Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sermon from today

Bearing in mind the truth that a sermon is an oral/aural event, and that Holy Spirit is working inbetween what is said and what is heard ~ a sermon is not what is spoken, but what falls on the ears and hearts and spirits of those who gather to worship ~ here are my notes for preaching this morning. For what it's worth.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God, and from our savior Jesus Christ

you may have heard it said, “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian
any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.”

even if you haven’t heard this, you can probably guess what it means
from a purely cynical standpoint
it’s obvious to most of us who are part of a church congregation
that there are some people who are a part of church
who don’t seem to act very Christian ~ right?
and scripture is pretty clear about what we’re supposed to do
how we’re supposed to act
we can see this in the Hebrew scriptures, the old testament,
today we have a section from the end of the Deuteronomic code
here, they get something of a reminder and summation of the law that Moses has handed to the people
Choose life, follow my commands, and you will live long in the land
God tells the people as they are about to cross the Jordan river

And then in the Gospel, there are the commands to,
or at least the descriptors of, those who would be disciples
that Jesus articulates for the crowd, and for us

carry the cross and follow me, he says
hate father and mother, wife and children
brothers and sisters, even life itself
count the cost, because (apparently) it will be a great cost
before becoming a disciple
none is a disciple without giving up all your possessions

now if I’m going to be honest with myself
when I count the cost, it’s not something I’m willing to pay
even if it’s as simple as checking my bank account to see that there’s money in there
or my garage, where a car doesn’t even fit right now
to see the stuff even I know that I don’t really need
but check the parking lot ~ my car is out there

then there’s the family
I certainly complain about them from time to time
but truthfully, they come before just about everything else to me
I don’t see myself hating those whom I love

so I’m saddled with the reality, and with the guilt that goes along with
knowing that I’ll likely never measure up to God’s standard
(you can take out the ‘likely’ right away)

and Jesus goes further, with the whole ‘carry your cross’ statement
which sounds to me like another burden to haul around
adding to the load that we already carry
the thing is, though,
I believe we’ve misinterpreted that directive from Christ
these days, whatever obstacle we encounter in our faith journey
we refer to as a cross to bear
your son is making really bad choices with his life ~ it’s your cross to bear
your mother doesn’t like your boyfriend ~ it’s your cross to bear
got a hangnail on the mission trip ~ it’s your cross to bear

what we seem to forget sometimes
is the obvious connection to literal, physical, death
that the cross carried with it for Jesus’ hearers
carrying the cross would be more akin to
the prisoners of war who have to dig the hole
in which they know that they will soon be buried

when we take up the cross, we are on our way to the grave, to death
and when we face mortality, when we face death that imminently
we leave everything else behind
which is what Jesus seems to be calling us to, right?
as we take up the cross
we find ourselves setting down all that other stuff
and we see that God’s yoke is easy, God’s burden is light
beyond that, we begin to see that
despite our failings
despite our inability to really leave everything else behind
despite our putting the rest of life ahead of following Christ

despite our failings, or maybe because of our failings
we are first claimed by God
on the cross, Christ put everything else aside
claiming us as his own,
even when we might not follow him like we should

and so we begin to recognize that faith is little more
than surrender to God’s power and love

and people of God,
there is nowhere else we can learn that
besides in the community of faith
it could be the family, household, church
this is where we learn of the importance of the other
where we learn to set ourselves, and our own interests
where we learn to set those aside to prioritize our neighbor
this is where we learn to give and receive
where we learn from each other,
and where we show each other, how to follow Jesus
where we learn to receive grace and forgiveness
where we learn to grant forgiveness and grace
when I’m not part of a community
I give in to the heresy of consumer culture
as I misunderstand that my own perceived needs
are of ultimate importance
while, in truth, I am called to put God before myself

if being a Christian is about being good and moral and an upright citizen
I can certainly do that on my own
I know lots of non-Christians who are fine and decent people
but this life of discipleship is not about following the rules
it’s about following Jesus

so I wonder again
Does going to church make you a Christian?
does showing up in this place
where we hear and receive God’s grace and love
transform us?
does hearing the word and participating in the sacraments
the means of Grace
make us different?
does walking with one another through joys and sorrows
through death to new life
work on us in ways we can’t understand to make us a new creation in Christ?

we can be good and moral people all on our own
but without a community,
the body of Christ, broken though it may be
without a community, we don’t learn to follow Jesus.

it is here, in the community of Christ
where God claims us, as we are,
and forms us into the body of Christ



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