“Trust in _____?” August 10, 2014 Sermon

Matthew 14:22-33 • August 10, 2014

Click here to view a video of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

I found a new website this past week. Dullmensclub.com. Their slogan is “Where dull men – and the women who love dull men – come to celebrate the ordinary.” It’s a place on the internet for guys who feel “born to be mild” and enjoy the adventure of exciting activities like watching grass grow and paint dry.

This past week at Good Shepherd was Vacation Bible School. For the more than 100 children and their adult leaders, it was far from dull or ordinary and a whole lot more exciting than watching paint dry!

Which image is a better one for you to describe your life in Christ as a follower of Jesus? Do you relate to a dull, boring, irrelevant life of faith and a church that celebrates the ordinary and is born to be mild. Or do you relate to an exciting, loud, active life of faith and a church that can’t stop telling and showing others how much God loves them?

I was recently at Luther Seminary in St. Paul for a few days of continuing education lectures around the subject of stewardship. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind as you sit in a church pew and a pastor stands before you and proclaims the word stewardship?

That’s too bad, really. It makes me sad. Ok, I’ll be honest, it makes me a bit angry, that those of us who claim to be followers of the risen savior Jesus, people who are called to be stewards of God’s good creation, have come to believe that stewardship is only about the church wanting to take something from us like money. Has our trust in God and our belief that God is working through us as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ diminished to the point where stewardship in the life of those who claim to follow Jesus is only about money.

Stewardship, and being a steward…a child of God, is about trusting in God and believing that EVERYTHING you and I have is God’s first, everything. All is a gift from God and we are called to be stewards of these gifts.

Jesus’ word to Peter in our gospel reading today, and his word to you and me as well, is “come.” It’s not, “after you accept me into your heart Peter, then you can come.” And it sure isn’t, “I’m not sure if you should come to me yet, Peter, I’ve see your financial giving over the last quarter and it simply doesn’t measure up to my standards.” So, what I’ve been wrestling with in this text from Matthew’s gospel is, do you and I really trust God when Jesus reaches out his hand and says, “come.”?

Hopefully you noticed a little bit of an unusual ritual that our ushers were engaged in today as you entered worship. If you are visiting today, no…the ushers do not give out money every time we worship at Good Shepherd. I wanted to hand out money this weekend because I assumed that our initial response when I asked the question about what the word stewardship means was going to be the church asking for money.

In the United States, our money says, “In God We Trust.” Take a look at that dollar bill and see for yourself. I’d beg to argue about whether we actually live out that the simple yet profound statement of in God we trust on our money and ask the question, do we? Do we really trust God with money? Remember, as children of God, all of our money is God’s first. So, do the things that we spend money on and the ways that we use things like money demonstrate our trust in God? Or does it show our trust in things that have little to do with being a child of God or sharing God’s love for all of God’s children?

 

Hot sun. Salty air. Rhythmic waves. A little boy is on the beach. On his knees he scoops and packs the sand with plastic shovels into a bright red bucket. Then he upends the bucket on the surface and lifts it. And, to the delight of the architect, a cast tower is created.

All afternoon he will work. Spooning out the moat. Packing the walls. Bottle tops will be sentries. Popsicle sticks will be bridges. A sandcastle will be built.

Big city. Busy streets. Rumbling traffic. A man in his office. At his desk he shuffles papers into stacks and delegates assignments. He cradles the phone on his shoulder and punches the keyboard with his fingers. Numbers are juggled and contracts are signed and much to the delight of the man, a profit is made.

All his life he will work. Formulating the plans. Forecasting the future. Annuities will be sentries. Capital gains will be bridges. An empire will be built.

Two builders of two castles. They have much in common. They shape granules into grandeurs. They see nothing and make something. They are diligent and determined. And for both the tide will rise and end will come. Yet that is where the similarities cease. For the boy sees the end while the man ignores it. Watch the boy as the dusk approaches.

As the waves near, the wise child jumps to his feet and begins to clap. There is no sorrow. No fear. No regret. He knew this would happen. He is not surprised. And when the great breaker crashes into his castle and his masterpiece is sucked into the sea, he smiles. He smiles, picks up his tools, takes his father’s hand, and goes home.

The grownup, however, is not so wise. As the wave of years collapses on his castle he is terrified. He hovers over the sandy monument to protect it. He blocks the waves from the walls he has made. Salt-water soaked and shivering he snarls at the incoming tide.

“It’s my castle,” he defies.

The ocean need not respond. Both know to whom the sand belongs…

[Story by Max Lucado from Alice Gray’s book More Stories from the Heart, p. 224-225]

The great Henri Nouwen spoke frequently about the challenges and rewards of placing our trust in God. “The great spiritual task facing me,” Nouwen once said, “is to so trust that I belong to God that I can be free in the world – free to speak even when my words are not received; free to act even when my actions are criticized, ridiculed, or considered useless; free also to receive love from people and to be grateful for all the signs of God’s presence in the world.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, everything that you and I have or ever will have is God’s. God’s gift to us. And everything that you and I are or ever will be is God’s. God’s gift to us. Even that dollar bill you received as you entered worship today, is God’s. I hope and pray that you are blessed as you continue to step out of the ordinary and mild in your life in Christ and trust God during all of the adventures that will take place as we journey together in faith. And remember always that even in the times when we fail, and there will be times when you and I fail, Jesus will be there reaching out his hand, and inviting us to “come.”

Thanks be to God. Amen.


“You are Welcomed. Now Go Welcome.” Sermon 06/29/2014

Matthew 10:40-42

Click here to view a video of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

So the last time I was with you during this time, I shared something from one of my favorite contemporary theologians – Charles Schultz the creator Peanuts comic strip. And after that sermon, several of you shared some of your favorite theologians along the same line as Charles Schultz. And I think that one of them, from Calvin and Hobbes, relates well to this section of Matthew’s gospel that we have been walking through in recent weeks. And rather than just describing it to you today, I can actually show you the strip.

donotreply@sharpcopier.com_20140625_113049_001

As someone who seeks to follow the risen savior Jesus, there are many times when Jesus words seem to paint an incredibly complicated picture – is it black and white or color. Many times when Jesus’ challenging words seem overwhelming. Many times when I think it might be better to just lay down and take a nap until dinner.

So here’s a question for today, why do you do the things that you do? We all do things, right? Things that we are incredibly proud of and things that we are not very proud of and wish people would quit posting them on Facebook. So, why do you and I do the things that we do? We live in a culture where what we do often determines who wins and who loses. And frankly, I think we do the things we do because we like to win. And we believe that when we put forth enough effort to win, we are entitled to something in return for our effort. A reward for winning.

If there is no reward, why bother? Why put forth the extra effort at our jobs? Why volunteer at the church or a food pantry? Why give my hard earned money away to God’s work through the church or non-profit agencies? Why build relationships with people in El Salvador or on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation or in south Bismarck or even those who are visiting our community this weekend for the McQuade Charity Softball Tournament? If there is no reward, why bother?IMG_8354

You and I want the reward. We want to win. To be honest, I’m not sure how many of us would continue doing the things we do if we didn’t think there was some sort of reward associated with it. Case in point, I once asked a woman from our congregation if she planned to do some volunteer work in her retirement. She replied pretty directly, “Why would I do that. I don’t get paid to be a volunteer!” Looking back at that conversation, I wish I would have invited her to read Matthew 10.

Matthew 10 is a difficult chapter in the Jesus story, but one that answers a lot of the questions about our life together as followers of Jesus. As the chapter begins, “Jesus’ summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.” The focus of this chapter is Jesus sending the disciples into the world to live out God’s mission for the world. He is offering instructions that tell the disciples a little about what they will be doing as followers of Jesus. Doing that may not always be easy, that will may be filled with uncertainty and probably include difficult and painful experiences. Believe it or not, being a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean your life will be carefree and painless. And the biggest surprise for many American Christians in the last few decades is that following Jesus has nothing to do with making you rich.

In his book With Open Hands, the great Henri Nouwen wrote, “The challenge of the gospel lies precisely in the invitation to accept a gift for which we can give nothing in return. For the gift is the very life breath of God, the Spirit who is poured out on us through Jesus Christ. This life breath frees us from fear and gives us new room to live.”

Nouwen’s words remind us that our life in Christ exists not because you do something or because I have done something for you as your pastor. Your life in Christ, and my life in Christ too, exists because God does something. God loves us with a love that will never let us go – in our life or in our death. God lives in relationship with us through a savior named Jesus. God seeks relationship and reconciliation with all of creation. God claims us as God’s own and joins us together as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. All of this is because of what God has done, what God is doing, and what God promises to do for all eternity.

As 19th century British philanthropist John Ruskin said, “The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.” God gives us everything – yes, everything. And because of that gift, we become children of God.

In the three verses of our gospel reading today, the word welcome is used six times. I don’t think Jesus was just being lazy and couldn’t think of a better word to conclude his instructions to the disciples as he sends them out. I think maybe, just maybe, he is using the word welcome so extensively because the welcome that he is speaking about is kind of important to our life in Christ and God’s mission in the world. We have been welcomed by Jesus into relationship with God. Our relationship with God is lived out by how we are welcomed into the lives of others and by how we welcome others into our own lives.

I love how Pastor Eugene Peterson interprets these verses in his paraphrase of scripture called The Message. “We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”

I don’t know, maybe our life together in Christ really isn’t that complicated after all. Brothers and sisters in Christ, as the body of Christ, our work together is too important and too exciting to just take a nap and wait for dinner. Blessings as you do the things you do. Amen.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 835 other followers