Friday, November 11, 2011

It's Friday (and my sermon is done!)

This probably has never happened before.  But, I have a lock-in with 130 kids tonight; I will be miserable tomorrow, and this sermon is written.  Again, thank you to which helps me more than it should...but here it is (maybe even it will help some struggling pastor tomorrow!).

Usually I sidestep these parables…This is a really hard one, so let’s talk about something else…

However, the last time I did that, I was called out—next time, you’ve really got to help us understand what’s going on here.

So, here it goes…

I’m not sure of your reaction, but when we read this at text study, the entire group moaned—“not this one again”, and then Thursday at our bible study at the bar, I made the college kids help me out, and their reaction was exactly the same.  “I hate this one,” Carolyn said…”I’m so cautious; I hate taking risks, and I really don’t want to be sent to where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth, just because I take what I’ve been given and protect it.”  Good point, I said…and really our discussion ended there…
So, obviously this is a hard one…because although the Master is not technically God, and all his actions might not be directly attributed to God, nonetheless according to Matthew—who is a very cranky gospel writer, by the way-- God obviously has the power to send us frolicking into the joy of our master or grudgingly into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (whatever that means)…so, indeed this is a parable about God…but it’s also not only about God, maybe it’s also about our understanding of who that God is. 

Let’s start here:  I absolutely adore my daughter—but when she was born, she cried nonstop for the first six months…and after awhile, when that exhaustion set in, Steve and I started talking about how she was obviously meant to be a middle child—she was exerting her will and independence, fighting with us before she could even move, making us stay up all hours of the night—and we began lamenting what she would be like at 12, at 16.  And for the longest time, we continued this—expecting that she would be difficult, arguing with her almost instantly, because those things we began saying as a joke to get us through her infancy, started to ring a little more true.  Finally, we began to see that the reason she was acting out, was because we were expecting her to.  And slowly, we began changing our own attitudes—looking for her compassion and empathy, seeing her smile, not as mischievous, but as welcoming—her conversations, not as challenges, but as inquiries.  And bit by bit, our relationship has changed…not so much because she did, but because I expected something different when I looked at her. 
You know a little about that too, I would imagine.  If not with specific people, with situations.  A job change might be a new adventure or a terrifying journey.  A conflict with a friend, might mean the gloves come on, or a way to deepen and connect more to someone’s heart. 
It’s more than pessimist/optimist thing, but a way that you view the world…and coming from someone who tends to view the world more negatively, I pray it’s something that can be learned, if not innate.
So, might this logic be translated into our image of God as well.  You see, servant number three, although he knew deep within his soul that his master was a harsh and controlling man—there is absolutely nothing to prove that this was so.  In fact, the first two, were called to enter into the master’s job, were given more gifts and responsibility and connection.   The first two reacted with diligence and service; the third reacted…or maybe refused to act…because of fear, because of who he understood this master to be. 
I’m going to stop here for a few moments, and I’d like you to talk with each other or outloud (you pick!)…but what do you expect of God?  What is your image of God and how God is going to act in your life and in the world?  How does ‘how you envision God’ shape your way of relating to God and to each other?  (GATHER IN GROUPS)
I would imagine that each one of you have a different understanding of who God is and what God does—and honestly that understanding probably changes, develops, even throws you a curve ball every once in awhile.  But, and here’s the most important thing:  we know most clearly who God is and what God does by looking at the person of Jesus.  Jesus, time and time again, shows us that sinners are redeemed; that the hungry are fed; the poor are gathered in.  Jesus shows us time and time again that God loves, and saves, and lives in us.  What kind of God do we expect?  One that looks exactly like Jesus—a man who loved the world, even to the point of death, and who rose again, so that each one of us might live. 
Sometimes I think that this kind of God, might even be one taking a risk for—I’m not always sure—but I do know that what I expect is often what I get—and burying my life in the ground gets me absolutely nothing.  So…how about together, we expect life for ourselves and for the world?  Because I imagine, that’s exactly what God’s got to give…

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