In pm's words
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September 28, 2015, 8:48 AM

the one about disappointment...


Sermon from September 28, 2015

Sermon Text: Mark 9: 38-50

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord 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.

You know, sometimes when you end a reading from the Gospel on a Sunday you don’t really want to shout out, “THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD! PRAISE TO YOU O CHRIST!” I think this is one of those times, because it really doesn’t lift us up very much. These aren’t words that gently pat us on the head and make us feel warm and fuzzy.

No, these are words that say it might be better for us to be a peg-legged, one armed, one-eyed individual than have all our limbs if they cause us to sin. Doesn’t that just give you the warm fuzzies? Now, I don’t think here that Jesus is speaking literally. After this talk there wasn’t a rise in the sale of axes and sharp objects to cut and maim one’s body at this time.

But, Jesus here is speaking to his disciples because they disagree with what someone else is doing. They disagree because this other person is doing things in a way that they wouldn’t do. They disagree because this person is doing things a part from them. Disappointed in how they feel about themselves, disappointed in how others respond to that individual and not them, disappointed because they thought they were the ones that were only going to have that authority and power. Yet, there’s that dude over there curing and casting out demons – in the name of Jesus – and he’s not part of the inner circle that they are a part of.

I see this gospel being lived out today – this week in fact – because of one person’s visit to the United States. What’s interesting about this individual, is that sometimes – especially those in a supervisory role – will continue to say something that is good for those people who work with them and work perhaps for them. But, the people – all people – won’t listen. Only because their boss or supervisor is supposed to say that. However, if someone from the outside, either as an observer or as an invited individual comes in and says pretty much the same thing – then people ‘get it.’

Well, I see that happening this week with Pope Francis ‘in town.’ People are clamoring and up in arms over this ‘new and fresh faith’ that the Pope speaks of, when in actuality this is the same stuff that the gospel has been saying for quite some time – kind of since the beginning. Of course, there are those who are a tad disgruntled as well. Those who think the Pope’s words and actions don’t go far enough – that he still holds strong to a lot of Roman Catholic doctrine, but then there are those who don’t like what he says because he is speaking of a faith that they hear, but don’t practice. Then there are those who can get frustrated because people listen to him, but not to them even though they have been saying some very similar messages.

Disappointment and disagreements. The disciples were pretty good at it. Just last week they were arguing with each other, the gospels are full of the disciples not understanding, or misunderstanding, or dropping the ball in some way.

This got me thinking, I’ve been here a little over three months now, and now is about the time that we’ve known each other – just long enough – to start getting upset in one way or another. Where expectations are starting to meet reality. And I’ll be honest with y’all, I cannot guarantee a lot of things – I can’t guarantee almost anything. But, the one thing I can absolutely guarantee with you is that at some point in this hopefully long relationship as pastor and people I will disappoint you.

I won’t preach a text in a way you like. I’ll lift up things in conversation that you don’t agree with. I’ll drop the ball. It’s going to happen. Maybe it already has. And that works both ways as well. As I’ve seen this past week of all the praise and laud that Pope Francis’ words are getting – and they are really, really good – I swear that guy is a Lutheran sometimes – and I can’t help, but be frustrated by it. Because whether it is here from people at Redeemer or those I see around the community and world who say, “Why hasn’t anyone spoken like this before!” And I’m over here saying, “Hello! Who have you been talking too?” Frustration and disappointment.

We read all these texts this morning and they all focus a bit on failing to meet expectations in some way. Moses is tired, the Israelites would rather be in slavery and eat meat than be free and eat more of this manna, the community to which James spoke dealt with the expectations of who a follower of Christ is, the Psalm lifts up the fact that we are fallen and ask God for guidance and love, in the gospel we see the disciples fighting over who has authority and power, and Jesus pushes back at them saying – our lives are in need of pruning – though he uses the metaphor of cutting and gouging of body parts.

Like I said, this isn’t one of those ‘warm fuzzy’ gospel readings. I surely don’t feel good when reading this text.

Because I know there are things that I do that cause me to sin. Where I can’t bridle my tongue, or I misinterpret a message.

I think those are all things that we are prone to do. We always fall short. We aren’t perfect. Even the disciples were far from perfect. In many ways people will disappoint. I’ll disappoint. I’ll be disappointed. You will be disappointed. In some way, at some time. It will happen. Frustration will abound.

So, what are we to do?

I think James leads us into that perfect space. We care for one another. We lift one another up. We pray for one another. We look to one another, and even with that disappointment fresh on our minds, we come to one another and say, “Peace be with you…” I pray for you – in all that you do. So that together we can continue to proclaim and lift up Christ to the community around us.

And when that time does come that we disappoint, where we feel that we’ve fallen short. We are reminded again and again from our text in Numbers that God hears those cries, those pleas that we cannot do this all alone, that the burden we carry is heavy. And God’s response is – you don’t have to do this alone. You are a community together – look at you, look at all of you. I am here. My Spirit rests upon you. See, I am with you. You are not alone.

Even Jesus in our gospel lesson lifts this up. Jesus talks about salt. He mentions that if salt loses its saltiness, you can’t season with it.

But, there is this funny thing about salt – it doesn’t lose its saltiness. In fact, studies have shown that people only think salt loses its ‘saltiness’ when they think it’s old. It is all in their head. Unless you have some pretty significant equipment, knowledge, and know how; the salt that you leave on your table or in your pantry that doesn’t get used for years will still be just as salty as the day you brought it home from the store.

So, Jesus talks about salt. Jesus states that all will be salted.

We have salt. We have that spice that seasons the world around us with love, grace, and the message of freedom in our Lord Jesus who is the Christ. We are salty. We don’t lose that.

When we were splashed with the waters of our baptism and marked with the sign of the cross, we were welcomed into this large family and community of faith. Our baptisms never go bad, they never are invalid. God’s word stands firm over each and every one of us. We have been declared good. Forever and always by God.

As we walk through life, as we experience life and interact with others. As we get to venture into opportunities of ministry – new and well-worn – we will be confronted with times that we will be disappointed with others and that others might be disappointed with us. It’s going to happen.

When that time comes, it is going to feel – and it does feel – like we don’t have that salt, that the spirit has left us. That we are left out to dry. But, we are reminded that Jesus – that God – that the Spirit – has salted us. Salt doesn’t lose its saltiness. That love of God that sends us out to be with others in this wonderful community – that compels us and sends us to do ministry never lessens. It never leaves us.

We are still salt. Salt for the earth. Salted by God. Sent by Christ. Guided by the Spirit.

Yet, we will still bear at times the heaviness of ministry and all that entails. And there will be opportunities that we are confronted by that from others. And that’s good, we confront, we confess, and we discuss out of love and in prayer with one another. James lifts up that we are in prayer with one another.

Why? Because God listens. God answers. In prayer we are made whole. We are made whole in our life and in our love. In prayer, our spirits are made whole and well.

We do this together y’all. We get to pray, we get to do ministry, and we get to be in relationship with one another. Its messy work this life of a Christian. We don’t have to go chopping off our hands and feet to make it even messier. But, we do acknowledge that there is sin. That we do sin. That others sin.

Remember, that you are salt. I am salt. We are salt. We get to season the world with God’s love and grace.

God has blessed us. We are in this together. As pastor and people. As the community of Redeemer. As a world who listens to the words of a person not a part of our tradition of the church. We remember, and we know. We cannot lose our saltiness, because God never leaves us. Amen.

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