Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ready or Not! Sermon given Aug 11, 2013

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23 
God Himself Is Judge
A Psalm of Asaph.
50 The Mighty One, God the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.
3 Our God comes; he does not keep silence;
before him is a devouring fire,
around him a mighty tempest.
4 He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 “Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge! Selah
7 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt offerings are continually before me.
22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!”

Luke 12:32-40
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

opening humor: “Honest Church Signs” (these are likely the work of someone with good imagination and a lot of time...maybe NOT actual displayed signs)

“If we put a lame phrase up here will you come to our church?”
“Your tithe is important to us.”
“We think our use of power point will draw young people like moths to a flame.”
“Do you only sing songs written before 1900? So do we!”
“Easy on the new ideas, all who enter here.”
My personal favorite: On a Presbyterian Congregational Church sign! “We have a female pastor and most of us are ok with that.”

Psalm―vision of immensity of God, yet personal, recognizing individuals who live in covenant to be faithful, and honoring God in thanksgiving! Having that attitude of Gratitude :)


Our Gospel lesson compares to parts of Matthew's gospel again. The section immediately before this says “Do not worry!” and then, here, Jesus says fear not! This is part of a long section that includes parables...stories and 'preaching' to bring home His point of God comes first. Our earthly stuff and worries are nothing compared to heaven! Bible, the word, “watch” or “Keep” means to be watchful, keep close tabs upon, guard. In other words to pay close attention! For example, if you watch your neighbor's house while they are gone, you pay more attention than you might otherwise. So too here, 'watching for the Master” means to pay attention, to keep track and notice the very moment of the arrival!

be dressed and ready for service...
servants waiting for master from wedding banquet. Servants, ready to work and care for the master! The master of course is Jesus. What is this banquet?
The wedding banquet is The body of Christ, come together for eternity. All believers, and Jesus said he would not lose even one of his sheep!

The wedding banquet, is for the marriage of Jesus who is the bridegroom, and the bride....the Church! The worldwide church! All of us! This church, all other churches and people who are truly honoring Our Lord and working to achieve God's plan here on earth..Jesus said over and over in the Gospels, “the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus brought the Kingdom near, and His followers are to help bring it to fruition.

We are to keep watch...paying attention to the details, ready for anything to happen, especially ready for the best of all possible things to happen-for the Lord to come to take us to that banquet! Meanwhile we live our Kingdom lives, helping to bring the love of the Lord to each other and to the world. Paying attention to the needs of others, and helping to fulfill those needs. Did you notice in the passage, the Master dresses and serves the servants? Jesus washed the disciples' feet.

The phrases Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven appear in Gospels total of 85 times! But what does it mean!? It means of course heaven, our final reward, but it also means something for the present time.

Our VBS this week was theme Kingdom Rocks, and there were stories of royalty from the old testament and Jesus of course. The stories help reinforce the ways that we can “Stand Strong” for God. God's Love helps us stand strong and the Bible, prayer, family and friends, and trust in God help us.

It's fun and it made great points to the kids about ways of helping our faith.

But I think it's hard for us sometimes today in this era in this country to get the whole kingdom metaphor. The Hebrew Scriptures, over and over refer to God coming to be the ultimate King of the people. Royalty was something people were quite familiar with. The concept of complete control by only one person was what they understood.

But the VBS stories were powerful. King David of course, told about writing the 23rd Psalm after his life was in danger! Nehemiah taught about the power of prayer in rebuilding the City wall after Jerusalem had been destroyed.

One story was Queen Esther, the Jewish woman who, by winning a beauty contest, became the queen of King Xerxes, and saved the Jewish people from being annihilated by the power hungry Haman. Her story includes her relative Mordecai saying to her, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

I knew someone who felt that was a key verse for them, that they had been called to a certain ministry task for just such a time.

Indeed, who knows, maybe we have become the United Church for just such a time as this?

This is a time of huge changes within 'organized religion'. Although I am beginning to think that phrase is an oxymoron.

Nationally, even world wide, there are changes happening. There is unprecedented fervor for the Word of God in Africa and parts Asia, where persecution is strong. Yet in Europe and the US, mainline churches are closing everywhere.

Our merger is a radical solution that other churches are undertaking. There are many mergers happening within denominations. To do what we have done tho, incorporating 2 denominations is still unusual, it's a bit 'out there'. And others are paying attention to what we merged churches are up to!

In an article on successful mergers, there were several key points. The most significant is that the church members are committed to a larger vision. The merger itself is just a step towards this Larger Vision.

Are we committed to a larger vision? Are we committed to The Kingdom of heaven? To help others see that the Kingdom of heaven has indeed come near? Whatever our specific vision as a church is, it is all about the Kingdom of heaven!

NT Wright
The establishment of God’s kingdom means the dethroning of the world’s kingdoms, not in order to replace them with another one of basically the same sort (one that makes its way through superior force of arms), but in order to replace it with one whose power is the power of the servant and whose strength is the strength of love.

This is what Jesus is talking about in our Gospel lesson. Keeping our eyes on the future...the Kingdom of Heaven, taking care of God's people. Helping to bring to our community the Shalom of God, the perfect peace, wholeness, protection that existed in the Garden and will one day prevail for eternity.

John Ortberg
Community is not built through sitting in the same building and singing the same songs. It is forged in the fires of life. When we know each other deeply ― the good, the bad, and the ugly ― community is experienced. Community grows when we learn to rejoice with one another, celebrating life. Roots grow deep when we know we are loved by others and are free to extend love to them as well. Finally, community deepens and is built when we commit to serve each other and let others serve us. This process of doing ministry and humbly receiving the ministry of others is critical for healthy community life.

Our busy August, including our just completed VBS, the upcoming Book Bag Bash, the August 24 Lay Leadership Retreat-- are all ways in which we are living out our vision, our purpose. We will grow and learn together if we continue to live putting God first. As our Psalm says, those who offer gratitude glorify God! Are we grateful today for how blessed we truly are? And are we living out that gratitude!

Barbara Brown Taylor:
Every morning when you wake up, decide to live the life God has given you to live right now. Refuse to live yesterday over again. Resist the temptation to save your best self for tomorrow... Live prepared! ...{Live your life} ready for God, for whatever happens next, not afraid but wide awake, watching for the Lord!

Let us pray: Holy God, help us to live more attentively and more purposefully for You. Help us to better live as you have called us, not for our own desires but only to glorify you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

1 comment:

  1. You mentioned the kingdom of God, so I thought you'd appreciate the simplest definition that I've been able to find. It's from the Lord's prayer. If we accept that Jesus was a Jew, and that he structured the prayer in parallels, just like the psalms, then he defines the word himself. "Thy kingdom come." Which is to say, "Thy will be done on earth as in heaven." So, the simplest definition of the Kingdom of God is "the place where God's will is done." You can, of course, unpack that as much as you like, but I've found it very helpful to have a simple definition. The Kingdom is where God's will is done. God's kingdom is dawning, one day it will arrive in it's fullness, and every day, with every act of love, we help make it more real.