Sunday, July 7, 2013

Traveling Heavy

Sermon given at United Church of Beloit July 7, 2013

Psalm 66:1-9
66:1 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
66:2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.
66:3 Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
66:4 All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name." Selah
66:5 Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
66:6 He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him,
66:7 who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations-- let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah
66:8 Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,
66:9 who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

Luke 10:1-11
10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’

(humorous story about traveling in Florida...)

Gospel lesson today is from Luke 10. starts off “After this...” so I looked to see what was before this! Chapter 9 has stories of healing and miracles. And Jesus has determined to go to Jerusalem, knowing the fate that awaits him! The next several chapters have more stories of healings, miracles, people questioning and challenging Jesus and He responding, and challenging them, especially for their lack of faith. This particular section, chapters 9-11 are all about the Kingdom of God, putting God first, and everything else comes after.

In our Gospel lesson, Jesus sends out a large band of his followers. He had the 12 disciples, but as time went on in his ministry, more and more folks began to follow along with the 12. Here we learn there were about 72 and he sent them out to the towns where he would travel next.

READ Gospel lesson

Jesus sends out his followers to minister to folks, telling them, “The Kingdom of God is near!” Did you notice that Jesus sent out the 72 in pairs, 2 by 2? It's practical. It's safer, you are company for each other. You can care for each other. And it's what we are created for. We are created to be in relationship with God and each other, aren't we? And Jesus stresses that relationship with God aspect. Tell them the kingdom of God is near....and that kingdom of God brings healing, brings other things too, enough to eat and a place to stay while traveling. And Jesus tells his folks if someone rejects the message, just move on. It's not personal, it's that they are rejecting God. If they accept the message, they are accepting God. yet he says even if they reject you, shake the dust off your shoes and move on, but tell them, the Kingdom of God has come near you. You may not want to see it, hear it or be part of it, but it's near you and it will affect you one way or another.

I read this passage was while we were in Florida, the morning the National meeting started. I knew I would be preaching this Sunday, and at these meetings, there is worship, music, many speakers, and I make notes to report back to you, but also stuff that I can use preaching or in Bible study. So I read through these texts beforehand. And being away from home, reading this, really spoke to me. Especially that part about 'do not take a purse or a bag or sandals...” I took all of those things. And a lot more. I do not travel light. I prepare for any eventuality. I may even pack a few of my favorite chocolate bars--one never knows where there might be a shortage!

So reading this challenged me. And I was thinking about this in terms of the big picture. We as a culture -Americans in the 21st century, do not travel light. We travel heavy. People today, our culture, we love our stuff. We love to shop for more of it, we watch commercials to see what we should shop for next. Not just the big stuff either! We go to the grocery store, there are umpteen varieties of bread, lunch meats & hot dogs, ketchup even! There is spicy ketchup, no salt added, no high fructose corn syrup, and oh yes, there is plain, regular ketchup too. In about 10 different size bottles. There is so much stuff from which to choose! We are so accostomed to having SO many options, so much food, so many things, we don't even realize how heavy all this stuff is in our minds and our lives.

We have gotten so far away from the culture Jesus lived in.

at the national meeting, one of the missionary groups represented is called Bread of Life. It's a mission in Florida, serving needy families to provide basic needs, education for adults and children and to share the word of God. Their help for folks includes shoes and school supplies for children, assistance with food and clothing. This is the group the Youth were working with during the meeting and they had a project that the adult folks helped with too. It was to make blankets to give to needy folks. You see in Florida most of the low income folks don't have central heat...a mobile home or small home may have a heater, but it's small, because, well, it's FLORIDA, they don't need heat but a few nights out of the year. But when they do, it's a huge challenge, especially for needy folks. So there were blankets made to give out to families. They were precut fleece and we cut and tied on colorful tassels. 90 blankets were made, and money collected as well.

I admit, I don't often think about blankets. at home I have light weight blankets on the bed, and heavier ones in the closet. And a few of those inexpensive fleece blankets in the tv room to get cozy while we watch a movie or a game...i don't really think about blankets because I have several. It was a good reminder to help those who don't have even one blanket. That's a good reminder of the real meaning of the Kingdom of God coming near!

We Americans and we Protestants, especially Congre--terians (Presby-Gationals?) LOVE our independence. We love our individuality. I mean We in general, in this country, not just this church and not anyone in particular, but each of us has an aspect of this feeling, don't we! We may want everything to be JUST the way WE like it, the way we are used to doing things. We want it comfortable, familiar.

But God's ways are not our ways. God's plans are far beyond the scope of our plans, and beyond our perception. We may have to allow God to lead us when we can not even see the next step! We have to keep on, even when we are feeling uncomfortable.

We have to do this as a church, don't we? We are in yet another transition. Someone said last week, “well, we were comfortable for about 15 minutes there!” We don't know what's next. And that can really challenge us. It makes us grumpy when we don't have control and changes happen.

We as a church family need to focus every single day, what brought us together. Our love of God, of coffee and a meal together, of reaching out to those in need....helping to bring the Kingdom of God near to people who need help. and we can keep on doing those things day by day while the big picture gets sorted out. God has the big picture. God is waiting for us to lay aside some of that heavy stuff-the burdens, the worrying, the 'we've always done it like this” attitudes so we can focus on the Kingdom. God will keep taking care of us, we have to pay attention to see it!

The Kingdom of God doesn't weigh one down, it enlivens and lifts us! It doesn't travel heavy, it's light.

“come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”

in the book Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, the authors tell that during the Jewish Sabbath liturgy every week, is a recalling of the Exodus story, the deliverance from slavery in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea so the people could cross on dry land. This is told every week! God's mighty power reached down and intervened with the natural world and saved his people. That is what our Psalm is referring to. There were other instances of water parting in the Bible too, that echo the Exodus story. The Jewish people remember the Exodus story in every worship service.

We do too, in our Communion liturgy. Jesus, when he took bread and broke it, was at a Passover supper. This meal commemorates the Exodus story. That was another time God told people to travel light, not heavy. Prepare the meal quickly, eat it quickly with your shoes on and your robe tucked into your belt because you are going to leave right away! Jesus was retelling the story of the Jewish people and making a new story for all people. His body, his blood, would become new life for each of us, for all of us. We don't need anything else. We can lay down all our stuff, all our attitudes, all of our heaviness... lay it at the cross. Because he left all of it there for us. We don't need it. All we need is Him. Let's travel light!  

No comments:

Post a Comment