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July 3, 2005 (Sunday 14 · Time after Pentecost)
Intern Pastor Katy Grindberg
Matthew 11:16-19; 25-30
Grace and peace to you from God our loving creator and from Jesus Christ, our lord and savior. Amen.
The gospel this morning begins with some rather cryptic remarks by Jesus. He compares the people listening to children playing, who just can't seem to figure out the right game. And then he compares John the Baptist's ministry and actions with his own. He says that John was an ascetic. John did not partaking of good food, good company, good drink - and so people said that he was possessed by an evil spirit. But Jesus, DID eat and drink and so people called him a glutton and drunkard and made derogatory comments about the people Jesus associated with. It seems that no matter what you do, someone will have something to say to criticize it or call it into question--has anyone not experienced this?
One of the major breakthroughs of my maturing, was when I realized that there is no way I was going to keep everyone happy. In fact, when I was working at KU, there was a period of time when I routinely got called into my boss' office, because someone, usually a track coach, was unhappy with me. One memorable day, in fact, I just asked my boss to give me a list of the people I was to keep happy, and then we could dispense with these meetings. I was doing my best to take care of the student-athletes in my care, to follow my calling into this vocation, but there was just no way I could navigate the minefield of Division-1 athletics unscathed. Frankly, it seemed to have less to do with my actions than what I was saying to them, and probably more importantly--how I was saying it. So, when I decided that it I would follow my vocational calling, do the best job I could and take my lumps, things went better.
Because, Jesus doesn't give us a way out. He doesn't say, "you people just don't get it, leave me alone," or "you people just don't get it--I'm out of here!" He simply points out that "wisdom is vindicated by her deeds." As one commentator put it--the question, "what difference does it make that you believe?" is more important than the question, "what do you believe?"
Last Sunday after the service, many of you were present for the Rev. Dr. Gordon Peterson's presentation on the Natural Church Development survey results. The results revealed, that, according to that instrument, LCH's minimum factor is Passionate Spirituality. As Gordon put it passionate spirituality has to do with how do you connect Sunday to Monday. In your daily life, "what difference does it make that you believe?"Some of the language around this makes many of us uncomfortable--it's rather ethereal and hard to pin down what "spirituality" means. And, moreover, passionate spirituality seems to be even more un-Lutheran. This conundrum led to a spirited discussion in our staff meeting on Monday--what does it mean to have a passionate spirituality. Is it possible to embody that, to live out your life in the world like that, as a Lutheran?
One phrase that caused much consternation last Sunday, a phrase from Gordon's presentation was that having a passionate spirituality led to people falling more in love with Jesus. Definitely doesn't sound Lutheran! Or does it? What does it mean to fall in love? Think about it. When you fall in love, or you fall more deeply in love with that person, it frames your orientation--you have a tendency to see the world through the eyes of someone in love. Isn't life just more pleasant in those moments? There are still bad moments, but that don't seem as bad, and the highs seems higher. Maybe, then, to fall more deeply in love with Jesus is to see the world through his eyes. Eyes that invariably saw with love and compassion and mercy. It means to follow Jesus' direction in the gospel this morning--"Come to me." Jesus' words don't meant that we need to hunt down Jesus. By grace, he has already come to us, giving us the gift of God's love and grace and full acceptance, Jesus has already come to you. There is nothing that you need to do to earn the love of God.
"Come to me" Jesus says--to keep our eyes oriented on the one in whom we live and breathe and have our being--that is to be in love with Jesus. It isn't just a passive acceptance of Jesus, though. Jesus says "take my yoke upon you, and learn from me." The Greek word translated "learn" share the root with the word for disciple. To learn form Jesus, is to learn by example, learn by experience.
Yesterday VH-1 and MTV collaborated to broadcast the worldwide concert event Live-8. It was a kick-off to the G-8 summit this week in Scotland--the Live-8 concerts were held in Canada, Russia, England, the US, France, South Africa. It was an opportunity to draw people together around the extreme need in Africa--to educate, to entertain, to energize.
What surprised me, was that not once, not on the website, not during the broadcast was money solicited. The whole point was education--they had you captive watching performances these world-wide superstars--and in between performances, education happened. The performers spoke, or short education pieces were broadcasted. They wanted to get people to really see what is going on in Africa. Because on Wednesday, the eight most powerful men in the world gather together, as leaders of the G8 nations, in a meeting that Tony Blair has announced will focus primarily on Africa. On debt reduction, aid and relief work.
To learn as a disciple is also to act, though. It isn't just taking in information and moving on to something else. As someone who is in love with Jesus, when you see need in the world you cannot help but act. You cannot help but do something--that is what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Whether it is educating yourself or others, signing a petition or a letter, or perhaps sending money--when you see need, when you see through the eyes of Jesus, you have to act. Come to meŠlearn from meŠthat is falling more in love with Jesus. To see the world through his eyes, to have compassion, to act with love--that happens when you fall in love with the one from whom all that flows.
But that isn't all--because there is so much need, so much that is wrong with the world, at times it is simply overwhelming. So Jesus says "You will find rest for your souls." There are times when it is all just too much to handle--and Jesus promises a place to be refreshed and renewed in the love and grace of God. And there are times when we try, but we fail miserably, and we find rest and reassurance that God loves us completely and wholly. That is the good news!
So, your homework this week, is to act out your faith in the world--to be the person that God has called you to be. But, when someone asks you why you are doing those things, answer honestly, "because I am a Christian. This is a way for me to live out my faith." When you are in love, you want to share that news! It's OK, go ahead and do it--it's even OK for us Lutherans.
Copyright © 2005 Katy Grindberg
Comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org