In pm's words
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February 13, 2017, 7:46 AM

the one about abundant life


Sermon from February 12, 2017

Text: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 and Matthew 5: 21-37

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ. Will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

So, have you ever been a part of something that meant so much to you, but you knew that your time as a part of it was growing short, that soon you wouldn’t be ‘at the head’ and that you hoped and prayed that the organization you were a part of would continue on after you’d left?

I remember when I was younger my dad got really involved with my Little League. Not my team – but the entire league. In fact, he ran the league for almost the entire time we were living in Italy. He helped raise funds so we all didn’t have the same different colored jersey but, instead we had replica MLB t-shirt jerseys and hats. It was awesome. I played for the Reds one year, the Braves another, and the White Sox my final year. It was so cool to have those hats and jerseys. He helped the coaches receive better training and skills, helped improve the ‘draft’ of teams so that there was a more equal distribution of talent so no one team dominated the others.

But, when my mom received orders to move back to the States, my dad had to resign his position as president of the Little League. I remember thinking and asking, “Dad, what’s going to happen to the league?” and he replied – “I don’t know, but I and others have done a lot of hard work to put the league on this path, I hope those after me continue that path.”

In our first reading this morning, Moses is in a peculiar situation. He has led the people of Israel for 40 years in the desert after they left Egypt and on their way to their true home in the land that God would gift them. Of course, Moses has been told that he will lead the people to the cusp, but he wouldn’t lead them into that land.

He is on that tip of transition, as he ages and will soon die; the leadership position that he has held will be transferred to someone else. He has to – as the saying goes, ‘let go and let God.’ But that isn’t always easy. It isn’t easy for those ‘leaving’ and it isn’t easy for those ‘who are left to lead.’

What makes this even more difficult is that we would ‘assume’ that the path that God sets before us as ‘life’ would be the easy, less turbulent road. The road with the least number of switchbacks, rocks, and detours. However, the road to ‘life’ is difficult, but the reward at the other side is life. On the flip side, the road that seems easy and smooth, ends up not helping us out all that much.

I once read a commentary that compared this – in a crude and simple way –to saving money. In fact, Erin probably thinks I should listen to that commentary a bit more. It is hard to put money away each month or a paycheck into savings. It is hard to ‘deny’ yourself the things that are before you that you’d like to enjoy in. Believe me, I know that it is difficult. But, for every bit you put away – the more you’ll have when you really need it. However, when we don’t save money – even a little bit – there are bad consequences that we’d rather avoid. If you spend every penny you earn, there will come a time when you’ll be flat broke and you will have to depend on the kindness of strangers and loved ones to help you out.

The fears that Moses had were real and founded. He didn’t know what life would be like for the Israelites after he was gone. It isn’t like they were all that ‘well-behaved’ and living to God while he was with them in leadership. They at this time were a pretty fickle people always seduced by the greener grass on the other side. He put up with their grumbling, raged at their idolatry, pleaded with God on their behalf, and has now brought them to the cusp of the ‘promised land.’ He wonders – will they keep their end of the deal?

God’s faithfulness had been proved (and still to this day continues to be) – God’s faithfulness is there in and for us, that constant grace that we are given out of great love from God. The question at hand is will the people of God be obedient to God’s faithfulness?

Now, we don’t face the same literal temptations and lures of sin that the Hebrews did, but I don’t think our temptations are all that different from theirs. Yes, our time is radically different than theirs. But, we do face quite a bit that pulls us from the paths that God has set before us.

We are seduced by wealth. We prioritize our own comfort over other’s needs. We put our convenience in front of urgent concerns within our society. If we don’t think it directly affects us, we’d rather not notice or care about it. We consider God’s demands on us to be a lower priority than things of our own choosing. We all do this.

Try as we might to walk ‘both paths’ at the same time. We can’t do it. These paths are far separated and don’t intersect. One is easy, one is difficult. One seeks God’s will and desire, the other is filled with the desires and wants of our own choosing. Yet, the one that is more difficult leads to life – full and abundant with God.

This leads us into our Gospel this morning. Let me just say, this is another one of those ‘wish I didn’t have to preach on this’ sort of texts.  We hear Jesus this morning say and compile a lot of ‘should dos’ for us as disciples. Essentially Jesus is calling for us to ‘do it now.’ Don’t wait.

Make peace, straighten out your life. Because the Kingdom of God is here – now. God is present here, now, to help you in giving strength to do all of what is before you that is difficult.

Throughout this whole time as Jesus has been preaching and teaching this ‘Sermon on the Mount’ he has been building his disciples up to be builders of community. Again, and again emphasizing how important it is to care for those around you.

Now, that doesn’t mean that because God is present that it’ll be less difficult or less awkward. In fact, it doesn’t mean that at all. The life of a Christian isn’t easy, especially when we add in the fact that we are called to care for others outside our little ‘circles of trust.’ We are constantly in flux with the world where we see what’s going on and we know – deep within ourselves, that tiny part we attempt to push down and ignore that shouts to our brains – that isn’t how it’s supposed to be –people shouldn’t be treated like that, that God loves all of us – why can’t we love one another?

We’ve been given commandments and guides to follow and emulate. The commandments of God are not vicious rules imposed upon us by a ‘heavenly tyrant.’ Far from it, instead they are intended for our own good, serving as guides along the way to help us choose the better path.

Jesus didn’t come to say – do this or else. Instead Jesus comes and says – if you do this – forgive, love, be merciful, obedient to God – you will live a life of abundant life. It isn’t going to be easy, but man is it rewarding! Look at the gift you’ve been given.

This life that we have been baptized into; this life that Moses led his people towards and Jesus calls us into. It isn’t easy. But, there is the reward for abundant and full life. Living in this life, following the high standards that Jesus sets before us lead us into a prosperous life with God.

But, it isn’t the life of ‘prosperity’ that others envision, proclaim, and seduce us with. God hasn’t promised wealth, fame, or perfect and easy health. No, God has promised blessing. We recognize that a blessed life is one God is a part of. That God is dwelling with and among you and us. Jesus calls us into this life through our baptism and fills us with strenght to live this life as we are fed at the table.

In this life of faith, there will still be setbacks. There will still be times that we are drawn away by the seemingly greener grasses of the world. However, in and with God, we aren’t turned away. We aren’t cast aside. We aren’t forgotten. God’s promise still holds fast. God continually calls and beckons to us. Wrapping us in those arms with an embrace of love and forgiveness. Reminding us that God is present, here and now.

So, this is the call of today’s text on all of us. Do it now. Live by kingdom values now. Straighten out your life now. Make peace with others now. The kingdom of God is here, now. The spirit of God is giving you strength for whatever changes you need to make, now. The love of Christ is forgiving you and inviting you to forgive others, now. Now.

Amen.

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