Sermon notes 17PentecostC
+In the name of God, our creator, our comforter, and our cause for joy+
My friends in Christ, when preparing a sermon there are multiple commentaries, websites, and excellent blogs with some very good advice. One of my favorite places to visit is a blog called “Two Bubbas and a Bible”. One of the Bubbas has served as Assistant to the Bishop in the Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and now serves as Priest-in-Charge at Messiah Episcopal Church in Murphy, NC. The other bubba is Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Gainesville, on the unbearably humid sandbar known as Florida. Both of these bubbas have a passion for preaching, and their blog notes that that they “both share a propensity for a slightly warped sense of humor.”
They recently shared this story: “Writing in the Catholic Digest, Kathleen Chesto admits being confused by her 5-year-old’s question: “Mom, is God a grown-up or a parent?” “I’m not sure what you mean,” she said, “What’s the difference between a grown-up and a parent?” “Well,” the child went on, “Grown-ups love you when you’re good and parents love you anyway.”
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Such a perceptive question from a child is the voice of someone who has no knowledge of theology, doctrine, dogma, or any of the thousand other ways mankind has developed to keep us separated BY belief and wedge us further and further away from God’s astounding love for all of God’s loved creation.
Looking at the Gospel today, there are the two sides. The scribes and the Pharisees on one side, and Christ and a shepherd and a woman on the other side. The scribes try to use that wedge of discord. They are the grown-ups and they insist that you play by their rules or you will not be seen as good and therefore not worthy of and love whatsoever. In our trinitarian theology, Jesus, being God’s son, is God also: the loving parent who loves us no matter what.
I try putting myself into the minds of the scribes and Pharisees. Their faith is a faith based on law. There are 613 laws that observant Jews follow. They are found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. They cover everything imaginable. Laws on food purity. What to wear. Who you may love or not love. When to bathe. One may not castrate the male of ANY species. This ornery deacon pictures Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner listening to their rabbi talk of the law. Mel leans to Carl and whispers: “The law must be from G-D. We couldn’t make this up.”
Recall that the scribes and Pharisees have been following Jesus for several of the last few propers. Yes, Christ was a rabbi, but the scribes and Pharisees looked on him with disdain. “Is he one of us? Is he on our side? This rabbi does not understand the law. He heals on the sabbath, he dines with tax collectors!” Pardon my modern idiom, brothers and sisters, but Jesus hangs around with drunks and sluts. Not with the pious. Not with the ritually clean. This God with skin on talks about the first being last and the exalted being humbled and the humbled being exaulted.
In today’s lesson Christ talks about the shepherd and the lost sheep and the woman who has lost a coin. To the scribes and Pharisees, the shepherd was one of the lowest forms of humanity. They lived outside the city. Their work was filthy. Their hands were dirty. They could not keep kosher, they could not follow the purity laws and they did not bathe ritually. The woman who has lost a coin was the lowest form of humanity simply because she was a woman. She was ritually unclean once a month. She would not be seen nor acknowledged nor listened to nor spoken to unless absolutely necessary. She was a faceless nothing. To this day, there are sects in ultra-orthodox Judaism in which the men begin their day with a prayer that begins with “Thank you, G-D for not making me a woman.”
The scribes and the Pharisees were listening to Jesus as grown-ups when Jesus was speaking as a parent. He’s trying to explain how much God loves us. God loves us so much that God is like a shepherd who will leave his flock to find the one sheep who has been lost. God loves us so much that God is like a woman who looks and looks and looks for that one, precious, solitary coin.
That’s how God loves us and our hearts should leap with joy! My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, please know and understand fully that there is nothing any of us have ever done or will ever do that will make God love us any less. I hear a hymn from years gone by and it echoes in my mind and heart: “God is love, and wherefore God is, love is ever found.”
So, I ask what I always ask at the end of a sermon. What does this Gospel, from a time and place so distant, yet so close – what does it mean for us in 2013 in Trinity Church?
Remember, Luke is a Gospel that oozes incarnational theology. God came here in Jesus so we could see how much God loves us. We are the lost sheep. We are the coin. God loves us so much that God is the shepherd and God is the woman…both searching, both doing whatever it takes to find us and to carry us in Godly arms or hold us in Godly hands. We need to be loving parents to those who come here. There may be those who different. They may struggle with addiction. They may not look like us. They may not love as most of us because God make them as they are…and please remember that we are ALL made in the image of God. We need to be that parent who loves unconditionally. We need to be that parent who serves those who may not know a smile or a hug. We must show those who come to our doors what God’s love is like.
The two bubbas and a bible conclude with this: “God has clearly been revealed as a loving parent who never ever stops loving us. Christ left the safety of heaven and leapt into the world to seek and save us. Christ has grabbed onto our souls and has promised to hold on to us until the fires of Hell go out.”
To that, my dear hearts, let the Church say Amen.