Sunday, September 3, 2017

He Did What He Meant to Do

Scripture Lessons: Jeremiah 15: 15-21 and Romans 12: 9-21 Sermon Title: He Did What He Meant to Do Preached on 9/3/17 Last Thursday I faced a sort of moral dilemma. Last Friday night I faced one too – Martha Goodlett asked me whether a preacher should be cheering for the Blue Devils when they’re playing Holy Trinity, but I want to talk about the moral dilemma from last Thursday. I blocked off a small part of my morning to go to the Chiropractor. I’ve found that chiropractic really helps with all kinds of aches and pains, especially my migraine headaches, and I have this wonderful new chiropractor who you know – Dr. Janet Lewis, but I didn’t have an appointment, I just hoped the wait wouldn’t be too long, and I blocked off this time to slip in. However, it was 8:30, when everyone else was trying to slip in – or, when everyone else had made an appointment like a respectable patient. The waiting room was full, so I asked the receptionist how long she thought the wait would be. She said, not too long 15 or 20 minutes, but my car was at the mechanic and Sara needed her car that I was driving back, so I told the receptionist that I would come back later. Now the moral dilemma. Kelly Dewar keeps up with my schedule. She sees when I block off time for the chiropractor, and doesn’t plan any meetings for me during those times. It’s wonderful the order she brings to my life, but when I get back to the church, I’m thinking, what if Kelly asks me, “how was the chiropractor?” What am I going to say, since now I didn’t actually even go? I blocked off time to go to the chiropractor, not to drive in the car for 30 minutes. That’s not something I would ever schedule. So, what I mean here is this – what do you call it if you don’t do the thing that you meant to do? Or to think in terms of faith – is there such a thing as a non-practicing Christian? What do you call a person who says he believes but never puts that belief into action? Who never does the thing he meant to do? I had lunch with Dr. Sam Matthews this week. He’s the Senior Pastor over at First Methodist. We were at the Country Club and he pointed out this table in the corner. He said, “You see those ladies. That’s the No Sew Club.” “What is the No Sew Club?” I asked. He told me that, “They used to sew and now they don’t, which is like a lot of my church members – they’re in the No Church Club – they used to come and now they don’t.” What do you call it if you only used to do something? Or, what do you call it if you never did? You only meant to? Something that Paul brings to light today in this lesson from the 12th Chapter of his letter to the church in Rome is that Christianity is not a noun but a verb – when you stop being a Christian, when you stop living as a Christian, are you really a Christian any longer? These words are the perfect Benediction, because they send us out into the world to live our faith: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” You’ve heard these words before. As I’ve settled into my office upstairs I open the main drawer and there they are: Go forth into the world in peace. Be of good courage. Hold fast to that which is true. Render to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the faint hearted” – you know these words because Dr. Jim Speed sent us all out into the world to live them every Sunday. Every Sunday he preached here he reminded us as Paul does that we must live our faith. And it looks funny if we don’t. As I mentioned before, my car has been in the shop. Mary Margaret Doyle sent me to see a man named Gary at the Jett Shell on Roswell Road, and he told me that if I mention him in the sermon he’ll give me a 25% discount. I’m just kidding about that. But he did give me a ride back to the church after I dropped off the car, which was wonderful. And this guy – he’s in a book club with John Knox, he’s been in the mechanic business for years, he’s a grandfather, he’s a wonderful person, and listen to this – his grandfather was a Baptist preacher. Gary the mechanic’s grandfather was bi-vocational, meaning that he worked in the mill up in North Georgia during the week and preached all around on Sundays, and Gary, as a young man, cherished this time when he remembers ridding the circuit with his grandfather, hearing him preach as he traveled from church to church. His grandfather, a seasoned preacher, told young Gary the story of the most memorable funeral he officiated. As he entered the sanctuary he could smell the flowers before he saw them. There were more flower arrangements than he had ever seen before. The chancel was covered. He could barely make his way to the pulpit. Obviously, this was a well-loved woman who had died. You could see it. But the last song of the service was that old Gospel Song: “Just One Rose Will Do.” The soloist sang, among all those flowers: When time shall come for my leaving, When I bid you adieu; Don’t spend your money for flowers, Just one rose will do. And yet the chancel, the pulpit, the whole room was covered in flowers. What do you do with that? What do you call it if you don’t do the thing that you meant to do? Can you sing the words without living them? Can you believe in the Lord Jesus without following him? Can you be a Christian without living out this faith? That’s what got me about my Brother Joel Osteen this week. I call him brother, but I love this church better than his. And I’m a little jealous of his hair, and while we are both preaching the same Gospel, what does it say about the whole Church if we declare a message of “extending hospitality to strangers” but the doors to our church are reluctant to open in the time of disaster and flood? Maybe you heard that eventually the doors to his church did open – that after three days the doors to the church opened to welcome in those who had lost their homes to the flood waters, and I don’t know the whole story. I can’t be self-righteous here, but it did strike me as odd that the Oscar Blues, Muller, Coors, and Anheuser-Bush breweries immediately shifted production from canned beer to canned water while the church took three days to open her doors. What do you do with that? We all have to remember that for some people, the only Gospel they will ever hear is the one that we live through our actions. When our doors are closed, they hear a Gospel of Condemnation. When our hearts are closed, they hear a Gospel of Rejection. When our noses are upturned and our chests inflated, they hear a Gospel of Favoritism. But when we open our arms wide in forgiveness and reconciliation they hear the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must live our faith. Christianity is about what we believe in our minds and carry in our hearts. The Prophet Jeremiah didn’t just carry around a Bible – he ate the pages and lived the words. So, we also must live what we believe, and what we believe is this: That our Lord Jesus Christ came to the earth. And when he did, he loved sinners. He ate with outcasts. He treasured children. He forgave sins. He lifted broken women up from a society that had objectified them. He empowered fishermen to preach the most important message this world has ever heard. And he so lived what he believed, that as the great act of love to human kind he gave his life so that you and I might know our worth in the eyes of God. He did what he meant to do. And what does he ask of you? I’ll say it again – not as Paul wrote it in Romans chapter 12, but as the pastor who I grew up with said it every Sunday: Go Forth into the world in peace. Be of good courage. Hold fast to that which is true. Render to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the fainthearted. Support the weak. Help the afflicted. Honor all. Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the Holy Spirit. And the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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