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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Investing in the Main Thing (Matthew 22:15-22)

In Matthew, this text is happening during the last few days before Jesus is killed. There’s no time for trivialities. The Pharisees sent their minions along with the Herodians to trap Jesus. Normally, they hate each other, but to trap Jesus they become partners. Together they plan and scheme and spend all kinds of time coming up with a fool-proof plan to discredit Jesus. If he says, “Yes, pay taxes to Caesar,” the Pharisees can condemn him to the crowds as a religious fraud. If he says, “No, don’t pay taxes to Caesar,” the Herodians can have him arrested by Rome for insurrection.

They approach Jesus with disingenuous, empty flattery, and think that this question about taxes will trip him up? You’ve got to be kidding! God incarnate is about to be nailed to a cross. The central piece of God’s entire salvation history is a couple of days away. The redemption of all creation is coming to fruition right now, right in front of them. They think this is important? That this is where their energy is best used? Really?

I’m amazed Jesus answers them at all, considering what he’s getting ready to face. Yeah, pay your taxes. Whatever. Don’t let the emperor’s stuff get in the way of God’s stuff. Don’t let temporary, trivial things get in the way of the main thing.

And Jesus is all about the main thing. God is making everything new: forgiveness is now breaking into sinfulness; hope is breaking into despair; wholeness is breaking into brokenness; life is breaking into death. This is the main thing. God is all about this, and we in this congregation have been created to be part of it. Not only do we experience this among ourselves, but we proclaim the reality of this to the world. We exist as church to be with God in making all things new through forgiveness, hope, wholeness, and life.

Jesus got that, and didn’t seem to get sidetracked from the main thing very often. Certainly not here. Certainly not by the Pharisees and Heriodians. Certainly not by a question about taxes.

For the rest of this month, our council will be working on the 2015 budget. This isn’t just a spreadsheet of how we’re going to spend money; it’s a declaration of how we will live in the image of God, of how we will be part of God’s main thing.

And we will be part of God’s main thing. We will reveal generosity, compassion, and grace. We will proclaim forgiveness, love, and mercy. And quite honestly, doing that as a congregation in our culture involves having a budget. That’s just real. Our council will present an honest, authentic, balanced proposal of how LCM will take part in God’s main thing—that for which we exist.

Today we’re receiving Estimate of Giving cards for 2015. Part of that is to help our council get a better idea of what funds we’ll have for the year. But another part, I think, is more important. It’s the opportunity to think about, to deeply consider, how we will invest in God’s main thing. How we will invest in mercy, grace, compassion; forgiveness, love, and mercy being revealed in our world.

Don’t get all weird because we’re talking about money and pledges in the church. Money is just part of life. Oh well. So give or don’t give, whatever. Turn in a card or don’t turn in a card, whatever. So don’t worry about that. But I do invite you to take this opportunity to consider investing in the main thing. Consider how much you’re willing to invest in revealing God’s love and compassion in our world. Because the world needs more love, compassion, mercy, and grace.

Whether you turn in an Estimate of Giving card today or not isn’t the main thing. Whether you increase or decrease giving isn’t the main thing. God’s forgiveness and grace being shown in the world is the main thing. As a council, I assure you that with whatever money this congregation has, God’s main thing will be our main thing. That will be reflected in the budget we will propose for 2015.

I invite you to take the opportunity to make an investment in that. Give to the emperor the emperor’s things give to God God’s things. Whatever. We no longer let the temporary, trivial things sidetrack us. Because for us in this congregation, the main thing of God’s is the main thing for us.

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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Sermon

 

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Chosen for Celebration (Matthew 22:1-14)

Jesus’ audience for these parables is very specific: the chief priests and the elders of the Pharisees, the church leaders of the day. These are the people committed to their church, who serve on the council, teach Sunday School, sing in the choir, lead a Bible study, mow the church lawn, and give more than10% of their income to the church. These are the insiders of church insiders, and are the types of people everyone wants as members of their church.

Yet Jesus is trying very hard to make a point with them. Since he’s being so persistent in getting those committed church people to understand something, it’s probably worth our while to listen—especially those of us who are committed church members. Jesus is speaking to us.

This parable today is a strange one. A king’s son is getting married—about the biggest event in the life of a kingdom. So the king hosts a huge wedding banquet. He’s already sent out the invitations so the guests knew it was coming, and now he’s calling them to come. He calls them twice: the first time they wouldn’t come, the second time they simply went about their own business. To say that one’s own priorities are more important than the king’s agenda is basically saying that they have no use for the king. These invited guests make their sentiments very clear by killing the servants of the king who come to bring them to the banquet.

This is not merely turning down an invitation, it is open rebellion. So the king has no real choice but to put down the rebellion—in this case by sacking the town. Then, since his original request is for the banquet for his son, he invites others to come—those on the fringe, on the edges, both “the good and the bad.”

They accept the king’s invitation, but one comes without a wedding robe. This isn’t like he got off work at 5:00 and the banquet starts at 5:30. It’s not any issue of him being poor and not having nice clothes. This guest had weeks or months to go home, clean up, put on appropriate clothing (borrowing if necessary), and still come.

This person, who accepted the king’s invitation, is still choosing to do things his own way. So he’s tossed out on his ear. He accepted the invitation and he showed up, but apparently accepting the invitation isn’t the point. Deciding to come to the banquet isn’t the most important thing. What Jesus is telling these good religious church people is that the king is going to celebrate, and do it right. Everyone is invited, and anyone can come. But the king decides what the celebration looks like.

Many are called, but few are chosen, Jesus explains. As if that clears this all up with the wedding robe and the invitations and the rebellious town.

Usually we want to make that into a self-righteous thing about how because we’ve accepted the invitation to make Jesus our Lord or because we’re pretty good people that we’re among the special ones chosen for heaven.

But that’s not it. Remember, Jesus is talking to the most religious people on the planet. People who love God and strive to obey God with their whole lives. Jesus is trying to get these religious people to understand the will of God–the reign of God–and their role in it.

Don’t be all high and mighty because you were invited to the banquet by the king, Jesus tells them. Many are called; the whole town. And don’t even lord it over others because you actually showed up in the presence of the king. Many are called; both good and bad people were dragged in off the street.

That’s not it. Everyone is called to the banquet. The wedding robe is the difference. Those in the wedding robes are those are on board with the king. They are celebrating with the king. They are participating with the king.

For many years, Linda Wheeler makes these baptismal cloths. We give one to each person who is baptized here. A white cloth. A sign of baptism, of being clothed in Christ. A celebration cloth. A wedding robe.

In baptism, we are chosen to wear the wedding robe for the king. Chosen to be part of what the king is doing. This isn’t a parable about who gets into heaven or not. This is a parable about our call to be part of God’s mission, God’s celebration.

God’s celebration is forgiveness. God has invited us to the forgiveness banquet. In baptism we are clothed with forgiveness. The church wears the robe of forgiveness in the world.

God’s celebration is mercy. God has invited us mercy banquet. In baptism we are clothed with mercy. The church wears the robe of mercy in the world.

God’s celebration is including the outcasts. God has invited us to the inclusion banquet. In baptism we are clothed in inclusion. The church wears the robe of inclusion in the world.

God’s celebration is taking care of the least in the world. God has invited us to the caring banquet. In baptism we are clothed in care. The church wears the robe of care in the world.

The feast is prepared. We have been called. And clothed in Christ at our baptism, we are chosen to celebrate with the king. Welcome to the banquet!

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Sermon

 

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