Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Call to Be Mediocre?

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.” – Pope Francis

This quote from Pope Francis has been making its way around the global block. In fact, many of Pope Francis’s statements have caused quite a stir in the electronic world of Twitter, Facebook, and the blog. I’ll be honest, I’m intrigued by the new pope. He seems to be willing to challenge the church in some unexpected and surprising ways.

The word that struck me in this particular quote was “mediocre”. Is that what we think the call of the universal church is today? Or maybe more importantly, is this the reflection that the world sees of the church today? I don’t know about all of the time, but one can’t help think that from time to time our answer is a half-hearted, “Yep, we’re mediocre. Yea for us…sigh” I believe the world sees this kind of reflection from the universal church  more often than we will admit.

Being a follower of Jesus is a daily call to be more than small groups that are mediocre, isn’t it?

Maybe the church just needs more cheerleaders like Lake Wobegon has in the great Garrison Keillor. Keillor concludes every reflection about this quaint fictional Minnesota town by saying, “Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

The church isn’t called to be a small collections of mediocre groups whose mission is to protect our turf from the rest of the world behind closed door meetings. As followers of the risen savior Jesus Christ, I hope that we are called to be more than that, don’t you? Thanks Pope Francis for challenging me to think and pray about that a little lately.

Thoughts? Anyone?

Pax,

Pastor Craig

Advertisements

“Feeling Lost” – Sermon 9.15.13

Luke 15:1-10 • September 14-15, 2013

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.

Jesus is having dinner with some pretty shady characters yet again who are lost and want to be found. Although, I’m not sure they recognize that they want to be found yet. You know who I’m talking about – tax collectors and sinners. Or in today’s world we might refer to them as Democrats or Republicans, bankers or corporate executives, politicians or even your boss, maybe even your mother-in-law.

There are times when you and I think quite highly of ourselves. We are the best, most perfect members of the community and we need to file a complaint with Jesus about what he is doing. I mean, why in the world is he hanging out with those people? Those people who are really good for nothing. Why is Jesus treating them like they are his long-lost friends? You and I shout out to Jesus, “Jesus, why are you eating with those people?”

And we don’t seem to have stopped confronting Jesus and asking questions like that even after after 2,000 or so years, so Jesus continues to remind us that for God, nobody is outside the fold, nobody is lost without any hope of ever being found.

In the first parable today, Jesus shows us that this shepherd will do anything to bring one lost sheep home – hike through the roughest terrain, push his way through the thickest forest, listen for snakes and other dangerous animals along the way. This shepherd will look relentlessly for that one lost sheep. The one with the black spot on her right shoulder, the one with the twitch in her right eye and her third toe-nail on her back left foot just slightly longer than the others. And when he finally hears the “baa” of that lost sheep, he lovingly puts it on his shoulders and carries it home to be with the rest of the flock. Along the way, one of the neighbors inevitably asks, “Why did you risk leaving ninety-nine to go looking for just one?” To which God replies, “Let’s have a party. This one that was lost, has been found. Rejoice with me.”

After teaching this parable about lost sheep, Jesus looks at the people who have gathered and asks, “Do you get it?” Nope, so he offers another parable. This one about a woman and a lost coin.

A woman has ten coins, but lost one. Remember she still has nine left. Losing one probably isn’t going to send her into the depths of poverty. But still she insists on searching for this one lost coin like it will. She turns her world upside down until she finds the coin. The neighbors think their friendly neighbor lady has lost her mind and cry out, “Why are you bothering to turn your whole house upside down for one measly coin?” To which God replies, “Let’s have a party! This one that was lost, has been found. Rejoice with me.”\n“Now do you get it?” Jesus asks.

You see brothers and sisters, God is on a mission to drag every one of us into the party – saints and sinners alike. You know who I’m talking about – people like you, people like me. This Jesus eats with anybody, because everybody is lost and needs to be found.

Jesus rarely called people sinners, instead he called them lost. I like that. Lost sounds more like concern, not condemnation. Some days we feel more lost than found, more wrong than right. Every one of us acts like unthinking sheep who have wandered off from time to time. Every one of us has felt helpless to the weight of gravity like a lost coin falling on a dusty living room floor.

So many things can make us feel lost – the loss of a job, debt that we wonder if we will ever be able to pay off, the unending pain of a broken marriage or dysfunctional family, the sudden death of someone we love. \nYou and I feel lost when we realize we don’t do what we want to do. You and I fell lost when we get what we thought we wanted and end up finding out that it’s still not enough. And worse yet, when we discover that we may not even know what we really want.

The shepherd is walking through death defying obstacles to find that one lost sheep. The woman is diligently sweeping the dust out of the way, shining light into every dark corner of her world in order to find that one lost coin. God keeps seeking us, trying to show us what life in Christ is really like. God looks for us – through caring people – brothers and sisters in the body of Christ; through sacred stories in scripture that connect us together with God’s story; through prayer offered for others and for ourselves; through worship together in communities of faith. God is hope that pursues us, comfort that gathers us home, and love that embraces us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to pay attention to the whispers of God. And I do not believe anyone is deaf to the sound of God’s voice – not even the most defiant people who claim that God can’t possibly exist.

The parts of us that get lost or cause us to wander probably won’t go away – our short tempers, or judgmental statements toward our neighbor; our quest for more wealth or unending drive for self-promotion; or our burdensome schedules that drive us away from taking time to grow in relationship with God.

God knows that we have problems letting go of everything that we need to let go of, of doing all that we think we should do, and of becoming all that we think we should become. When in fact, what we need to do most of all is nothing. What we need to do most of all is let ourselves be loved by God. To allow ourselves to experience God’s unconditional love, mercy, and grace in every part of our life.

Because you know what, God cares passionately about your well-being and that you and I find our way home. God is always on a quest for those who are lost – lost sheep, lost coins, lost insurance agents, lost politicians, lost teachers, lost mothers, lost fathers, lost daughters, lost sons, lost people just like you, and just like me.

Whether you and I always know it or even really believe it, you and I are here today in worship because we know what it’s like to be lost. My hope and prayer for all of us today, is that we also experience what it’s like to be found. Our stories are full of experiences of wandering off yet being sought, being wounded yet healed, confused yet cared for, broken-hearted yet loved, foolish yet forgiven, lost yet found.

Feeling lost? May you discover once again this week the love and grace of a God who is always searching for you no matter how far you may have wandered. Always entering the darkest corners of your life with the light of a savior named Jesus. Always reaching out with wide open arms of unconditional love and unrelenting grace. Thanks be to God. Amen.