October 14 2018

Oct 14 2018- 21 Pentecost Year B Children Sermon

Each Sunday we read a section of God’s Word. The reading for today tell us about itself.  It says:  “For the Word of God is alive and active.  It cuts deeper than any double edged sword.  It goes all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together.  It judges the desires and thoughts of men’s hearts.”

First remember that God’s Word is like a two edged sword.  I don’t have a sword, but this scissors also has two edges.  See, one blade of the scissors would be like a knife. (Show one blade while covering the other).  The two blades work together to cut.  The two messages of God’s Word also work together to cut deep into our thought.  One blade is like God’s law- it shows us we are sinners.  The other blade is like God’s Gospel- the good news that Christ is our Savior and our sins are forgiven.

Next, remember scissors won’t cut until its used.  God’s Word must also be used in our lives.  The reading says God’s Word is alive and active.  (Open and close scissors)The Word works in our lives.  The reading says it cuts down deep into our lives.  It judges our desires and thoughts and separates them deep inside our lives.

These papers show some of the thought and desires that are in our hearts.  We have both love and hate (show paper), greed and generosity, lies and truth, faith and unbelief.  And God’s Word cuts deep down into our lives to the point where these thoughts come together (As you talk cut out each circle by cutting through the outside word and around the circle.  Throw away the outer paper.)

Notice how the scissors cuts at the point where the two blades and the paper meet.  When’s God’s law and The Gospel meet in our lives, we can cut away the hate, greed, lies, and unbelief.  The Law blade helps us see our sin, and the Gospel blade says the sin is removed.  The word of God cuts away the bad in our lives and brings out the good.  The good is a gift from God.  Our love is no longer hidden in hate.  Generosity is not covered by greed.  Truth not destroyed by lies.  Faith not clouded by unbelief.  The Word of God is like a two edged sword that brings the power of Christ into our lives.

Each time you hear God’s Word, see it as the two edges of the scissors.  Let is cut to the place you need help.  If you have pride, let the Law help you see it and remove it and the Gospel of Christ move you to share any God given talent.  Put all the problem areas of your life right at this point where the law and Gospel work together in your life.  Then your thoughts and desires are judged by Christ himself.  And the one who judges also forgives.  He makes a new and free person.

 

Oct 11 2015, 20th Pentecost Year B Adult Sermon

It seems we’ve gotten into the part of the church year where we concentrate on as one pastor put it “The Top Ten Things we wish Jesus hadn’t said!”  Last week it was Jesus’ words on marriage and divorce, which make us squirm when the divorce rate for first time marriages is nearing 40%.  Today’s words about wealth aren’t much less comforting.

It is easier for a camel to go through eye of needle than rich into God’s kingdom. First off, this would be a lot easier to brush off as “O, I don’t have much of a recollection of camels accept - we have camels across the parking lot.  One look at them and you know not one of them is going through the eye of a needle, impossible. 

Second- and definitely most importantly- we need to hear Jesus out completely and not just “sound bite” him.  He finishes his teaching on the salvation of the rich with this explanation “for men it is impossible but with God all things are possible.” God’s Word can pair things down, slice through the unnecessary and motivate and inspire the despairing. 

Some scholars try to soften Jesus’ harsh words by explaining that the “eye of the needle” during Jesus day wasn’t just a physical sewing needles it was also a phrase for doorways to cities that had been slowly made smaller and smaller for safety reasons.  Camels would be thankful to have their burdens taken off of them, but not so motivated to crawl through doorway with head down or on knees.

In the process of going through the doorway, having to step up over the threshold and duck under the mantel of the door opening you ended up sticking your neck out (perhaps one of the origins of the phrase).  Not a comfortable feeling or position but the requirement of anyone trying to enter the city. 

We are just like those camels- the only way to the kingdom is by unburdening ourselves, sticking our necks out, humbling ourselves.

I knew a well to do family that did the unthinkable in the suburban “keep up with the Jones” area I was serving in.  They downsized.  This double income two kids family had worked hard to achieve a sizeable home in one of the more exclusive neighborhoods.  But with their kids headed off to college, they took a Dave Ramsey course on managing debt “Financial Peace” and decided instead of maxing out the credit cards more than they already were they would downsize to afford the next stage of their life which was college, empty nest and retirement.  One of their favorite phrases was “it’s just stuff.”

I asked them how they did that, change of lifestyle, and status.  They responded “It cut like a knife to get rid of all that stuff.  It was difficult- friends and family told us time and again there must be another way.  It was demanding because we had to keep letting go of stuff.  Yet, it was amazingly freeing.  We began to realize we were free of the prison of keeping up with neighbors.  We were free of the prison of the responsibility of carrying unchecked debt.  We feel freer than we have in years.  It cut like a knife, but now we know it’s just stuff. 

Too often we misinterpret stuff as the stuff of salvation and it’s not.  Lottery winners should be the happiest people on earth, that’s not the case.  According to Forbes magazine staff writer Susan Adams…

Would winning the $500 million Powerball jackpot tonight make you happy? Studies and anecdotal accounts of lottery winners suggest that joy is by no means assured. Though there are stories of people whose lives improved after landing a big lottery pay-out, there are seemingly as many winners whose lives got worse…

The most frequently-cited study was published back in 1978 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Researchers interviewed Illinois State Lottery winners and compared them with non-winners and with people who had suffered a terrible accident that left them paraplegic or quadriplegic. Each group answered a series of questions aimed at measuring their happiness level.

The study found that the overall happiness levels of lottery winners spiked when they won, but returned to pre-winning levels after just a few months. In terms of overall happiness, the lottery winners were not significantly happier than the non-winners. The accident victims were slightly less happy, but not by much. The study showed that most people have a set level of happiness and that even after life-changing events, people tend to return to that set point.

The rich young ruler was seeking salvation and Jesus looked on him in love… not pity, not jealousy, not anger…love.  Jesus didn’t say the difficult thing he did to be mean, or spiteful, but with love.  “You lack one thing, if you could realize that salvation isn’t found in stuff you’d find true lasting happiness- so… sell what you have, give to the poor, and follow me.”  Jesus’ words are like a two edged sword to the rich young ruler.  It’s the double edged sword of Law and Gospel cutting to the core of what is the issue, trying to surgically remove the cancer that keeps him from having a fulfilling saving relationship with God.

How about you and I?  Are we so different from the rich young ruler?  Does our relationship with God suffer from the pressure of cancerous masses of materialism silently growing within us and pressing against our heart?  Are we in need of a “greed-ectomy” for our brains to work properly?  We, like the rich young ruler may think it isn’t so! We don’t have what popular theologian and Christian Author Tony Campolo terms “Affluenza.” A social condition arising from the desire to be more wealthy, successful or to "keep up with the Joneses". Affluenza is symptomatic of a culture that holds up financial success as one of the highest achievements. (Investopedia.com)

Yet we may need to have our eyesight and understanding challenged.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who won't survive the week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 20 million people around the world. If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world. If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy… If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not. If you can hold someone's hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer God's healing touch. If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all. You are so blessed in ways you may never even know.

 

Let me tell you this in the most loving way “It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom.”  Then who in America can be saved?  For mortals it’s impossible but not for God, for God all things are possible.  Put your trust in God for salvation not stuff.  What does that mean? It means putting your life’s goals and priorities and organization, time and effort, into the stuff of salvation not the stuff of this world. It will be risky to strip down like that, it will be frightening to stick your neck out like that.  It will be humbling to have nothing other than yourself to claim. 

Yet the freedom felt from not having to carry the responsibility for all that stuff, is uplifting. The joy found in the risk of sticking out your neck for God is intoxicating.  The liberty that comes with humility is inspiring.  Jesus invites you to that kind of uplifting, intoxicating, inspiring, life.  A life that is filled not with stuff but salvation, now and for the life to come.

Let us pray:  Lord we have such good stuff, how can we part with it?  Lord we’ve convinced ourselves that stuff is the stuff of life…and yet with all our stuff, we don’t feel fulfilled…we’re still looking for something that will give us purpose, meaning, happiness.  (If that’s you today please pray with me)  Lord, use your two edge sword to surgically remove my affluenza and return me to my rightful mind and generous heart.  I claim your salvation as all I need and even more than I need in life.  Come replace my stuffing with your salvation so that I can have your joy that is truly intoxicating, your liberty which uplifts the lowly, and your freedom that is truly inspiring.  Amen.

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