That’s Life 6-22-14

This week’s sermon came from Matthew 10:24-39. Jesus is offering a sort of pep talk to the disciples prior to their departure on the two-by-two mission. He reflects on the reality of the gospel’s divisive nature, and tells the disciples that they will experience the same sort of response.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/thats-life-6-22-14

You can also read along with the text of the sermon here.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Having never really been a big sports enthusiast, I don’t recall ever sitting in the locker room before a big important game listening the coach deliver his epic inspirational speech. I’m sure it happens though…it has too right?

We have countless examples of the epic pep talk in the movies…sometimes it’s the hero of the story like Mel Gibson inspiring the Scottish troops before the first major battle in Braveheart, telling them that they have one chance…just one chance to tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!

Or it could be the president of the United States psyching up pilots just before a giant aerial battle to destroy invading aliens and crying out Today is our Independence Day! (pause) Or a seasoned father trying to inspire his son to be better when the aged and ragged Rocky Balboa tells his son that life hits hard but you’ve gotta be willing to take the hits and keep moving forward…that’s how winning is done!

But perhaps no other pep talk is as inspiring as those we see in sports movies…who can forget the movie Rudy, just before the last game of the season at the end of the movie, when the head coach calmly but intensely says No one…and I mean no one comes into our house and pushes us around.

And the one that comes to mind most vividly for me comes from another football movie Any Given Sunday, when the great Al Pacino, head coach of the fictional Miami Sharks gets his players reved up for the final regular season game in order to make the playoffs…he goes from calm and vulnerable to intense and loud…declaring to them that football is a game of inches and the man who’s willing to fight and die is the one that’s gonna win that inch.

As Pacino delivers this speech, you hear the responses of the players start in. “That’s right.” “Heck ya.” As he continues they start to rise to their feet…they nod…and in one brief image that always sticks with me, one no-name player gazes at his coach, fire in his eyes…so much intensity that his head is literally shaking.

That’s the point of the pep talk…to prepare them for battle…whatever the battle will be…but as I think about this laundry list of inspirational movie scenes that I’ve listed off here…I find myself wondering at just how realistic they really are…because none of them, inspiring as they may be for the audience watching the movie…are probably all that accurate in terms of real life. (pause)

But today’s gospel lesson…well, now that’s a different story. We find ourselves in the midst of a scriptural pep talk…all of Matthew chapter 10, both the verses before today’s lesson as well as the few that follow, along with the entirety of today’s lesson…makes up the speech that Jesus delivers to the disciples just prior to one of their “big games.”

The disciples are about to embark on their first mission away from Jesus…commonly known as the two-by-two mission. Jesus is sending them into the countryside to proclaim the good news that the kingdom of heaven has drawn near. He also gives them authority over unclean spirits, and the ability to heal all matters of diseases. They will serve as his heralds around the region…because he is sending them out to where he also intends to go.

But the difference between Jesus’ speech and all those other movie speeches, is the fact that Jesus paints a more realistic picture…and honestly…it’s a pretty sobering one. We hear that the disciples are like sheep among wolves…they will be arrested and flogged…dragged before governors and kings…there will be betrayals and some will be put to death. (pause) Hmm…inspiring huh?

But despite all the hardships that they will face, Jesus does offer encouragement. Now some of that encouragement comes across as pretty obvious. “Have no fear of them…Even the hairs of your head are counted…You…are…of value to your father.” (pause) But some of the other encouragement is a little more subtle. (pause)

All week long, its been driving me a little crazy, pondering on this text…as to why it starts right where it starts. A disciple is not above the teacher…it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher. I kept coming back to that opening couple of verses. It seems, at first glance, like Jesus is laying out a bit of hierarchy within the community of believers…but with further reflection I’m no longer convinced that’s the case.

Rather…I think Jesus is simply offering the disciples a very realistic look at what they will be facing…both in the immediate two-by-two mission…but also later on…following the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus…when they constitute the church. A disciple is not above the teacher…but it is enough for the disciple to become like the teacher.

Perhaps what Jesus is really saying here is that…guys…you are going to experience the very same things that I do…and we all know that Jesus experienced division within his ministry…that’s obvious…some believed, other’s doubted…some followed him, other’s scoffed…some supported him, while other’s nailed him to a cross to suffer and die. All that despite the amazing signs and miracles he performed…despite the amazing truth that he proclaimed….despite the amazing love that he embodied…despite all that, the results of Jesus ministry in terms of personal response was mixed at best.

And in this particular passage he’s telling his followers…both the disciples there in the room with him as well as us today that we will face the very same results when we follow the mission of Christ to go out into the world to proclaim the good news that through Him, the kingdom of heaven is here.

Just like the disciples, we also face division…we face scoffers…we face opposition. Now some of it will come in the form of polite conversation…or perhaps in more intense debate…or they may ridicule our beliefs by calling us weak minded fools and Bible beaters and church freaks, or they may do it by hijacking a plane and flying it into a building killing thousands of innocent people.

And that’s a sobering thought isn’t it? It doesn’t exactly sound encouraging does it? (pause) Or does it?

Maybe…just maybe…what Jesus is trying to tell his followers here…both the disciples then and us today…is take heart…you’ve seen how people respond to me…its gonna be the same for you because the authority that you possess…the good news that you proclaim…the person that you represent isn’t you…its me!!!! (pause)

And even more than that is the encouragement that Jesus tells us that we share in his experience…and at the same time, he shares in ours. That’s something that I kept coming back to this week…something that I wanted to focus on…but I found myself coming at it from the wrong direction. I was trying to approach this text from the perspective that we share Jesus’ experience…and as per usual, last Friday, I attempted to sit down and write a sermon about it.

But it was one of those days. I was home with the kids…and try as I might to focus my mind on sermon…on organizing my jumbled thoughts into a coherent message….life kept getting in the way. I would spend 5 minutes in thought…and then I’d realize that the laundry needed to be changed…or one of the kids had a question…or it was lunch time and I needed to make some food…or paperwork for a ymca camp came through that needed to get filled out…

All day long I kept getting interrupted…life kept happening which was, of course, frustrating. After awhile I gave up on it and tried to enjoy the evening with my family…until about 7:30 when we looked outside and saw yet another storm approaching…and I nervously watched the swirling clouds while listening to the radio and watching tv to catch severe weather updates…all while trying to reassure the kids that everything was okay.

And then later on I went to bed…but sleep was allusive…and about 2:30 in the morning I was up and around…listening to the rain still falling…watching the lighting keep flashing…worrying about all kinds of things…and I remember thinking at one point “come on Lord…what’s next?”

And as I thought about life getting in the way…I realized hey that’s life…Life is busy…life is distracting…life is messy. Things happen…some of them good like a moment when Jack walked up me on that busy Friday just to give me a hug…and some of them not so good like when we spent half an hour aggravated as we searched for a lost library card. That’s life.

And coming all the way back around to today’s scripture lesson and the encouragement that Jesus is trying to offer…Jesus shares all that. Because Jesus lived. (pause)

We have a God who loves us enough that he chose to step away from his heavenly existence and live life among us as one of us. Our experience in the ministry that we share…in the life that we live is like that of our teacher…like that of Christ, not because we seek to be like him…but because he chose to become like us.

Jesus lived a life full of distractions…full of worries and concerns…full of interruptions and we see in scripture that he didn’t always have the best response to it. There were times when he got angry…there were times when he got short…and there were even times when concerns led Jesus to experience sleepless nights.

Friends in Christ…the glory of the gospel is that we have a God who willingly chose to enter into this messy existence…and he did so with a purpose…to do something about it. Jesus Christ came into this world just like we do…as a helpless baby. He grew…lived his life…and then died a horrific brutal death, only to be resurrected by his father in heaven…overcoming the powers of sin and death…and in the midst of all that, he tells us that we become like him…and then subtly tells us in the midst of the hardships that we face just as he did….that OUR father values us…not just his father…but OUR father.

Because through Christ…through our teacher and master…we are made heirs of the promise of eternal life…and through him, we are given the ability to call God Our Father…just like he does. Because he has lived life…life with all its hardships…but also life with all its blessings…and he shares that life with us. Amen.

 

 

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