Friday, August 3, 2007

Sermon Pentecost 10 C August 5 2007

I appreciate all that has been said about praying for and caring for the people in Minneapolis. As a native now living 100 miles away I can sense the fear and hope that coexist for so many

this is what I am saying Sunday
where it says slides is just a reference to what is projected while I am speaking



Slide 1: What matters?

I called my folks on Wednesday night and got no answer. I called again and all the circuits into Minneapolis were full. I wasn't the only person just checking up on family and friends that night. I called my sister and told her to turn on the television. She was stunned as I was. What we saw as spectators on our television sets defied explanation. The bridge I crossed every day going to High School was gone. My sister used to cross that same bridge everyday on her way to work for 3 years. As we talked my sister said she was scanning the crowd on screen looking to see if our parents were among the on-lookers. Mom called me back at about 8:30. They were fine. They'd gone to the community council meeting; just like they do on every first Wednesday of the month.

Email's from other friends and family have carried the same news. A few close calls; but everybody is okay. Other people have told me similar stories about calling friends and family in Minneapolis. They were just calling to make sure that things were all-right. For most people everything is all-right. Most of the time, in our lives, a disaster is just somebody else's problem, not our own. We can go back to our lives and families and all our own problems and worries thankful that we weren't one of the unlucky few whose lives have been turned upside. We can do that. We can live and let the problems go by. Or we can live differently, on the edge―with people who know fear and loss and grief. You choose to look the other way and go past the problems, or you choose to step in, off the sidelines. Its easy and safe to be a spectator. But God invites you and me to live like eternity and our neighbors matter. God wants us to prioritize our lives not by an earthly standard of comfort, safety, and provision; but by a heavenly standard in which our lives aren't really our own.

Slide 2: Colossians 3:1-2
Since you were raised from the dead with Christ, aim at what is in heaven, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Think only about the things in heaven, not the things on earth.

Paul wrote to the early church that every believer was a new creation. He believed God is at work in all of our lives because we have died and risen with Jesus. It was that simple for Paul. In Jesus Paul met the one true God and that meeting left him changed. And Paul believed that every Christian was meant to have the same kind of experience. Paul's first hand experience of God's love and correction shook him to the core. He was a new man with a new life. Part of that new life meant putting aside all that he once thought mattered.

It's not easy to lay down the things that we think are important. But part of following Jesus is learning God's perspectives and living out God's values. We have all sorts of important things in our lives. I know that I have all kinds of things that dominate my thoughts. We all worry about money, work, and all sorts everyday stuff. But these earth bound things are not supposed to be the ultimate end for our lives. What Paul wrote to the church in Collasae gets right to the meat of his faith and his life and what he believes all of us as Christians should live like today.

Slide 3: God's calling...

One of the most uncomfortable parts of being a Christian is the way that God works on us 24 hours a day 7 days a week moving within us to get our lives and our priorities to match heaven's priorities. Some people call this experience conviction. Every believer has experiences of God's challenge to them.

Sometimes conviction comes in the confrontation of somebody who loves you enough to tell you that your behavior is simply wrong and that what you are doing needs to change. Sometimes conviction comes in the news that shakes you out of your comfort and moves you to action. Some say that you and I, the church, have been too easy on this culture. Some complain that we have forgotten Jesus' real teachings and the real need that each of us has to be convicted by God of our sin. Jesus taught people and many walked away convicted. The Jesus we meet in the gospels wasn't concerned about the temporary comfort of his hearers. He wasn't purposefully vague like a politician making promises in the year of election. Jesus was bold. He challenged his hearers to see their lives and their neighbors lives through the eyes of heaven.

God doesn't want us to be comfortable in the here and now; not if our neighbors are living with challenges they can't walk away from. God's not offering you paradise on earth; he's offering you a chance to participate in the coming of the kingdom of God. Its easy to find distractions. Its easy to turn on a television or computer. Its easy to walk away from the problems.

Slide 4: Colossians 3:3-4
3 Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God. 4 Christ is our life, and when he comes again, you will share in his glory. NCV Col 3:1-4. Dallas, TX: Word Bibles, 1991.

There are a lot of things that people worship these days. It's a situation similar to Jesus day when the people worshiped many different gods. They and we worship prosperity. They and we worship wealth. They and we put our status on this earth above our status as children of God.

Slide 5: Luke 13:12-14
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 
14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Jesus' meeting with a man who demanded that Jesus mediate a dispute about an inheritance with his brother challenges us to keep our eyes on what matters. I've been amazed by the families that have broken down over issues of money and trust. As pastor in another congregation I was telephoned by a person who wanted to talk about a sibling. One was concerned about what the other was doing with their parent's home and money. The person I spoke with was 50 something and the the other was 60 something. The one I met with wanted me, a 20 something, to tell a 60 something member of my church to, “Grow up.”

Jesus warned his hearers not to obsess about money and possessions. Be on guard against all kinds of greed. And Jesus told them a story about a successful farmer who had been blessed with a great harvest. He had barns but his harvest was so big he needed bigger barns. So he tore the barns down and built even bigger barns for all his grain and goods. The rich man said to his soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” Luke 12:19

And God met the man that night, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ Luke 12:20 (NRSV). Some people might call this man shrewd or even wise for looking out for himself and for being financially secure. He might be the one selling a wealth building system that will help others be financially secure too. And God called him a fool.

Slide 6: It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The Holy Bible : King James Version., Heb 10:31. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

How's that for conviction? How's that for standing right before God and having God see right through all the facades and pleasantries and look right into your very soul. The writer of Hebrews said, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” These words are haunting and true. We'd to have a god who approves of what we do and how live. But we a living God. We'd like a god who only smiles down upon us. But we have a living God. We'd like a god who answers our prayers and meets our needs. But we have a living God.

God challenges us to let Christ shape our lives. We can obsess about things. We can pile up more and more stuff; but Jesus calls us to stop stockpiling as a substitute for faith. The rich man believed all was well; but he'd forgotten that everything he viewed as so important was temporary.

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