the one where it doesn't have to be flashy...
July 3, 2017, 9:33 AM

Sermon from July 2, 2017

Text: Matthew 10:40-42

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May 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 felt like doing something in the church? You might have felt a slight or even a strong urge to dive into a new or existing ministry that Redeemer or another congregation was supporting; but, you just didn’t do it? Have y’all felt that way before? Even as a pastor, I too at times suffer from this inability to participate in new and existing ministries.

And the reason I typically fall on is that, “I just don’t know if it’ll be good enough. I just don’t know if I can do as well as I would want to really good.” So, instead of just trying and doing good ministry – truly good ministry – we end up not participating and then doing no ministry.

In our Gospel reading today, we hear the end of the conversation that Jesus has been having with his disciples. A few weeks ago, Jesus invited them to do ministry with him. Sending them to the places that he has already been. Participating in the ministries of healing, cleansing, raising, and forgiving. Jesus invited them and continues to invite each of us as followers in faith to do those very same ministries. Jesus was and is inviting all into the same work that he himself is doing and is present in.

Then, Jesus got to the tough parts. How doing ministry in his name, in the radical and drastic ways that he was calling for, would bring people into conflict because it pushes against our inner most thoughts and easily built walls and borders. The radical hospitality and love that he calls us into isn’t easy. It does indeed go against the normal grain of the world and the prevailing and established norms of the culturally religious – even today. It is hard and difficult to live into the radical grace, welcoming, and hospitality that Christ calls for because it places each of us outside of our tidy little boxes. It shatters our sense of what community is and reshapes and molds it into the community of God that Christ envisions. A community that is diverse, loving, and caring. A community that thrives in its worship and service to God because of what God has already done in the life of the world.

It’s hard and many others will balk at it, even though it is what God is moving us towards.

So, we’ve heard Jesus invite the disciples and us into ministry. We’ve heard Jesus tell us that it won’t be easy – in fact it’ll be pretty difficult.

Today, we hear what that ministry might actually look like.

Welcoming and offering.

Really. That’s it.

Welcome one another and be welcomed by offering yourself and the gifts you bring.

But, here’s the thing. Because of the American culture we live in where everything has to be ‘bigger’ and ‘better’ than what others have done – no matter if it is good we tend to not do anything if we cannot ‘compete’ with the flashier folks down the road. Where if we can’t do something BIG than why even bother doing it?

Jesus ends our very short – perhaps the shortest Gospel lesson in the entire lectionary – with something that is relatively small and easy. Giving a cold cup of water.

That’s easy. But, it isn’t flashy. It isn’t necessarily ‘special’ compared to what others might do. But, for the person that receives it? It can mean the world.

Each Sunday we read in our bulletin that there are those in this community who are in need of food and that we have an opportunity to give of our abundance to help a family in need. Yet, at times the buggy grows empty and the shelves at the Manna House hold less and less. I’ve talked with folks – in many places not just here in Newberry – that they feel like they can’t give because they can only give a jar here or there, a box of this. When in actuality they want to be able to give 20 or more boxes of a meal or food, but they aren’t in a place in their life to do that. So, if they can’t give the big number, they end up giving nothing. The little number doesn’t look like it’ll help anyone.

My dad tells a joke that he’d love to have a million dollars – who wouldn’t right? But, he doesn’t want to ask some multi-millionaire or billionaire for a free gift – that’s crazy. He’d rather just have 1 million people give him a dollar. Believe me, he’s tried. Each of those dollars alone don’t amount to a whole lot, but together? You could do a whole lot.

Currently we’re in the midst of collecting water bottles to give to those in need walking on the roads in our community and in the communities in which many of y’all work. In the times that I’ve done this, no one wants to give just ‘one’ bottle. They always want to give ‘more.’ They want to be able to give a box of bottles – big bottles – bottles in such size and quantity to really make a difference! But, if they have only one bottle the prevailing thought at times is, “Well – I’ve only got this. I’ll look bad. I don’t have anything else to offer. So, I’ll just wait until I have more…” Yet, the waiting turns to forgetfulness and busyness – and that can turn to nothing.

This applies to so much of our ministry and life of faith. If I can’t give SO MUCH, then I really can’t give anything. Is it really worth it? If I can only offer an hour to help out in this ministry and/or service in the community – am I really doing anything?

If I can only go and visit one person – is it really worth it?

If I can only give one jar of peanut butter – does it really make a difference?

If I can only offer one dollar – does it even matter?

The answer from our Lord this morning is yes. Yes, it does.

Even a cup of cold water to these littles ones. Yes.

There is so much we can do to be with, to serve, to do great ministry through Redeemer in our community in the name of God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t have to be flashy, it doesn’t have to be grand, it doesn’t need a seemingly endless marketing campaign – it just needs to be authentic and intentional.

Offering a cup of cold water to a person in need.

Giving even a dollar to a worthy ministry.

Handing over one box of spaghetti.

Offering an hour of our time to someone else.

All of it is worthy. All of it is wonderful. All of it is good.

The ministry doesn’t have to be grand or flashy. In fact, most ministry isn’t grand or flashy. It’s usually small, intimate, and incredibly powerful in those moments.

The sin of our world in which we are FREED from in Christ’s death and resurrection is the thought that we can’t make a difference in small ways. The sin that if we don’t measure up, you better come back only when you’re bigger and of better use and to be used over the person next to you. Our Lord has freed us from all of that stress and anxiety. We don’t have to do that. We are free – to serve others in all the ways we can.

I want to end with a short story I’ve heard and I’ve shared through my time in ministry.

Once upon a time there was a man who used to go to the ocean for peace and quiet, and for inspiration to do his writing. In the morning, he usually walked on the beach before he began his work. One day as he was walking along the shore, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer, bending, then wading into the waves, arms extended.

It pleased him that someone would dance to the beauty of the day and the rhythm of the waves. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young girl. The girl wasn’t dancing, but instead she was reaching down to the sand, picking up something and throwing it gently into the ocean.

He called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?”

The girl paused and replied, “Throwing starfish in the ocean.”

“I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?”

“The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll be stranded on the beach and die.”

“But don’t you realize that there are thousands of miles of beach and starfish all along the way. You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The girl listened and considered. Then she bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea. She watched a wave lift it high, and then it sank into the life-giving water.

“It makes a difference for that one,” she said.

Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones… Amen.



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