Posted on Thu, Sep 1, 2011
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt's Sermon for August 28, 2011
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
August 28, 2011
God, we thank you for your word which lights our way. We have come expecting to hear from you this morning. So bless us and show us what it is you would have us hear. Make the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts pleasing and acceptable to you. AMEN.
Let’s set up the context for today’s Gospel lesson. The gospel of Matthew was written about five and a half decades after the execution of Jesus. That puts it about a decade and a half, or 15 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The world, as most contemporary people know it, had already come to an end and the followers of Jesus are hoping that Jesus will return again, that he will return again very soon to defeat the empire, to defeat those in power and once again not only free, but also bless the people of God. The writer is bold enough to suggest that even some of his own readers would live long enough to witness with their own eyes the return of Christ and the overthrow of powers that oppressed common people. However, no return such as the one suggested in Matthew ever happened.
Even today, many followers of Jesus long for what is commonly known as “the second coming” or “The Rapture,” to occur. They hope that it will disempower world leaders who take advantage of those whom they are called to serve. They hope that this new reign of God will bring an end to all wars, to killing and robbing and abusing people. They hope that the people of God will, once and for all, be set free and that this time, freedom in the true realm of God will last forever.
I have news for you this morning. Jesus has come, Jesus comes to us every moment of every day. Jesus lives in us. YHWH God lives in the hearts of the people who are called according to God’s purpose and live their lives in the name of God. Jesus came as a baby, and lived among us. The political powers of the day executed Jesus and he died and was buried, and on the third day he came again by rising up out of that tomb. He appeared to a group of women, and then to his disciples and later on he ascended into heaven. And every moment of every day Jesus, the child of God and the son of all humanity has been coming over and over and over again. He’s coming today, he’s coming tomorrow, he’s coming next week and he will never cease to come back over and over again to the people who are called according to God’s purpose and set apart. Who are those people? YOU are! I love the words of Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, and I agree with him when he writes, ““We cannot wait until we are dead to experience the (kin-dom) of God. We must be alive to really experience the kin-dom of God.” That means we must experience this beloved kin-dom of God right here, right now and in the present moment.
In her book The Rapture Exposed, which we will be using for our upcoming Bible Study series, Barbara Rossing writes, “Today’s end times writings draw on a method for looking at prophesy that was invented less than 200 years ago, and, by now, is a dominant American view. In this system, the Bible – particularly the books of Daniel and Revelation - spell out in detail, God’s pre-ordained script for predictions for the end of the world. “ Rossing says, and I join with her on this , “Many other Christians read the Biblical Stories differently, and I am one of them. “ For more on that, come to our Wednesday Bible studies beginning on September 7.
So what are we to do in times such as these in which we live? Just how are we to live? Listen to the words of Jesus, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 27“For the Son of Humanity is coming with his angels in the glory God.” Let me assure you, what Jesus requires is NOT the easier softer way. I want to suggest to all of us this morning that we let go of the beautiful crosses we wear around our necks and take on the crosses that God is calling us to cary, to live out, and to embody. Wearing a cross is not a bad thing and it is just the most basic starting place.
What crosses are we called to bear? We are called to bear the cross of faithfulness. We learned last week that God has been faithful from generation to generation to the people of God. We are called to trust God, no matter what happens, to hold on to our faith in the face of adversity and hard times. We are called to hold on to the fact that there is always HOPE in Jesus, and to live into that hope by remaining faithful in doing all that we can do to stand for Jesus at all times. You see, my sisters and brothers, I believe, as Rocco Ericco writes that today, in this very moment, these simple and unlearned disciples of Jesus lie in the hearts of men and women throughout the ages. They live in the hears of you and me right here in this church. I believe those disciples preached the small groups of people, and that since their lives on Earth have ended, their teaching have reached millions of people who desperately needed to hear them and that those hope-filled words have been handed down from generation to generation. When they were living, they were hated and despised and oppressed and even condemned, and later they became the beloved of God, and beyond that, they became the beloved of the community. They became the favored ones. The stones that the builder rejected became the cornerstone all over again. Their names are inscribed in the Gospel message of hope and of God’s inclusive love for all the world. They stood tall in hard times. Sometimes they failed, but just like Jesus they continued to return again and again, and they made it. So here’s the good news for all of us this morning. Take up your cross, Trinity MCC, and follow me. Hold on to Jesus wherever you are. Stand in the midst of trail and hold on to Jesus. Stand tall when others persecute and belittle and try to take advantage of you; Stand tall in the name of Jesus. Stand proud when others try to discriminate against you, when they try to deny your calling and your status as a child of God. Stand proud in the face of all of that and bear your cross, in Jesus name. Live on the up high rather than on the down low. Shine for Jesus and never let your light be tarnished. Live life on life’s terms and never let anybody rob you of your blessings.
I call this boot strap theology and I also know it is sound biblical doctrine. God never promised us it would be easy. It is a fact that God never gave us a “get out of jail free” card. And I stand before you again today knowing beyond the shadow of any doubt, that my God is faithful. God will never forsake of abandon you or me. And when I hear these words of Jesus again this morning, “Take up your cross and follow me…” I say “YES, Lord, yes.”
I’m praying for you a lot these days. I’m praying that God will open up the floodgates of blessing on each one of you. And I’m praying that all of us together will remain faithful to a God has come, is coming and will continue to come over and over again. Remember the words of Jesus, “Take up your cross…and…follow me.
God bless you. AMEN.