June 14, 2020 2nd Sun after Pentecost

          Grace and peace be to you from God our creator, redeemer, and sustainer.  Today is an exciting day for me.  The scripture passages just preach themselves.  Look at that first lesson from Exodus 19… you’ll find it on page 5 of your bulletin… pay attention to verses 4 & 6.  Starting in verse four there is this short recap of all the amazing things God did in freeing the Israelites from Egypt… God expresses it this way “I bore you on eagle’s wings, …you will be my treasured possession…v. 6 you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.”  I don’t know about you but for me to hear God say those things about us, his children, the followers of his truth, the believers of his good news… it’s just awesome!  You and I are a treasured possession of God!

This past week my wife and I were unsettled from the movie we had settled into by a tornado warning that interrupted our program. The sky got so dark and the warnings so dire we quickly made a list of priorities of things to check.  We took the RV we’d been packing for our upcoming vacation that was out on the driveway and parked it in the barn for cover, closed windows, checked flashlights, etc.  Then as the sky got darker and the rain started changing to hail so we changed from priorities to treasures.  I got Debbie and the dogs and for the basement. 

Then a strange thing happened.  As I headed down the steps, I noticed my wife wasn’t behind me. I went back to find her and she’s lugging this laundry basket.  I’m like now’s no time for laundry.  Then I saw she was lugging her treasures: books out of the closet and her craft room. I’m like we’re not gonna be down there that long that you need a reading material or a craft project!?  At least I hope not!

She said, “No! These are the memories of our lifetime that I don’t want to loose, pictures of our life together, weddings, vacations, births, baptisms, birthdays anniversaries, graduations.  At that moment besides ourselves, our pets, we realized our truly treasured possessions weren’t possessions but memories of our loved ones and our life together.

This first scripture makes me realize that if God were like you and I and God was caught in a tornado warning we would not just be a priority for him but we would be his treasured possessions.  He’d want to make sure he kept us, his treasured possessions, close to him, safe and secure before heading to the basement.  There’s that old poem “If God had a wallet your picture would be in it, if God had a fridge, your picture would be on it!”

I don’t know about you but that for me is a real ego boost!  I’m subject to this little nagging voice that can nag me about my failures… it seems like forever!  It’s a voice that doesn’t forget a thing.  Just this past week my dad brought over a laundry basket- in it wasn’t treasure but simply twin sheets. He no longer had any use for because he hasn’t had a twin bed in his place for five years.  You know what that nagging voice did with that laundry basket memory.  Nope, it did not remind me of Debbie saving our treasures. No, it instead reminded me of the embarrassing moment when I was five when I wet the bed!  I mean like come on, give it a rest, I was five and you’re going to bring that up again!

If you’ve got one of those nagging voices… like I do… you need to hear this BOOMING voice of God from our first lesson telling these far from perfect Isrealites, these flawed followers of God’s word- “I brought you to myself for you to be a priestly kingdom a holy nation.  I value you that much you are my treasured possession.” I don’t know about you but that feels good…AMEN?!

Then we have Psalm 100- kinda makes sense after hearing news like God says, “I’m a treasured possession.”  How should I respond about that??? Like the psalmist in Psalm 100 “Make a joyful noise to the Lord serve the lord with gladness come into his presence with a song, enter his gates with thanksgiving his courts with praise.”  Yeah baby!! It’s a party when you know God’s smiling down on you!  The heaven’s have opened up and it’s just pure sun beams of love shining down upon you.

But before you think scripture is here to tell you life is all butterflies and rainbows, we have the reality check of our next scripture… turn to that Romans 5 on page 6.  Now some scripture is confusing, some scripture is crystal clear and this one is crystal clear and worth memorizing “1Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
  6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Can I get an Amen!  We are not treasured because we are perfect.  We are not treasured by God, because we’ve impressed God… more often than not I think we DE-PRESS God. But know this-we are treasured by God because we are his children.  We are his children because Christ loved us enough to sacrifice himself for us- while we were still SINNERS- to redeem us and claim us and adopt us as his own!! I’m telling ya this is a great day to be a preacher with these types of scripture because I don’t have to explain this, explore this or delve into this… I just have to express it.  1Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God….   6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

This is just awesome, awesome stuff.  I hope you all will save this bulletin, put it on your night stand and read some of this scripture before you drift off to sleep because if you want sweet dreams- there ain’t no news sweeter than the love of God in Christ Jesus! If you want a peaceful night’s sleep there ain’t no more peaceful news than we are put right with God through the love and sacrifice and grace of Christ!  Don’t be tossing this out too quickly or you might be tossing and turning unnecessarily.

But like I said…just cause we have the love of God in Christ Jesus doesn’t spare us from life’s troubles.  Look at all the faithful people who knew of God’s love that had major struggles during their life:  Moses didn’t have it easy peasy, David had sons that were out to kill him, Mother Mary watched her son be executed for a crime he didn’t commit, and Paul barely survived whippings and shipwrecks and Jesus carried a cross. The journey of faith is not paved with yellow bricks.  Scripture never promises a Yellow Brick road.  Scripture never says our voyage through life will be sailed on constantly calm seas.  But the journey of faith with Christ is never done alone and it never returns empty handed. Our journey with Christ we can be assured is productive, it is progressive, it is powerful. 

Listen to Romans 5: 3-5 again 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  Today’s scripture just preaches itself!  When we journey with Christ our struggles need not be meaningless. Our pitfalls can have a purpose if we give them to God.  

Then we have our gospel, page 6 “35Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” 

Folks God cares for us.  Jesus is still looking out on our world with compassion because so much our world, so much of humanity is wandering through this life like helpless harassed sheep without a shepherd.  But what is he gonna do about it?  How’s he gonna change that?  Jesus already has a plan in place. Its there at the end of this morning’s gospel reading. 1Then Jesus summoned his… disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness… Jesus sent them out with the following instructions: “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.”

Francis Chan, a Christian pastor, popular author, and noted presenter has a message…a great little message on Youtube called “What not to do to make disciples?”  It goes like this…

          When I was a kid we played this great little game called “Simon Says” Right?  Most of us have played that… if you’re really young there’s no app for that but ya know it’s fairly simply, if Simon says pat your head- ya know you (motions pat head) yeah okay (pat) Simon said it. Umm…  It was a very simple game but it’s so weird how when “Jesus says” in the church…it’s a totally different game!

          If Jesus says something you don’t have to do it, you just have to memorize it. Yeah, ya memorize it, you study it… Ya know guys it doesn’t make a lot of sense the things we do.  You know Jesus says go out and make disciples… and how many people in our churches are actually going out and making disciples? 

          But they memorized it.  …You know I tell my daughter “Hey, Rach go clean your room…She doesn’t come back to me two hours later and say (smiling with pride) “I memorized what you said.”  You said (with animated head bob) “Rach, go clean your room.”  Dad, I can say it Greek! (stunned look).  My friends are gonna come over and we’re going to have a study on what it would look like… if I cleaned my room.” 😊

          She knows better than that!  So why do we think we’re going to come before the judge one day and quote everything that he said, tell him how much we know about what he said…itttt, its just black and white stuff… If I just started with scripture I’d go, …here’s what I would do… “I’d start making disciples.”

          Folks we’re gathered here to recharge and replenish and renew our hope and faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ- not to hoard this good news for ourselves and go stuff it under our mattress when we get home. No, its as simple as “Simon says!” If you believe you are treasured by God, if you know you are redeemed by the blood of the lamb, if you’re convinced that Christ died for you while you were still a sinner, if you accept that Christ gave his life to give you life than you need to do what he said, “Go share the good news.”

          I love looking out on our congregation today because we are already half way there.  Half way to where?  To the world, the mission field- we’re not holed up in our holy huddle in the sanctuary, we’re in our cars ready to enter the fields that are ripe for harvest. I’ve always wanted to duplicate here what I saw at a church I attended while on vacation.  They had these very nice large easily read signs as you tried to figure out what driveway to pull in.  They said WELCOME and had arrows for Sanctuary that way, office that way, all in big bold letters.  Nice, friendly, user friendly signs but that’s not why I want to duplicate them.

What I didn’t realize until I left was on the back side of these very helpful signs coming in was a message for those going out. It said- you are now entering the mission field.  A reminder we aren’t just here for ourselves, we are here for the world.  We’re here to be “filled to spill”- filled with God’s grace we let it spill out into the world.  Filled with God grace were are changed for the better to change this world for the better.

          Our larger church that we’re part of Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, has some shirts they’ve made up that I’d like to get for us.  Like those yard signs that have a message in response to the stress of COVID 19 restrictions and the tragedy of George Floyd’s death “Humankind, be both.”  This shirt’s message was a response to the COVID 19 restrictions it said, “The Church has left the building!”  God’s church has not closed- it’s left the building. God’s church is not dead- it has left the confines of the property lines and entered into the stream of the community and our world.

          Look at this scripture, this news from God, its great news!  Its news each and every one of us needs to hear- you are treasured, you are loved, you are redeemed, you are adopted, your sufferings are not meaningless in fact they can be productive, they can increase your character and deepen and strengthen your hope.  And you need to share that- Jesus says- be my witnesses, love others like I’ve loved you, share the good news. Amen??  Amen!!