Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

“Everything? Truly I Tell You, Everything” Sermon 10.14.2012

Mark 10:17-31 • 10/14/2012

Click here to hear an audio recording of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

A shepherd was tending his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new Cadillac Escalade appeared out of a dust cloud, raced toward him and came to a stop right in front of him as the tires screeched to a halt. The driver was a well-groomed and well-dressed young man wearing all the latest in fashion. His suit alone was worth more money than the shepherd had seen in his entire life. This Cadillac driving, designer suit-wearing man leaned out the window and asked the shepherd, “If I can tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?”

The shepherd looked at the young man, then at his peacefully grazing flock, and calmly answered, “Sure.”

The young man parked the Escalade, whipped out his Macbook Pro computer, connected it to his iPhone, surfed over to a NASA website where he called up a GPS satellite navigation system and scanned the area in which the flock of sheep were grazing. He then opened up a database and created a few spreadsheets with complex formulas.

Finally – he printed out a 150 page report on his miniaturized wireless printer, turned around to the shepherd and said, “You have exactly 1,586 sheep in your flock!”

“Amazing! That’s correct!” said the shepherd. “Like I agreed, you can take one of my sheep.”

The shepherd watched the man make a selection and bundle it into his Escalade. When he was finished the shepherd said, “If I can tell you exactly what you do for a living, where you’re from and who you work for, will you give me my sheep back?”

“OK, why not,” answered the young man.

“You work for an agricultural consulting firm from Palm Beach and you have never actually worked in agriculture in any way, shape, or form outside of a corporate board room,” said the shepherd.

“Wow! I guess that’s correct,” said the young man. “How did you ever know that?”

“Easy,” answered the shepherd. “Nobody called you, but you showed up here anyway. You want to be paid for providing a solution to a question I already knew the answer to. And you clearly don’t know squat about agriculture, especially shepherding sheep. Now…can I have my dog back?”

Have you ever tried to be a consultant for God? Showed up out of the blue and asked God a list of questions concerning things that you want or need – or at least think you need. You expect answers from God, of course, even though you have already formulated the answers you are planning to hear long before you even bothered to ask the question?

Or does something like this sound familiar, “OK God, just get me out of this jam that I’m in and I’ll be in church every Sunday for the rest of my life.”

I think the rich man in our gospel reading today is being genuine when he approaches Jesus. He kneels before Jesus after all as he asks the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He is a successful person in the community. And a large measure of his success has probably been because he’s had complete control in most of the decisions he’s made. I don’t think the intent of his question is to trap Jesus like the Pharisees do when they ask him questions. I think this man is genuinely interested in his relationship with God. I think he really is seeking to become a follower of Jesus. He wants to know what he has to do. By doing something though, he remains in control – not only of his stuff, but also of his eternal life. After all, he seems to have maintained pretty good control when it came to keeping the law – why can’t he do the same with eternal life? But Jesus knows there is something in the way. You and I and the rich man have things like wealth that constantly get in the way of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells the man to go and sell everything he owns. The point Jesus is making is that you can’t do something to inherit eternal life. You can only receive.

Author and Pastor Max Lucado once put it this way as he envisioned what Jesus might say to the rich man. I think his thoughts speak to you and me today too. Lucado wrote, “What you want costs far more than what you can pay. You don’t need a system, you need a Savior. You don’t need a resume, you need a Redeemer…God does not save us because of what we’ve done. Only a puny god could be bought with tithes. Only an egotistical god would be impressed with our pain. Only a temperamental god could be satisfied by sacrifices. Only a heartless god would sell salvation to the highest bidders. And only a great God does for his children what they can’t do for themselves.”

The rich man’s wealth, and your wealth and my wealth too, can’t buy anything in God’s kingdom. All we can do as children of God is receive.

We have all probably heard the saying, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” It’s a thought that I see limiting our life in Christ in a very negative way. It simplifies our life in Christ to only be about a final journey to heaven. Heaven is some place “out there” or “up there” out of our reach or experience. And if we live good lives and are not bad little boys and girls, when we die, we will go to heaven.

Theologian Frederick Buechner said, “We think of eternal life, if we think of it at all, as what happens when life ends.” Buechner says this instead, “We would do better to think of it (eternal life) as what happens when life begins.” [Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC, Frederick Buechner, pg. 25-26]

Jesus was never controlled by possessions, as the rich man was, or as you and I often are, as our churches seem to be at times. The rich man in today’s gospel held so tightly to his stuff that his stuff had completely taken over who he was or would ever be. He couldn’t let go in order to simply receive what Jesus was offering.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, take note of what Jesus does in verse 21 of today’s gospel reading. Even though the rich man can’t let go of his stuff, Jesus looks at him and loves him. Jesus wasn’t adding to his burdens or wealth or possessions, he was offering him a loving and gracious invitation to begin life.

What’s possessing you today? Your wealth? Your job? The stuff in your garage? Needing to feel like you are in control of everything that happens? Jesus doesn’t want you to add more things to your life that burden and possess you. He simply wants you and everything that makes you, you – including the things that keep you from God, in order for you to live. And you know what – Jesus looks at you too. And loves you, simply for being you. Amen.


“Stay There Until You Leave” 07.08.2012 Sermon

Mark 6:1-13 • July 8, 2012

Click here to hear an audio recording of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

President Franklin Roosevelt was known to endure long receiving lines to greet guests in the White House. We’d never imagine a president, especially not since 9/11, doing something so unprotected. Roosevelt was said to have complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said, so one day, during one of these receiving lines; he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir.” It wasn’t until nearly the end of the line, while greeting the Ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Without flinching, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.”

Sometimes I think the mission of the church is a little like that. I worry that the mission of Christ’s church isn’t being heard. I worry that those who are called and sent to carry out the mission of the resurrected Jesus in the world haven’t even heard the story or don’t really know what the story of Jesus is or that Jesus loves them.

I worry that the mission of Christ’s church is more about sustaining massive institutions rather than empowering deeper relationships between all people whom God loves. I worry that the mission of Christ’s church is more about designing the perfect program or event in order to attract people that look and act just like us rather than opening our hearts to ministries that don’t necessarily fit the molds that we’ve used before, even though these new ministries are right in front of us.

Or worse yet, I worry that we are waiting for someone else to come along. Someone else who we think is more qualified to carry out this mission or insist that Christ’s mission for us can only be carried out by paid professionals like pastors and church staff. Even Jesus, of which you and I are not nor will we ever be no matter how hard we try or think we can be like Jesus. Even Jesus, sought help to carry out his mission to heal and restore life and bless this world. Jesus’ first disciples, and you and I today as well, are called to be part of that mission.

But sometimes I wish we believed it more than we do.

There’s a story of a fantastic salesman who sold a complicated filing system to a thriving business in town to try and help them become more efficient and even more of a thriving business.

About three months after the sale, the salesman checked in with the company to see how the new filing system was working out.

“Magnificently,” was the response from the company’s owner and president. “Out of this world!”

“Well, how is business?” asked the salesman.

To which the owner replied, “We had to give up our business to run the filing system.”

Has the church of Jesus Christ created so many filing systems that we forgot about the thriving business we had originally been given? That we have stopped listening to each other or become so distracted that we fail to hear God saying to us, “You are mine. I love you. I’ve called you. I send you.”

Jesus mandate to his disciples is to travel lightly and keep moving. Nowhere in scripture do we see Jesus sitting down with the disciples and a map, or a snakebite kit, or an extra suitcase with provisions that have been allocated for in the budget, or a feasibility study, or even a specific set of goals, strategies, or objectives. Jesus gives the disciples what they need. The disciples – a group of ordinary men that are at times one of the most confused and unaware collection of misfits the world has ever known, just like any man or woman sitting in this worship space today. Jesus gives the disciples, and you and me, only what we need most: a mission and the authority to carry it out.

The disciples’ success in carrying out this mission has nothing to do with their own abilities to achieve success. It has everything to do with the authority of Jesus and the confidence that Jesus has in them to carry out the mission and move the kingdom of God forward.

But what is a disciple anyway? Up to this point in Mark’s gospel, the main objective for being a disciple is following Jesus. Jesus is changing that today. Professor Rolf Jacobson defines a disciple in this way in his book Crazy Talk: A Not So-Stuffy Dictionary of Theological Terms. Jacobson says that a disciple is “a person who follows Jesus, who is, of course, pursuing us. So being a disciple is always to know that Jesus is on a mission to us – to love us, to save us, and to bless us. And being a disciple is always to know that we follow Jesus on this mission and that Jesus is on a mission through us – to love through us, to save through us, and to bless through us.” [pg. 53-54]

But I’m not a disciple, you may be thinking. I argue that you in fact are and that Jesus has already given you everything you need to carry out his mission in this world.

And how is that possible? Well, Jesus says that you won’t need anything for the journey, so you don’t need to pack. Pastor Eugene Peterson translates Jesus’ words from verse 8 like this: “Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment.” [The Message]

Barbara Brown Taylor helps us go a little further as she offers this insight. “Our call, as followers of Jesus, as those sent with power and authority (that derive from him) is to do the same: to heal, to attack the demons that plague our society and the world that God loves, to share the good news.”

And finally, in his commentary on Mark, Lamar Williamson, Jr. says, “Our resources do not accomplish the work of God, nor, finally, does the quality of our own lives. What counts is the power of God conferred on us by Jesus Christ. That is why he dares to send us, why we dare to go, and why remarkable good still comes through the obedience of inadequate messengers.” [Mark, Westminster John Knox Press, pg. 121-122]

You and I are called to be disciples in order that Jesus’ mission to bless and save and heal the world may be fulfilled. Not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus has done and is doing through us.

Faith in Jesus is important to our life in Christ as we try to be disciples who carry out a mission. But have you ever given much thought to Jesus’ faith in you? He must have had at least a little faith in the disciples to send them out to cast out demons, anoint the sick, and share the good news wherever they were.

Here’s a great question that I was asked recently by Pastor Rob Bell. I think it’s a great question for all of us to think about today, “Do you believe that God believes in you?”

You and I don’t stay in one place very long. We’ll only be in this place for about an hour. So what other places will you find yourself in this week? Do you believe that God believes in you in those places to share a little bit of Jesus’ mission with people that you meet in those places?

At the grocery store? Smile and give thanks to the cashier who is helping you and is working three jobs just to pay her rent right now.

Your office or place of work? Serve your co-workers and customers as the hands and feet of God in our world.

The kitchen table in your home? Listen deeply to one another as you try to live out of the love you have for one another in all that you say and do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t stay in any one place too long. But before you leave, make sure that you’ve shared a little of God’s love with those that you’ve met.