep in the process, so much the better! And besides, they’re only that young for a little while, right; and you know that eventually your children outgrow their need for a security blanket (of course, I’ve known a lot of college students who still quietly count those old stuffed animals as amongst their most precious belongings, but I digress!).

Actually, it seems to me that even as adults, most of us still have some kind of security blanket; it’s just that now they tend to be a whole lot more complex in nature than your average luvvy.  As we grow older, you see, our security blankets take the form of retirement accounts, 401k pension plans and insurance policies.   A warm and safe home, a good reliable car, enough money in the bank to see you through whatever rainy day comes your way: let’s face it; these are the things that most of us seek in order to give ourselves some modicum of security amid the transitory nature of life.  And there’s nothing wrong with that at all; in fact, it’s pretty much basic common sense and responsible behavior to build up an abundance to provide for the uncertainty of the future.  I know that every year when I get these statements in the mail from the Pension Boards of the UCC detailing the growth of our retirement account, I look at those numbers and always think to myself, “Well, there, at least I’ve got that.”  Whatever else is going on, no matter what our challenges might happen to be, there’s this small sense of security in knowing that once I’m retired there’ll be some money coming in.  Granted, by and large clergy don’t “retire rich,” (or at least this one won’t!) but at the very least there will be some level of abundance, right… and that does seem to me like a good thing!

I guess this is why our gospel text for this morning seems so jarring to our ears.  At the face of it, Luke is telling about a couple of brothers feuding over the family inheritance, one of whom who comes to Jesus asking him to settle the issue.  But you realize very quickly that Jesus has no intention of arbitrating the just division of the family estate (in fact, as The Message interprets Jesus’ response, he says, “Mister, what makes you think it’s any of my business” who gets what!); rather, Jesus uses the opportunity to teach on matters of greed and covetousness. “Take care,” Jesus says, “for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”  Fair enough, even if that’s not the daily message we get from Madison Avenue and a culture of affluence, though I do think that most of us realize that the pathway of enlightenment is not found while driving the same luxury car that Matthew McConaughey drives!  We know better; most of us know at some level that life isn’t about our money or our things.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there; he goes on to tell them all a parable about a successful businessman who has done well for himself; in fact, he has “produced [so] abundantly” that he needs to build new storehouses for all the extra grain and the rest of his goods.   He’s done well for himself and he’s provided amply for his own future, and it would seem as though he had earned the right, as he himself put it, “to relax, eat, drink be merry,” to retire securely and comfortably, certainly as any one of us would be wont to do.  Or, in his own words (via The Message, again), “I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well!  You’ve got it made!”

But then, as Jesus tells the story, God intervenes and utters words that rip through this man’s self-satisfied plan like a clap of thunder on a hot summer night:  “You fool!  This very night your life is being demanded of you. And these things you have prepared, whose will they be?”   And so it will be, concludes Jesus, for all those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.

So much for retiring rich!  

I don’t care who you are, God’s words come off here as harsh and cold; tonight you die, fool, so what good is a 401k plan gonna do you?  And the worst part of it all is that this so-called “rich fool” really was no different than what you and I would at least aspire to be someday!   I mean, who among us does not want to be “set” financially, at least for a few years; truly, most of us work for a lifetime precisely toward that kind of goal!  So the question becomes, how do you and I make the transition from what we consider to be  good and prudent common sense to that which makes us a fool in God’s sight?    When is it that our “security blankets” offer no security at all?

Well, first off, this parable is a not-so subtle reminder that our lives will not go on forever.  I’m reminded here of a “Far Side” cartoon from several years back in which a woman in widow’s garb is looking out of the picture window of her house at a large cloud in the sky; and as she’s watching, a TV set, golf clubs, piano and even a dog are flying out the door of the house and up to the cloud.  And the woman says, “Aaaaaa… it’s George.  And he’s taking it with him!”  Well, life is not like that; our lives will come to an end and we can’t take it with us.  Our possessions, no matter how impressive, are no hedge against the ending of our lives.  All those things to which we cling, all of that which we fleetingly hoped would secure ourselves against our own mortality; it doesn’t work, it’s a lie.   So Jesus is right:  life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions, any more than wealth can be the source of our well-being.  That’s the mistake that the rich fool made: this assumption that however savvy he may have been about his life and about his financial situation, somehow he was in control of things. He wasn’t.

God is in control of things, and you and I had best figure that out now; for not only, as the parable suggests, is the knowledge of it the difference between life and death, but it’s the place where the kingdom of heaven dwells.

A few years ago at a former parish, I was asked by a man who was not a member of the church if I might come to his home and meet with his wife for the purpose of planning her funeral.   By this time she’d been ill for a number of months, and she clearly knew her time was short; so there were things she wanted to discuss with me before she died, which not only included what she wished to have happen at her eventual memorial service, but also a few things that she was quite adamant not happen!

Actually, as I recall, despite the subject matter the conversation turned out to rather pleasant and quite lively as she proceeded to grill this local pastor about hymns, scripture passages and the theological and social significance of all the various and sundry traditions that go along with such gatherings in the church!  Eventually, however, she began to talk about other matters as well; telling me about things she was doing in these waning days of her life, as well as expressing concern as to some things she felt she needed to do in the time she had left.  Notice that I didn’t say what she wanted to do, but what she needed to do; as evidenced by a long list of tasks, both large and small, that she’d written very neatly and carefully on a folded piece of paper and to which she referred often as we spoke.

For instance, there had been an old friend with whom at one time she’d been very close, but since a falling out years before, had hardly spoken. She’d long regretted what had happened; but now, finally, she’d sought out her friend to apologize and make things right. Her list was filled with things like that, and so much more; most prominently a series of mostly small promises she’d made to her children and grandchildren over the years that she was intent on honoring, as well as bits of wisdom and words of love she was determined to share with husband and family and friend alike.

It was with great enthusiasm and, dare I say, a distinct tone of joy in her voice that she described to me these crucial tasks that lay before her.  And as I listened, it suddenly occurred to me that I was sitting in the lovely living room of a beautiful house, surrounded by a huge yard with a swimming pool in the back; this was clearly everything this woman and her husband had worked so many years to have and to enjoy.  And yet it was also clear that there was not a single item on her list of crucial things to do that had anything at all to do with her home, her yard, her pool, her wealth or her “things.”  Everything on that list had to do with the people she loved; it was about setting things aright; about extending as much love and care as she possibly could in whatever time she had left in this life.  She was determined to make it all happen; and even as frail as her body had become, there was nonetheless a lightness to her heart and a brightness about her spirit that was a true inspiration.

In the end, you see, in her own way this woman had found that which Jesus said had alluded the rich fool, and which alludes so many of us besides: the true treasure that comes in being rich toward God.

Why is it that it takes a reminder of our own mortality to wake us up to the fact that our only true “security blanket” comes in following God?   How is it that we hear this “good news” spoken to us time after time but we fail to truly receive it as our own, preferring instead to cling to so much that ultimately means nothing to us?   Make no mistake, we’ll still make payments toward our retirement accounts, and make sure our life insurance policies are up to date and adequate for our needs; dreaming of the day we might be able to sit back, for once, not worry and take it easy.

And we should… we should be doing all of that.

But here’s the good news of the gospel:  that even as we seek to secure ourselves in this world we know so well, Christ is calling us to live as part of another world: the real world, a place and a way of life where life does not consist in the abundance of possessions, buy where loving God and neighbor is wealth indeed.

Christ calls us now to follow him, and walk in his ways, that we might find that place that we might know what true security is.

Will you follow, beloved?

Consider this as we come to the Lord’s Table, and may our thanks be to God.

AMEN and AMEN.

© 2019  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

 

 

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Posted by on August 11, 2019 in Family Stories, Jesus, Life, Ministry, Sermon

 

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Hand to the Plow

(a sermon for June 30, 2019, the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, based on Luke 9: 51-62)

(Note: A podcast recording of this message can be found here.)

I think you’ll agree with me that in life at least two things are for  certain: first, that there are always choices to be made, some very important, others seemingly inconsequential but most of them fairly essential; and second, that inevitably there will be something seeking to distract you from those choices!

There’s a story from the Hindu tradition that tells of young yogi (that is, a student of the Indian philosophy) who was instructed by his teacher that the pathway to true enlightenment was to spend his days sitting under a tree by the banks of a river in deep contemplation of God.  And this is exactly what the student had decided to do; and in fact for this purpose had divested himself of all his worldly possessions, save for a begging bowl with which he would daily beg for scraps of food from those in the nearby village, and a loincloth, by which he covered up his… nakedness!

But this was fine, for this was all the student needed in his pursuit of enlightenment; except that one night after the student had washed out his loincloth and hung it on a tree to dry, he awoke the next day to discover that rats had torn and chewed up his loincloth beyond all repair. So now the student was naked and not only embarrassed to be seen that way but also that he was now forced to beg both for food and a new loincloth!   Eventually, the student did manage to find a charitable donor for that particular piece of clothing, but upon returning to the river’s edge the student realized that there were always going to be rats; and since it was rather unseemly for a man of God to be continually begging for a loincloth, this young yogi decided to handle the problem in a different way:  by getting a cat, so to be chasing the rats!

Which was very wise, indeed; except that the cat now needed to be fed, which required the young yogi to go out to get milk for the cat, which led to him looking for a stray cow from which he could get that milk!  And even that was fine; that is, until late into the summer when the grass burned away from the lack of rain, and the cow needed some kind of fodder, any kind of fodder just to stay alive.  So what did the yogi do?  Of course, come the next rainy season he set out to plant some crops – just a few for the cow because after all, the cat needed milk so that it would keep chasing the rats so that there would be no need for him to have to go begging for another loincloth – oh, and perhaps he ought to plant some rice and a few vegetables for himself as well!

Well, you can guess what happened: he spent so much of his days farming he could hardly find time at all for spiritual pursuits!  He did seek to remedy the situation by hiring some workers to tend the fields, but the workers needed supervision; which led him to the rather patriarchal decision to take a wife who could oversee the operations of the farm, all so he himself could be free to get back to communing with God!  But – you guessed it (!) – his new wife was not content to live under a tree by the river and so he set out to build a house; a large house, especially now she was expecting their first child!

Five years had passed, and the yogi had grown wealthy and fat living there by the banks of the river.  The story goes that one day his teacher reappeared, and asked with some dismay in his voice what had happened in his quest for enlightenment.  “Revered teacher,” replied the yogi, head bowed and eyes to the ground, “this was truly the only way I could keep my loincloth.”

I’ll say it again: so often what life amounts to are the choices that we make; but there will always be something that seeks to distract us from those choices!

Our text for this morning is all about choices and distractions; specifically the choice to follow Jesus and the distractions that threaten to keep us from doing so.  Actually, I don’t know about you, but I have to say that for me this passage from Luke’s gospel feels kind of harsh.  There’s nothing particularly positive in anything that Jesus has to say here; in fact, to borrow a word from another preacher, Jesus’ words come off in this reading as, well, a bit “cranky,” seemingly going “out of his way to say difficult things, things people, even good and decent people, will simply have a hard time accepting, to say nothing of actually doing.” (Rev. Stacey Sauls)

Granted, Luke tells us that this is the point of the gospel story in which Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” and the inevitability of the cross that awaited him there; so there is a certain seriousness about this very pivotal moment.  But to seemingly dismiss that faithful admirer alongside the road promising to follow Jesus wherever he would go by saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” or as The Message renders it, “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know;” and then to answer the would-be follower who first needed to bury his father, and then to another who wished to say farewell to his loved ones with the curt response of “Let the dead bury their own dead,” well, there’s something that most decidedly does not fit the profile of “Jesus, friend, most kind and gentle!” And for the moment, let’s not even talk about Jesus’ rebuke of James and John who were ready to “command [heavenly] fire” to consume the village of Samaritans who had refused to receive Jesus along his journey!

I mean, up till now, all that we’ve heard about this business of following Jesus has had to do with the coming Kingdom of God taking root in our midst and about you and I being “fishers of people;” it’s all been about healing, and miracles and stories of seeds taking root in good soil.  But there’s more to it than that, and now we encounter Jesus in a “teachable moment” that not only shows forth the great seriousness of that call to follow but also reveals the great urgency of it; which is exactly what Jesus is talking about when he says to that wanna-be disciple who first needs to straighten things out at home before he leaves that “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Once again, to make his point Jesus brings forth an image that any of those listening would have understood, and as people who know at least a little bit about the rural culture, so do we!  From an agricultural point of view, it just makes sense: any farmer worth his salt would never think to look back from the plow, for to do so would be to risk cutting a crooked or shallow farrow and thus ruining the work (or more to the point, if I might quote an ancient Greek poem on the subject – from 700 B.C., to be exact – the plowman is one “who attends to his work and drives a straight furrow and no longer gapes after his comrades, but keeps his mind on his work.” [Hesiod, Works and Days]).  The point that Jesus is trying to make here is that in the task before you there is “no place for looking back or even trying to look in two directions at once.”   Quite literally, writes Biblical commentator Mikeal Parsons, Professor of Religion at Baylor University, you can’t be “two-faced,” and so it is with being a disciple of Jesus.  If you are to follow Jesus, you “must be single-minded in purpose, setting [your face] like Jesus on the task at hand.”

What we need to understand about this passage is that Jesus’ words are not as “cranky” as they might seem at first read; indeed, his call (quoting Karoline Lewis of Lutheran Seminary now) “is not an insensitive plea to abandon that which is important to us, who matter to us, who make a difference to us.”  This is not a call to abandon family or to “let the dead bury their own.”  But it is a reminder to you and to me and to all who seek to follow Jesus that there is an important, essential job before us and that every single moment before us matters in what we have to do.  When it involves the Kingdom of God coming into our midst, every moment counts; and thus it includes and encompasses “all the contexts and circumstances of our lives… it is the convergence of time, people, purpose and place.”

Or, to put it far more simply, in and through all the routines and rhythms of our lives, yours and mine, we have decided to follow Jesus… and we dare not let ourselves become distracted from that choice we have made.

The fact is that even when I think about it a little bit, I can totally understand the reaction of those who respond to Jesus calling by saying, “Oh, yes, Lord… absolutely I’ll follow… but first let me take care of a few things.”  I mean, we do want to follow Jesus, right?  That’s kind of why we’re here today: we’ve heard Jesus calling, we’ve built that relationship with God in Christ and we do have some sense of God’s Spirit moving in our lives; this is why we gather ourselves together as the church – even on a hot and muggy June morning (!) – because while we don’t fully understand it and we don’t always know where it’s going to lead us, Christ has called us and we do want to be disciples!  But even given all that, there’s so much in life that seeks to distract us; so much that would take our hand off the plow given the chance:  “real life” distractions, things like job concerns, matters of financial security and the time and space that’s needed to take care of ourselves and people we love.  There’s also the kind of distractions that emanate from the relentless challenges of convoluted days and an over-scheduled life; to say nothing of a pervasive culture that actively tries to pull us in every direction except that where Jesus is walking.  And then, of course, there are the distractions of sin and sorrow and anger and hurt and regret to which we so often tend to cling; precisely the kind of life (or more accurately, the kind of death) from which Jesus has come to save us all in the first place!

Barbara Brown Taylor has written, “Discipleship costs all that we have, all that we love, all that we are.  And Jesus does not want us to be fooled about that.”  That doesn’t mean that in following Jesus we aren’t ever going to love, or to laugh, or to have a life that is rich and full and eventful and surprising.  It just means that the call to follow our Lord where he goes – even unto Jerusalem (!) – doesn’t happen after all of that; it happens while all of that is going one.  Jesus calls us to proclaim the kingdom of God while we’re living… while we’re growing… while we’re grieving… while we’re facing the inevitable changes that come our way… it happens as much while we’re in the midst of our farewells as it does in the new beginnings of our lives.  Discipleship, you see, isn’t something for another day; it’s for now… it’s for here… it’s for life “its own self.”

It’s for planting and it’s for harvest, and in-between that, it’s for plowing… and as Jesus is quick to remind us here, we’d do  very well, you and me, to not be distracted from the task at hand… to ever and always keep our hand to the plow and never look back.

Which begs the question, beloved:  how’s the field looking?

Beloved, I hope and pray that as disciples of our Lord Jesus, we might truly, in the words of the song, “plant our rows straight and long, seasoned with a prayer and song” so that there will be a harvest truly fit for the kingdom.

And as our garden grows, may our thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

© 2019  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2019 in Discipleship, Jesus, Sermon

 

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Matthias

(a sermon for June 2, 2019, the 7th Sunday of Easter, based on Acts 1:15-17, 21-26)

It is both interesting and very telling to note that the very first thing that the apostles do as a new “church” is to hold a congregational meeting.

Well, not exactly… remember that up till now the eleven, “together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers,” (Acts 1:14) were holed up in the so-called “upper room,” devoting themselves to prayer and waiting, as Jesus had directed them, “for the promise of the Father;” (1:4) that is, for their baptism with the Holy Spirit coming “not many days from now.”  But the reality was that even after all the jubilation and excitement that had come about in the lives of the disciples by virtue of Jesus’ resurrection, not to mention having just witnessed the dramatic ascension of their master into heaven, nonetheless there was work that needed to be done, decisions to be made, jobs to be filled and things to get organized!  And so, as Luke describes it in his Book of Acts, they come down from the upper room and gathered together with 120 other believers, settle down to doing some church business; and that business results in the election of a man by the name of Matthias as a “new” Apostle.

And who is Matthias, you ask?  Good question!

In fact, we don’t know all that much about Matthias; he remains one of the great mystery men of the New Testament.  We do know from Acts that Matthias was one of two potential candidates for filling the apostleship of the now deceased Judas, the other being a man named Joseph Barsabbas “who was also known as Justus;” we know that both men were considered longtime followers of Jesus; and we know that they were both, as Peter described them, “witnesses with us to his resurrection.”  But beyond that, all that we really know is that following some prayerful consideration that the Lord would show them the right candidate, lots were cast (which was an ancient form of election and was pretty much as it sounds: small stones or even sticks were used, but it essentially was a roll of the dice (!), in the belief that God had already chosen the right person and so this is how it would be revealed!), and the “lot” fell on Matthias “and he was added to the eleven apostles.”

And after that he was pretty much never heard of again!  Seriously, Matthias’ name never comes up again in the Book of Acts or anywhere else in scripture; and historical records regarding his life and times are sketchy at best: some traditions hold that Matthias preached the Gospel to “barbarians and meat eaters” (and by “meat eaters,” I mean cannibals) in the interior of Ethiopia, while others maintain that Matthias was in fact stoned to death by religious authorities in Jerusalem and then beheaded.  We just don’t know.

In truth, the best clue we have about Matthias comes the meaning of his name:  in the original Hebrew, his name would have been Mattithiah, which means “a gift of God.”  And actually, that kind of says it all: as brief as his appearance is within the gospel story Matthias emerges as a gift of God to this new church as it took its very first steps into an uncertain, yet very purposeful future.  In fact, I would go so far to say that Matthias represents for us today the difference between the church languishing and stagnating where it is, or else going boldly to where it’s supposed to go, following the leading of the Holy Spirit into new areas of ministry and witness; to go, as Jesus himself said it, to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (1:8) Matthias was in fact the first of many leaders in the church, disciples of Jesus Christ who were ever and always about the business of moving forward with doing God’s work in the world; which, when you think about it, might even include you and me!

What we find out from this little story from the Book of Acts is that from the very beginnings of the Christian church, there’s this tension that exists between, shall we say, continuity and order on the one hand, and innovation, creativity and change on the other!   I mean, the whole idea that there has to be a replacement for Judas – the details of whose bloody end is recorded there in Acts but not included in our text this morning (!) – or that there needs to be twelve individuals as opposed to eleven in this inner circle of apostleship (which, by the way, symbolically links the apostles with the twelve tribes of Israel), not to mention the idea that Matthias had actually been part of their group for the whole three years of following Jesus:  all of this tells us that in the midst of everything changing all around them the disciples really wanted and needed some solid connection to their faith and tradition.  And that’s valid; in fact, it’s as true today as it was then – to quote William Willimon, “In order to serve Christ, we must become the body of Christ [and as such we] must be organized, must have form and continuity.”  That’s why, as broad and open and diverse as we seek to be in the church today, in the end what we do as te church – whatever we do – must be rooted in our biblical faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, and in the historical tradition of Christ’s church; anything else than that makes us just some random gathering of religious people… if that!

But by the same token, the Apostles also realized that they could never dwell in the past, especially in light of the fact that even in this moment “in-between” the risen Christ and the Spirit, they were being confronted by new challenges; so what were they to do now? I have to imagine that in all those days of “devoting themselves to prayer” there in that upper room this must have been the question weighing heavy on their hearts.  They all knew about Judas and the scandal he represented; but he’d still been, at one time, at least, “allotted his share in this ministry…” so what were they to do about replacing him?  Moreover, how long were they meant to remain in the upper room, and what about this so-called baptism of the Holy Spirit?  And how was all of this supposed to fit into being Jesus’ witnesses “to the end of the earth?” (1:8) In other words, where were they supposed to go from here?  They didn’t even have the luxury to fall back on a mantra of “we’ve never done it that way before,” because this was all untried territory; a brand new call toward an unknown future all crystallized in this seemingly impossible decision as to who should be the “replacement” disciple!  Given all that, casting lots almost certainly seemed a perfectly legitimate solution!

In the end, regarding that election (and probably everything else as well) they turned to God. “Lord, you know everyone’s heart,” they prayed. “Show us which one of these two you have chosen.”   But make no mistake, this wasn’t a situation of asking God “should we,” rather it was asking “how:” how do we best serve you, Lord; how do we make your will for the world and our very lives come to pass. It was going back to the source as a way of finding inspiration for a new age; and it was a spiritual discipline, one that required steadfast faith, trust in God’s will and purpose, great courage for the journey ahead, and utmost enthusiasm even and especially in the face of the world’s doubt, its negativity and even its persecution.

The story of Matthias is a story about how we move forward as disciples of Jesus Christ; it’s about transformation in the church and among his people for the sake of his kingdom. It’s about you and I being bold enough to step out into the world and into the future wholly as people of faith, even if we’re not entirely sure where that’s going to take us or how it’s going to happen!  Not that one step is all that’s required; more than likely, “we will get there only by a series of many small steps.” But that’s okay; for as Anthony B. Robinson, a theologian, author and pastor from Seattle, Washington, has written, “There appears to be something inherent within the nature of the gospel that values small things – the widow’s coin, the pearl of great price, the few seed that fell upon the good soil – small things that the world regards of low account.”  So remember, Robinson goes on to say, “as you are having [that] one-to-one conversation, as you are teaching the only two children who showed up for Sunday school [or] visiting the one sick person, [remember] that the Exodus from slavery began with one step toward the promised land.”  The point is that true discipleship takes that first, small cautious step, followed by a prayerful stance, followed by a few more small steps that eventually lead into a leap of faith!  The journey might well seem long, and uncertain at best; but this is how transformation happens, beloved, and this is how you and I become witnesses of our Risen Lord even “to the ends of the earth.”

Back in 1984 when I was ordained to the Christian ministry – itself the culmination of a long, relatively uncertain but very transformative journey – I received a very nice note of congratulations and blessing from a colleague of mine; and in that note, I’ll never forget, he wrote these words:  “This is quite a celebration that’s happening in your life.  What do you intend to do for an encore?”

Well, folks, 35 years later that’s a question I continue to ask myself both as a person and a parson, but most especially as one  numbered among the believers; and it seems to me a good question for any of us to be asking as Christians.  For we’ve been so blessed by God in Jesus Christ, gifted by His Spirit for life and living; we are restored, redeemed, renewed and empowered here and now; so in the face of all of that, what will we do as an encore?

I would hope and pray that we will take that to mean that we should go out there seeking to live good and godly lives in everything that comes to us in this life; that we can make a true difference in this world and in the lives of people around us, while always managing to hang on to our own spiritual values and the integrity that comes to that.  Likewise, I pray that it means that even the smallest and most routine pieces of business in and through our daily lives will be imbued with faithfulness and predicated on the desire to be witnesses of the risen Savior simply by who and whose we are; I pray that this comes through in our relationships with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, and especially with the stranger we meet along the way.  But most of all, I hope and pray that it means that we won’t be holding back; but rather moving into an unknown future as true believers; as persons and a people embracing the life we’ve been given and facing whatever comes with hope and courage and love; and always with an eye set clearly toward the kingdom.

The Lord truly does know our hearts, beloved; and he needs you and me to be the Matthiases of this world, people who are bold enough take their place as Jesus’ disciples in whatever comes as the future unfolds, people who go wherever it takes to be a witness to his love, people who will know his Spirit as a guide and inspiration for the way.

How about you?  Are you a Matthias?  Are you a gift from God?  Are you ready to be a disciple for a new day?

Think about that as we go to the Lord ’s Table now…

…and let our thanks be to God!

AMEN and AMEN!

c. 2019  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2019 in Discipleship, Faith, Jesus, Sermon

 

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