Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Do I Get Out of This?

All Saints’ Day [Observed]
Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
November 7, 2010
Luke 20:27-40

Jesus didn’t really care who He was speaking to. He would go up to people and talk to them just as He would engage in conversation with those who came up to Him. He was there to talk, to give them of Himself. He didn’t draw lines of saints or sinners or any other category people might draw up. If you had ears He’d be happy to talk to you. If your ears didn’t work He’d open your ears so that you could hear Him.

This is the kind of free life Jesus has and the kind of life He came to bring to us. When you are in Christ you have this kind of freedom as well.

Now today has a somewhat unusual focus for as we are observing All Saints’ Day, which was seven days ago, November 1. But today you also are going to hear something that you usually hear about this time of year but a week earlier than normal. Next week is our Commitment Sunday but today you’re going to hear the “Stewardship Sermon” you’d normally hear on Commitment Sunday.

If we consider who we are in light of who Jesus is all of this fits together. Jesus is ready and willing to engage with everyone. You, me, other Christians, non-Christians. His freedom to meet us on our turf says something about who He wants us to be. He wants us to have the kind of life that He has. In the case of non-Christians, it’s evident that they don’t want this kind of life He offers freely. However, in our case, it becomes clear in our daily lives that we too often want nothing to do with it also.

What is the reason for this? It’s because we defy category. If you were to say of your fellow Christians that they are saints someone could just as easily point out that they are sinners. And if you were to explain that your fellow Christians are sinners, someone could just the same defend the fact that they are saints through and through. But no matter, Jesus is not interested in categorizing us. He’s much more interested in what we need. He’s intent on giving us life.

Think for a moment about what kind of people were coming up to Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. They were upstanding religious people. They were actually religious leaders. But what was the state of their belief system? Well, they denied a fundamental doctrine, the resurrection from the dead. Sound familiar? I am always amazed when I run across a Christian, especially a pastor, who denies the resurrection. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, that belief has been around a long time.

But what strikes me about their approaching of Jesus is not that they really want something out of Him, it’s that they want to engage Him on their turf. So, actually, they do want something out of Him. They want Him to conform to their reality. They’re not interested in what He has to offer them, they’re interested in how they can get Him to bolster their own notions of how they view themselves and what they want for their lives.

But more to the point, every person approaches Jesus with the question: What do I get out of this? What do You, Jesus, have to offer me that I can put my stamp of approval on? The good thing for us is that Jesus knows this already. It’s not like He came to earth and discovered a bunch of self-absorbed people running around. He knew the condition of the hearts of everyone. That’s actually the reason He came. So He came not to find out where we’re at, but to deliver us from where we’re at. He knows who we are. And to Him it doesn’t matter. He’ll take us where we’re at. He’ll engage us in our own self-absorbed little world we’ve created for ourselves.

When we ask Him, What do I get out of this?, His answer is: Me. We want what we want for ourselves and He gives of Himself for us. And that’s exactly where we see then how people react. For some, Christ is not enough. For some, Christ is a quaint idea but there’s got to be more to what we need than some man who claimed to be God and died on the cross. Most of the people who are in church every Sunday are Christians, we do believe that Christ is our Savior, that He died for our sins. But is He enough? Do we need more than just His suffering and death and resurrection?

Ask yourself this: is this enough for you when you are lying flat on your back in the hospital? Is Christ and Him crucified all you need when you’re on the outs with your teenager? Is Jesus and His salvation won for you in death sufficient when you’re battling depression?

If you say that it’s not enough then you are denying that what Christ gives you is what you really need. When He gives you everything, which is what He gives you through His suffering, death, and resurrection, and you are wondering what you get out of it then you are still wanting Jesus to come over to your side rather than seeing that you already have everything in Him.

This impacts every aspect of your life. It impacts how you interact with your family, with your neighbors, your co-workers, the cashier at the store. It impacts how you spend your time at work, at home, with others, by yourself. It impacts what you do and what you don’t do. It impacts how you see your life and how you view others.

Instead of wondering what you’re going to get out of it, you’ll begin to see how you can offer to others what you have been given by Christ. And that is, simply, life. Life not as we know it. Life not as we so often pursue. This is life beyond what we so often seek. This is life that goes beyond what we normally try to get out of life. If only I had this or if only that weren’t standing in my way or if only I weren’t saddled with this then my life would be the way I want it to be. It’s all about what I want to get out of it.

But Jesus doesn’t give you what you want. He gives you what you need. He doesn’t satisfy your desires, He fulfills your needs. He gives you life. That’s why you are a saint. Even while you are a sinner, He makes you a saint because you have life in Him. But I suppose it’s still fair question to ask what you get out of it. In fact, I think it might even be a good question to ask. What you get out of it is a life in which you are free to live in Christ. You are free from the shackles you place on yourself by wanting what you want to get out of life and Christ’s gift to you. You are free to live in a way where you entrust your life solely to Christ. Where His suffering, death, and resurrection is enough for you, no matter what you’re facing in life, no matter the smallest thing you’re doing in your day, no matter who you talk to.

Imagine what a little congregation in Allied Gardens would be like if we approached everything we did as a congregation in this way. Instead of saying, where are we going to get the money to stay in the black, we stepped out in faith and did all that we do for the sake of the mission, to go and make disciples of all nations. Instead of wondering how certain things we do for the sake of the mission are going to be accomplished, we simply set out to accomplish them with the means God has given us, namely, our time, our talents, and our treasure. Instead of seeing this buildings and property we own and what we do here as something we have to figure out how to upkeep, we saw them as an opportunity to use them for the glory of God in bringing Christ to others, no matter who they are—saints, sinners, everyone. Instead of wondering where the money is going to come from to fund the mission of this congregation, and yes also the bills and the salaries and the expenses, we look at ourselves and realize that we are the people of God and the ones God has called upon to fund the mission with our offerings. If we rely on an outside source of income then we are not relying on God. If we see that God has given us new life and in that life a freedom to entrust our lives, our congregation, and all that we are and do to Him, then we will see that we won’t have time to think about what we get out of it. We will be getting so much out of it we might start feeling guilty about how much we enjoy living in the fullness of life our Lord gives us.

The Sadducees went to Jesus denying something He brings about—resurrection from death. Will we go to our Lord denying that He can bring about His mission in our lives and in our congregation through the simple things He gives us in the new life He has given us—our time, our talents, and our treasure? Or will we say: This is who we are. This is why we are here. Prince of Peace is a light of the Gospel in Allied Gardens and beyond. Prince of Peace exists to make known the life that all people need and that only Christ provides in His suffering, death, and resurrection. It is enough. Amen.


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