Rev. Debra Jene Collum
November 19, 2017
These Kindom of heaven parables sound so harsh. If you don’t keep your lamps full of oil you are going to be shut out. If you don’t put your money in the right place you are going to be called worthless and thrown into outer darkness.
These don’t sound like the Jesus we all know and love and count on to be gracious in the midst of our own failings and stupid choices.
So, those of you with children…have you ever been on a long car ride…the kids are in the back seat hitting and yelling and spilling their juice and it has already been a long day on the road. The kids are really making the trip unbearable and even dangerous because you are so distracted. Have you ever yelled to the back seat…IF YOU DON’T STOP RIGHT THIS MINUTE I AM GOING TO STOP THIS CAR AND YOU WILL HAVE TO WALK THE REST OF THE WAY!
Have you ever made threats like this that you know you could never carry out because you love your children way too much? You would never put them in any danger let along leaving them by the side of the road. But you need to get their attention. So you speak in the language hyperbole. Exaggeration.
Or do you remember how we used to say “you think I am mean now just wait until I really mean it?” Were you really going to beat your child within an inch of their life? Well, hopefully, no. But it was a good way of getting their attention and letting them know you meant business.
One of our favorite stories from this year’s trick or treating downtown is about a little boy. Paula Bessingpass was handing out little packages of candy corn. Paula asks each child to say “trick or treat’ before giving them their candy. Well, this one little boy looked in her treat bucket and said, “what’s the point of trick or treat? I hate candy corn!’ His mother was not happy with her son and she gave him a sign that he was in trouble for being disrespectful and ungrateful. Suddenly this little guy burst into tears. He knew what he had done was not acceptable and could only react to his mother’s disappointment by crying. Paula felt so bad. She keeps saying, I made a little one cry.
None of us want to make little ones cry. But there are times when we have to get our point across in ways that seem harsh or overstated.
Jesus, as a person who dearly loves us and is very clear that his message is a vital message for the salvation of the world, speaks in this over the top language to help us understand just how very important our lives are in his work in the world.
It is not enough that we say we love Jesus or that we say that we are Christians or that we practice our faith for our own sakes.
We must be about the work of spreading the work of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the grace of Jesus, the justice of Jesus throughout the community.
You see, the kindom of heaven, the commonwealth of God, is not to be sheltered under a rock. It is not to be hidden away for fear of corrupting or bad influences.
The commonwealth of God is to be invested wildly, with abandon. With risk. Without concern for its safety. Or protection.
You know we are all concerned for the future of the church. For the dwindling numbers in worship. The struggling SS classes. The lack of involvement in church functions.
So, the thing what we shouldn’t do is start protecting the church. Burying its assets for fear that they will get lost somewhere.
What we shouldn’t do is go quietly into that good night.
We should be shouting from the rooftops: we have something here and we want to share it with you.
In a world that is so divided and hurting and disconnected and sad. So very, very sad…When even our heroes are showing their vulnerability and sin, we need to be letting the neighborhood know: there is a place you can come to that will lighten the load. That will give meaning and purpose to all this chaos and disorder.
That will give you a place to belong.
A place to speak about your doubts and your fears and your disillusionment and your grief without always feeling like you are the only one who feels this way.
A place that will let you know that you are beloved by God.
You know for people like us it is hard. Hard to brag about who we are and what we do. Hard to say, we have something better for you.
But think of the ways you tell others about the things in your life that are important to you. Things like your favorite restaurant.
How do you tell others about that? You will ask them, have you tried it? Let me tell you about my favorite thing on the menu. And about the atmosphere. And the wait staff who are always so helpful and friendly. There is nothing so awful as a restaurant with grouchy help, no matter how good the food.
But when it all comes together and you have an experience of great food, conversation and ambience you will want to tell others about it.
I’m in a conversation group with a young man who is passionate about his job. He wants to tell everyone about how important it is for people with cognitive disabilities to be honored and to be engaged in exercise that enhances their abilities. He gets so excited when he talks about the changes he sees in his clients and the advances in exercise for the disabled.
He passion is contagious. And even though none of what he does applies to me directly; it makes my day so much brighter to hear his enthusiasm.
Do you know how many times people come up to me and tell me that the stories they hear about this church encourages them? How what we do makes them believe that the world is a better place?
But what would happen do you think if you all shared these stories. People expect me to tell the stories, to brag and to try to get people to come. It is my job, after all.
But what would happen if you said: let me tell you about confirmation Sunday. Let me tell you how we saw young people committing their lives to the church, in this day and age when no one commits to anything and particularly the church.
Or let me tell you about our baptisms, how the children come up and bless the water and how they know how to take communion because we believe everyone is welcome at the table.
Let me tell you about that, that everyone is welcome here. You don’t have agree with the pastor all the time. You don’t have to agree with each other. You don’t have to be a certain way. You don’t have to even believe all the time.
What if you would take your tiny bit of excitement and instead of hiding it for fear of feeling foolish or like someone who is bragging, what if you would throw it out with abandon to the wind and spoke those words that might change someone’s life?
Notice it doesn’t matter in the parable how much is returned, only that we haven’t hidden what we’ve been given.
It really upsets Jesus when we hide the work of God in the world. It’s kinda like he is yelling at us; saying what do you think you are doing? Don’t make me come down there again.
It won’t be pretty.
Because the message won’t change.
Don’t bury your treasures. Don’t bury the story.
Don’t bury the work of God.
Fling the stories out to all the corners of your world. In the restaurant where you are having coffee. When you are visiting your neighbor. When you are exercising at the gym. When you are out walking your dog.
Wherever. Tell the story.
Let the stories of Jesus go into the world.
Who knows what will come of it. Just know that you will make Jesus happy.