Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 10’

Its Not Over 6-29-14

Today’s sermon is based on Matthew 10:40-42. This is the tail end of Jesus’ address to his disciples before they go on the two by two mission. In order to put the scripture in context I also included additional verses from the beginning of his address in chapter 10. Within the sermon, I talk about the authority of Christ as it is manifested and entrusted to believers. Likewise I talk about what that looks like and how often, particularly in the world today, it doesn’t look the same “as us.”

You can listen to the sermon here:

Note that a few minutes into the sermon, there is a pause in the audio. At this point I am removing my robe to reveal the clothing I’m wearing underneath.

You can also follow along with the sermon text here.

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

Its been a year. Today marks Sunday number 52 since I began the call as pastor of Underwood Lutheran. And I find myself wondering today if you have picked up on my patterns yet…particularly in terms of worship and especially in my preaching. (pause)

Every preacher has their own style, one that develops over time…and I’m no exception. Just about every one of my sermons can be mapped out the same way. An opening story, often times something that happened in my day to day life during the week or an applicable pop culture reference that I describe…typically trying to include a little edge of humor to get you to laugh a time or two.

Then I switch gears into the scripture lesson, attempting to explain how, at least in my mind, the scripture is connected to the opening story…I talk at length about what is going on in the scripture story itself…just what God is up to in the midst of it…I tie in what this means for our day to day lives often times including a list of real life examples to get you all to sit up and pay attention so that when the “good news” of the lesson kicks into gear you all have something applicable to hold on to. Then I attempt to tie it all up together, connecting the whole message up in a pithy final couple of statements…I pause for a brief moment and finish it up with a final “Amen.”

Sound about right? Yah, that’s my style…oh and have you also noticed that they pretty much all start the exact same way? With the opening line “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Have you ever wondered just why I say that? I mean, its not really connected to whatever I end up saying right after it and I’ve even noticed that my tone of voice and delivery tend to switch between saying that line and then actually kicking off the sermon…Weird huh?

So why do I say that line? (pause) Good question. And the answer is that it’s a subtle reminder of the authority represented in the sermon. I don’t just say grace and peace to you. Because its not my grace to offer…and I can’t give you peace…only our God can do that…and that’s why I say it. (pause)

And have you noticed that there are a few other spots in worship where the same sort of thing happens? Does this sound familiar? “As a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ…and BY…HIS…AUTHORITY I declare unto you the entire forgiveness of all your sins…”

I stand before you today as I have for the past 52 weeks…and as every other individual who has come before me, not under my own power…but through the authority entrusted to me by God through Jesus Christ. And I am not alone in this. (pause)

Do you realize…that this same authority is entrusted by God to each and every believer in Christ? (pause) And that includes every…single…one of you. And not just you…but every single believer gathered together for worship around the world today…and not just that, but every believer that has gathered together across time all the way back to the disciples who were gathered together with their teacher and Lord Jesus Christ in today’s story, about to embark on important mission…one in which they would each be entrusted with the same authority…not their own, but God’s authority, manifested in humanity through Jesus Christ, and placed upon every believer through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And as we gather here today, we can ask the question of just what does that look like? Are there signs of this authority? As I look out amongst you today I see individuals gathered together…decent looking clothes…some quite dressy, others not as much…and perhaps as you sit there in the pews, looking up this direction, you recognize normal “authority style” garb on my part too.

I’ll admit it, I’ve got a normal style that applies to worship. You either see me in a suit with my clerical shirt one…or you see me with my robe and stole like I am today…but I ask the question…is that normal? (pause) Or perhaps a better question would be…is that necessary? (pause)

A month ago, we held our blockfest party…a wonderful event that was attended by many in our community, and one of the goals was to introduce ULC’s “new pastor.” If you were there…you may recall that it was hard to pick out just who the new pastor was…because I was walking around like this…
(pull off stole, robe, put on hat and sunglasses to reveal casual outfit)
I remember at several different points when individuals told me I was hanging out pretty incognito…and they were right…because that’s how I view the authority granted to me through Jesus Christ…the office of pastor is given to an individual chosen from amongst the people…it is given to an ordinary person…a sinful person…a person who is equally in need of salvation offered only through Christ. In short…I intentionally dressed casually, just like I am now…to make the point that I am no different than you…I am a fellow member of the human race, fallen…flawed…and in need of a savior.

And as fellow members of the human race who have been fortunate enough at one time or another to have heard the good news of Jesus Christ…that through his life death and resurrection God himself became human, lived a life full of every temptation that we likewise faced…and through his bloody death on the cross overcame the powers of sin and death so that we as individuals may once again be in relationship with our Lord…and through his resurrection we too may share in the inheritance of eternal life…that is the gospel in a nutshell and in today’s story Jesus Christ is charging his followers, both the 12 disciples then and everyone else including us today…to take that very message out into the world. To carry his authority, entrusted to us, out into the world…and why? (pause)
Because we are all members of it. Through each and every one of us the gospel travels incognito…there’s no special type of person…there’s no pre-requisite…there’s no pre test or entry fee or anything else of that nature…there is only the authority of Jesus Christ entrusted to you so that you too might be sent out into the world.

But now here’s the really interesting part…and it requires us to think about just what it is that Jesus tell the disciples…anyone who welcomes you, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. (pause)

Did you catch a theme there? The mission of Jesus’ followers…the authority to proclaim the good news that the kingdom of heaven has drawn near only manifests itself when we cast off all notion of control…and are at the mercy of another individual’s hospitality. Jesus says “you wanna proclaim the gospel…then go be welcomed.”

But just what does that mean for us today? This is an important question to ask especially in the context we are in right now…sitting here…in worship…together as a community of faith where, at least for the most part…we are members…we are the hosts.

And we are aren’t we? Think about it…as worship begins I say a special welcome to visitors. We have greeter before worship…we try to go out of our way to welcome others into worship together and that’s fine…but Jesus us today that this is not our mission…our mission isn’t to bring them in here…our mission is take the good news and go out there…to those that welcome us…

The gospel is not one of gathering, but one of sending…the gospel does not manifest itself by us proclaiming the message to the outside world You need to come in here…you need to look like us…you need to think like us…you need to be just like us…RATHER…the gospel manifests itself when we go out there, bringing the gospel with us of course…but not in order to make them more like us…but rather that we can explore that gospel…that good news with one another…learning from another…and who knows…maybe even discovering that God is already up to something in the life of that individual…and in those moment we might even find ourselves changed by the power of the gospel…the gospel which we have already heard.

And now when I say that…I do not mean to say that we should gather for worship…I do not mean to say that we should not be welcoming to the visitor that chooses to gather with us…these are important things…after all we gather together to hear the word of God proclaimed…to receive the forgiveness of sins…and to share the sacraments…these are all good things…but they do not represent the entirety of life with Christ.

Because a life lived with Christ is not compartmentalized…its all encompassing…yes it includes worship…but it also includes the remaining 6 days and 23 hours of the week…the gospel sends us out…and so I want to you to think about it this way…

The gospel is sending me…or more accurately, Jesus has entrusted me to go out and share the gospel with those that welcome me…even if they don’t look like me…or don’t talk like me…or don’t think like me…and maybe…just maybe through the sharing of this marvelous gift of the gospel, I too will receive a gift…that I too may be changed by this encounter…and that maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what God has intended all along.

As the church of Christ continues to move into the future, the church is changing…whether we want to admit or not…its changing…and we are called to change along with it…to embrace the other…to shaped by one another until that glorious when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

But before all can confess it…all have to hear it…and only then can the Holy Spirit work to bring them to faith…because if you haven’t heard it you can’t believe it…But once you have…who knows what changes it might just bring about.

Make no mistake, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not just some nice story…its way too brutal for that. The gospel is earth shatteringly awesome…it is utterly beautiful to learn that we have a God who willingly took on flesh, who became one of us…who depended on humanities hospitality…who did all this in order to reclaim the relationship between the individual and the Father…and likewise it is utterly devastating to learn that this relationship can only be possible because God chose to die for it.

That’s big people…we can’t hear it without being changed regardless of what the person looks like who is entrusted to share it with you…and we can’t proclaim it without witnessing how it can and does change those who encounter it…even if the person encountering it, is us.

And so today, I’m not going to try and wrap this all up with a pithy phrase…I’m not going to try and tie up lose ends…because the work of Christ isn’t over yet…we’re all sent and so that means the story’s not done…and if the story’s not done then the proclamations not done…and if that’s the case?

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:

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.