Message based on Luke 14:1, 7-14 and Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; “C” – P14

This week lectionary readings are:  Luke 14:1,7-14;  Heb 13:1-8, 15-16  ;Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 81:1, 10-16 or UMH 803

You can find this week’s readings here:   NIV  //  NRSV  // The Message

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I’d like to start today with a story. Third graders at a Catholic elementary were lined up for lunch. At the end of the line there was a long table. On one end of this long table there was a tray of stacked high with shiny, red, green and yellow apples. On the opposite end of the table was a tray full of chocolate chip cookies.

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To ensure that each child took only one apple, a nun made a sign and placed it next to the apples, “Take only one. God is watching.” Not to be outdone, a third-grader placed a sign  next to the cookies that read “Take as many as you want, God is watching the apples!”

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Funny isn’t it? We are always hoping that God is busy watching something or someone else…

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Church is a team sport. Except church is not a sport. Anyone who has ever attended a sports event knows that in a sports event there is a winner and then there is a loser. Somebody leaves the field relishing victory, someone else leaves the field feeling the agony of defeat.

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We are not perfect. We may think that we are, but we are not. One of the major sources of our fallenness, one of the major sources of our imperfection is our tendency to attribute more importance to ourselves and less importance to our neighbors; it is about our tendency to think of ourselves first and about God and God’s Creation second.

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Today’s readings help us to understand that while we are not perfect, we have an opportunity to help each other on our way to perfection. We also have an opportunity to help each other to become perfect for each other, so we can be each other’s source of support, each other’s strength in times of trouble, and a reminder of God’s blessings.

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French King Louis XV described that imperfection when he said, “après moi, le deluge” – “after me, global flood” — meaning that nothing that happens after him really mattered to him. As far as King Louis XV was concerned, future generations did not matter. In case you are wondering, it was his son (Louis XVI) and daughter-in-law (Marie-Antoinette), who were monarchs at the time of French revolution. How many of us gathered here ever thought, “It is not my problem, I will let someone else deal with that particular issue…”

 

How many of us ever did something that would embarrass Jesus? I am not talking about making a life-long career out of such behavior, but once in a while we all fall short…. And then we THINK that we feel something that is a combination of frustration, sadness and anger with ourselves. These emotions are the Holy Spirit tugging on the strings of our souls, helping us to learn from our mistakes and to grow in holiness. The reason the Holy Spirit tugs on the strings of our souls is not to make us feel frustrated, sad and angry. The Holy Spirit is there so that we have a chance to grow and NOT fall short in the future, so that we learn from our mistakes and do not repeat them.

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Today’s readings make the point that being a Christian is not a series of discrete events. Today’s readings make the point that being a Christian is a lifestyle and a way of life. Occasionally all of us will slip up and engage in behaviors like the guests at the banquet that Jesus observed; remember they were all fighting for a few choice seats.

 

Today’s readings make the point that being Christian is a way of life; we make disciples when others have a chance to observe us and see Jesus shine through us. There is a little proviso that goes with that statement. We should not assume even for a second that those “others” do not consider themselves to be Christians. This sermon is not about them, it is about us – You and I.

 

Do “they” see us acknowledge each other’s strengths and weaknesses and help each other to rely on our strength, while helping each other with our weaknesses? Do “they” see us respect each other? Do “they” see us actively engaged in God’s mission in the world? Do they see us upholding our membership covenant (UMH 38) and supporting our worshipping community with our prayers, presence, gifts and service? Do “they” see us fighting among ourselves for prominence and power in the church?

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God sees the same thing that “THEY” see. What does GOD see?

This is our human condition. On one hand, each one of us is a sinner who deserves eternal separation from God. All of our weaknesses are rooted in that sad fact.

 

On the other hand, God valued each one of us so much that He shed his own blood to pay for our sins so that we have the hope of spending eternity with God. All of our strengths and talents are rooted in that simple fact. There is a tension and a balance between our desire for sinfulness and our willingness to live Christian lives. This is our human condition.

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“Sin” is a heavy word. All I want to say today is that sin is our human tendency to put things, pleasure and other emotions before God. Being a Christian means continually striving to overcome these desires to put other things before God. It is OK to have things, it is OK to enjoy life as long us God is God in all aspects of our lives.

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There is a tension and a balance between our desire for sinfulness and our willingness to live Christian lives. This is our human condition.

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Our hope is based on God being with us. God is watching us, and although we sometimes push and shove to get what we want, and we sometimes do things that Jesus could use as an illustration in one of His sermons, God loves us so much that he sent His Holy Spirit to guide us on our life’s journeys.

 

The Good News is that “while God is watching the apples,” God is also watching us. The Good News is that God loves us so much that God helps us when we do something that separates us from God. God pulls on the strings of our souls (we call it conscience) to judge us, to encourage us and to hold us to a higher standard than the standard to which we hold ourselves.

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Church is a team sport. Except church is not a sport. The role of the church is a team effort – is a community wide effort — that requires the cooperation of all the members. Sometimes its members – you and I – make serious mistakes, but this never means we are not loved or that we are not needed. It means that we are sinners and each one of us needs ALL of God’s grace. We need each other to remind ourselves of that grace.

 

As a community, God helps us to pull our resources together, to have a positive impact and influence, and be the catalyst of positive change in the world around us. Church is a team sport, except the church is not a sport…

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