Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Don't Waste It!

One of my former parishioners would tell me the story of how he would always have a Bible in his desk at work.
His boss knowing that he was a Christian and that he was good at hearing people’s problems would often send other co-workers to him if they had a problem.
Knowing this parishioner as I did I am sure he would listen and do a great job of making the person feel better.
That is the kind of power everyone here this morning has.
When Vicki and I were dating she was still in college in Maine.
She lived in this great house on the ocean.
She was going to have a party at her house for her family.
It was supposed to rain that day.
I was trying to impress her parents so I told them, “It is not going to rain.”
Sure enough it didn’t.
I want to assure all of you this morning I have no power over the weather.
But if I did, we would all share that same power.

These two stories are about what it means to be a person of God.
What are the limitations?
What are the expectations?
When you tell a co-worker that you are person of faith what does that mean?

In Luther’s day only professional clergy had access to God.
If you wanted your sins forgiven you had to go see the priest and confess.
If you wanted a prayer said so that it wouldn’t rain at your BBQ you had to go to a priest.
If you wanted to know what God thought you went to the priest.

Of all the changes that the Reformation brought perhaps the biggest was to wrest away the power of God from the professional clergy and put it in the hands of the common person.

It meant that people could go directly to God and ask forgiveness.
It meant that a co-worker could be just as much a comfort to you as your priest.
It meant that you could pray for sunshine on your own.
This is a good thing.
But it also brings with it responsibility.
You all are in positions of helping others see God.
You all are expected to show others God’s love.
In your work, play, and everyday life you are expected to act like a priest, monk, prophet, and preacher.

Let me say it another way.
The future of the Gospel is dependent upon you.
One question that we have to ask in our time is will there be a Church in 500 years from now?
I am not so sure.
Organized religion is losing more and more people.
One thing I know that its success is dependent upon all of you.

Our parable for this morning is a complicated one.
It is one of those parables that I wish Jesus never told.
Martin Luther called it a “terrible gospel” that he did not like to preach.
I agree with him on that.
But the idea that “many are called but few are chosen” has been ringing in my ears these days.
It just seems true.
Many people confess that they love Jesus.
Many people call themselves “Christians”.
But it seems that we are reluctant to live that out.
We are reluctant to be Jesus’ people.
Our own insecurity, our own lives often get in our way.

I was reading an article about people of my generation, people born between 1965 and 1984.
My generation is often called Generation X, and we are entering our 40’s.
And according to this article we are not enjoying adulthood.
We are tired, burnt, out and disillusioned.
We find ourselves in more debt, and less successful at this point in our lives than our parents from the baby boom generation.
We were the generation who thought we could have it all.
We could have a family, a successful career that we loved, and money in the bank.
We have found out that all of that is really not possible.
As Dr. Deborah Luepnitz said, “In midlife, what I see in my Gen X patients is total exhaustion. That’s what brings them to treatment. They feel guilty for complaining because it’s wonderful to have, but choices don’t make life easier. Possibilities create pressure.”

I was thinking about this and how we have lost important spiritual tools.
One tool is the ability to be grateful for what we have.
In the article it talked about people that were unhappy because they choose to have kids later in life.
And people that were unhappy because their having kids stopped them from doing what they really wanted.
No one is happy, perhaps because no one is grateful for the life they have.
Second, is the ability to see life not as limited possibility, but to see life as giving us limited choices based on our gifts and passions.
What Luther did when he gave us the power to see ourselves as Priests was say that what we did in everyday life was a calling from God.
To be a parent is a calling from God.
To be a banker, shoemaker, car dealer, cab driver, plumber, or whatever is a calling from God.
In those callings we serve God and our neighbor.
My favorite Luther quote about this is, “God is more pleased with the smell of a father changing a dirty diaper than all the incense in Rome.”

I am convinced that the Church will only exists where it will help people to live out their calling in a powerful and meaningful way.
It is no longer about getting people to come to Church, but about equipping people to be the priesthood of all believers when they go back into their lives.
The reason we have Bible study, adult forum, Sunday school.
It is the reason why we ask people to serve at the Friendly Kitchen, with Family Promise, in the community.
It is not so we can all think of ourselves as great Christians.
It is to equip us for the responsibility of living as a priest in a very complex world.
It is so when a co-worker comes to us with a problem we can offer some words of comfort and hope.
It is so when we are changing a dirty diaper at 3am we can see in it a holy and precious thing.
It is so we wear the garment of faith at all times.
It is so we see in our work a greater purpose.

The parable is about what happens after we get to the banquet.
What happens when we know that we are invited?
As I said last week we can only choose sin, but what happens when we realize this and we know of God’s love given in Jesus Christ.
What will we do with it?
Will we throw it out?
Will we waste it?
Or will we put on the garments of our salvation.
Will we wear the armor of our faith?

Luther once wrote about Word of God,  “Wherever you hear this word being preached and observe people believing, confessing, and acting according to it, have no doubt the true and holy catholic church must be present and that they are a holy Christian people even though they are very few in number, for God’s word does not remain without effect.”
Every week you come and you hear that word.
Every week you kneel at the banquet and receive God’s love given in Jesus Christ.
And then you are sent to be a priest, to share it with others.
The question that the parable posses to us is what will we do with it?
The Reformation set us free from the institutional tyranny of the Church to love and care for others.
What will we do now?

You have the power.
You have the power to forgive sins, to love others, to say words of comfort and hope.
You have the power to turn to God in prayer.
You have the power to ask God for sunny days.
You are a royal priesthood.
Don’t waste it.

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