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Sermons

A Challenging Message for Challenging Times

7/3/2016 Seventh Sunday after Pentecost The text is Galatians 6:7-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20.

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

When I was a child, I thought like a child – and the most challenging activities I did usually came with a double-dare ya! They were stupid little things that usually got me in a bunch of trouble, but none of them could compare to the trouble I’d be in if I would have answered a call like this:

Wanted Immediately: Seventy dedicated workers. Extensive travel. No experience needed. No vacation. No benefits. Long hours. No Pay. Bring only the clothes on your back. Room and meals on your own. Urgent message needs delivery amidst danger. Serious applicants only.

This is not exactly the kind of ad that would bring in hordes of people! Who in their right mind would want to go? With no wallet, no travel bag, no extra pair of sandals! The instruction is specific – don’t even stop to say “Hi” along the way. Stay focused. Eat and drink whatever you are offered without complaining. Stay in one place, don’t move around from house to house. Heal the sick and tell all the people about the Kingdom of God.

This is not exactly the kind of job description that would attract a bunch of people. It dares people to live out their faith. It dares people to put their trust in God alone as they put their very lives at risk. It’s the kind of job that today would require an “executive hirer”, or “head hunter” to fill.

One such “Head hunter” told the story of the tactics he used to lure executives. He said, “When I get an executive that I am trying to hire for someone else, I like to disarm him. I offer him a drink, take my coat off, then my vest, undo my tie, throw up my feet and talk about baseball, football, family, whatever, until he’s all relaxed. Then, when I think I’ve got him relaxed, I lean over, look him square in the eye and say, ‘What’s your purpose in life?’ It’s amazing how top executives fall apart at that question.

“Well, I was interviewing this fellow the other day, had him all disarmed, with my feet up on the desk, talking about football. Then I leaned up and said, ‘What’s your purpose in life, Bob?’ And he said, without blinking an eye, ‘To go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can.’ For the first time in my career I was speechless.”

It’s not surprising that such a response brought silence. We live in a challenging time in which the living out of faith often takes a back seat to earning a living, taking care of family needs, getting some rest and keeping up with the Joneses. As D. Elton A. Trueblood wrote, “The Christian movement of today needs a change of mood. Our fundamental handicap arrives from the fact that the Christian faith has long been taken for granted in the Western world and the consequences are many and disastrous. For millions our religion involves neither urgency nor excitement, for it is difficult to be urgent about the obvious and secure. Our popular religion has become both lukewarm and well-mannered, neither feared, admired nor hated by those outside it, and not fiercely defended by those inside it.”

But, friends, we live in a challenging time in which the need for workers in the kingdom of God is as urgent as in the time of Jesus. Paul reminds us “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right. For we will reap at harvest time if we do not give up.”

Do not give up, my friends! Answer God’s want ad for laborers to go with his urgent message of grace and salvation! The pay is poor, but the rewards are great. The job is full of danger for the workers in the kingdom have always been sent out as lambs amidst the wolves. And this may be especially true in this time in which social pressure against the sharing of faith is strong. So it will not be easy to bear each other’s burdens. It is easier to be with people when they are happy and full of life than when life has thrown them a curve and they are distraught. Laughter is always more inviting than tears. And it will not be easy to encourage teens and wayward family and friends to dust off the Bible and put God in the driver’s seat. It’s easier not to mention God and the church. But in love, we tread where others fear to go. We need few resources to be faithful followers. All we need is guts – the guts to stand up for Christ and proclaim our faith.

It doesn’t take a lot. It only takes a bit of guts and faith the size of a mustard seed to open people’s eyes to the power of God. So keep on trying – keep bearing each other’s burdens, keep speaking God’s word of salvation and keep encouraging others to join as we bear witness to God in our daily living. For we are all bound together, with our pains and our joys, our needs and our abundance – we are bound together in Christ. And we are all called to a common mission to spread God’s word, to reach out to those in need, to be merciful and kind, and to be the people of faith, or should I say, the children of God that we have been created to be, a people whose choices reflect God’s mercy and grace in the challenging times in which we live.

So I double-dare ya to get off your seats and go out into the world with the urgent message sealed by the cross of Christ! I double-dare ya to reach out to people who are feeling more and more lost and abandoned.  I double-dare ya to care for those people who wonder what to believe. For we have an urgent message of hope from God for them. We have good news for them in Christ Jesus.

May we grow weary in sharing it. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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