October 4, 2020, 18th Pentecost Year A Child sermon

          Good morning, boys and girls I wondered if you’re awake this morning? If you are maybe you can pick out what’s wrong with the following sentence.  “On your mark, GO!, get set.”  (encourage their answers) It’s out of order, right?  It would really throw runners off to tell them I’m going to say, “On your mark, get set, Go!” and then get the order all mixed up.

          Here’s another sentence, try to see what’s wrong with it.  “Ready, Fire!, Aim.”  It’s in the wrong order too, isn’t it?  Getting things in the right order is important, otherwise you could really make a mess of things.

          In our Bible readings today, the Apostle Paul tells people don’t get things out of order.  Some folks think the most important stuff in their life is their wealth, how much money they have.  Some folks think the most important thing in life is their success at sports or school. That’s great stuff but if you think that’s the most important thing in life you’ve got things out of order. It’s kind of like saying “On your mark, Go!, get set” things are gonna get messed up.

          Paul says, “I have a lot of things to boast about; good family, brought up in the right place, great education, good grades but without a good relationship with God I’m messed up. I consider all that stuff rubbish in order that I might gain Christ… I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.”  Paul is telling us the only place you get eternal life in heaven, is in Christ!  You don’t get eternal life in heaven anywhere else: not in sports, not in schools, not in success, not in wealth, only in Christ!

          What’s better than eternal life in heaven? Heaven is a place with no disease, no tears, no death, no pain only love and happiness.  Is a sports trophy better than that?! Is a big house better than that? So, don’t get things messed up, put God first and all the rest of that stuff will work itself out.  Thanks for coming up.


October 4, 2020 18 Pentecost year A

          Now may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, Our rock and redeemer. There’s a story of a politician in the Dakota’s who was running for office and was trying to get the vote of the native American’s in his district.  When he arrived to give his campaign speech a large crowd had already gathered and the leader of the community explained they’d set up a small stage for him from which to make his speech.

          As he began his speech he heard a little shout of “skubala” from one spot then another.  Seeing the smiles that came with each “skubala” cheer he felt encouraged and really started to give his stump speech some vigor.  Soon the chants of “skubala” were gaining volume and duration. Soon the politician was using the old preacher technique of putting his promise out their expecting the positive response from his hearers- And if elected, I promise to bring prosperity back to this county! – Skubala. I’ll bring prosperity back to this town! Skubala, Skubala.  I’ll bring prosperity to each and every one of your families! Skubala, Skubala, SKUBALA!

          With that rousing chant the politician concluded his remarks, impressed with how well he’d spoken and how supportive these voters were of him.  The day continued with him having lunch with local leaders, and getting a tour of the town. He even got a chance to tour the prize industry of the town a very successful equestrian ranch that bred Arabian horses.  The horses were just magnificent; regal, powerful, and high spirited.  He even got to ride one with the owner for a photo op. Pleased with how well it had gone, he was going to ask his host something that had been on his mind most of the day- what that enthusiastic chant word that crowd had chanted meant in English.  That was until his host grabbed his shoulder and said, “careful you almost stepped in a pile of steaming skubala.”

          While skubala might not be a native American word, it is a Greek word and it does appear in the Bible.  Right here in our second lesson, it’s been gussied up a bit but it’s there none the less.  Philippians 3:8- “I regard them all as skubala.”  All those accomplishments, all of my pedigree I consider a steaming pile of Skubala!!  Paul uses this crass language to get the attention of his readers because he doesn’t want them to miss the point- if you miss out on Christ you miss out on eternal life.

          What’s the big deal?! Eternal life comes at the end of my life, not today and hopefully not tomorrow.  Live for today that’s my motto.  If that’s your motto you might as well admit your saying “On your mark, Go, get set.”  You’ve got things out of order.  You might as well admit your living life with a “Ready, Fire, Aim!” approach.  Lots of life coaches, success gurus say you’ve got to have a 5-year plan, to get the most out of life- People don’t plan to fail they just fail to plan! 

            Paul is letting the folks in the church at Philippi know that he has not a 5-year plan but a 500-year plan!  How many of us have anything planned in our life that will have significance 500 years from now?  At the end of this month we are planning to celebrate something Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, did 500 years ago.  You know why we are celebrating that?  Because he was after wealth, power, riches, fame?  No, he was like Paul wanting to know Christ and the power of his resurrection!

          Now that doesn’t mean I’m implying if you follow Christ you’ll be famous 500 years from now.  No, I’m saying if you follow Christ what you say and do today can have a result that is lasting- meaning you’ll be living with Christ in heaven. And all the other stuff you’re worried about right now, won’t amount to a hill of skubala. 

But the funny thing is human beings have a tendency to want their hill of skubala, they want a pile of skubala to call their very own, to claim and capitalize on.  That’s what our first lesson from Isaiah and our gospel lesson talk about. People getting their priorities goofed up. Instead of focusing on God the giver of a great vineyard, a wonderful gift for them to use and return.  They focus not on the giver but the gift, not on the ability to use it but the opportunity to own it.  They like what is on loan to them so much they take steps to wrestle it away from the owner.

Jesus points out that no matter how smart they think they are, there is a day coming soon when the owner will take back what is rightfully his.  So, today’s lessons are unsettling for all of us who tend to fixate on our five-year plans.  For all of us who want our stuff, all of us who haven’t yet found out that our school success, sports success, our career success is all skubala if it isn’t grounded in first things first, God’s love in Christ Jesus.

When we get too fixated on the stuff in front of us as though somehow this will all be ours forever we’re forgetting it’s all on loan- our five-year plans won’t last forever, only our five hundred-year plans will.  How can we have a five-hundred-year plan?  Only by the Grace of Christ. 

Perhaps the best plans in life, whether its five minutes, or five years or five hundred years is to make plans to not step in the skubala by focusing on just following the savior.  (repeat) Amen.