Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sermon for June 21, 2009

June 21, 2009 Acts 4:1-13
“Cool Like Coffee” Rev. George N. Miller

A young woman had lost her job. It was the latest in a series of let-downs, so she went to her father to talk about life and how things were so hard. She felt like she couldn’t make it; she just wanted to give up, tired of struggling.

Her father took her into the kitchen. He filled three pots with water, placed them on the stove, then opened the fridge and took out carrots, a carton of eggs, and a canister of coffee beans.

The young woman said “I’m not hungry.” Her father said “Just watch,” and when the water came to boil he took the carrots and placed them in a pot. In the second he put the eggs, and in the last he placed the coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

Eventually he turned off the burners and fished the carrots out and put them in a bowl. He took the eggs out and placed on a plate. Then he ladled the coffee into two giant mugs.

Turning to his daughter, he said "Tell me what you see." "Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

The father brought her closer, telling her to feel the carrots. She noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and peel off its shell, seeing that it was hard boiled.

He invited her to sip the coffee. She smelt the rich aroma, took a taste, and smiled for the first time. After another sip she asked, "Carrots, eggs and coffee? What does it mean?"

Her father explained that each of the objects had faced the same adversity. But each one had reacted completely differently.

The carrots, once strong and solid, became soft and weak after being placed in the boiling water.

The eggs, once easily broken, looked the same, but their fluid center was hardened.

The coffee beans, however, were unique. They found a way to work with and change the water.

"Which are you?" her father asked. "When things get hot, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?"

The daughter wasn’t sure what she was at that moment, but she knew she loved the taste of the coffee and how it warmed up her hand.

Let us think about this for today. What are we? As a church and as individuals? Are we the carrots that seem unbreakable but with pain and adversity lose our strength?

Are we an egg that starts with a gentle fluidness, but in the midst of trouble becomes hardened, and though looking the same on the outside, has a stiff center?

Or are we the coffee beans, changed by the circumstances, but also able to change the circumstance? Is it when the water gets hot that we can release our true fragrance and flavor?

Yes, at times we all become like the carrots and the eggs. But into order to survive, in order to grow into who God is calling us to be, we have to learn to be like the beans.

When things are at their worst, how do find ways to elevate ourselves above them, to not only better ourselves but to change the situation around us?

For role models, we can look at the disciples in today’s scripture. After Jesus’s ascention, they continue his ministry by preaching and healing. But like Jesus, they have found themselves in some very hot water.

Peter and John have healed a lame man, but instead of being thanked, they’re arrested, brought before the court and questioned.

How many of you have done something you thought was nice only to be chewed out by someone else? It was going on even way back there.

Peter, cool as can be, says “Look, if you’re really upset because we did something good, you should know it was through the power of Jesus Christ, and it is he alone who can offer salvation.”

This surprises the council. After all, they were the Supreme Court of the time, featuring the most powerful people of the land, and a fisherman has the gall to tell them off.

Either Peter possess rocks for brains or an enormous amount of courage, because a comment like that could get him killed.

The council tries to figure out what to do. They want to punish Peter and John, but realize it could make things worse, so they let them off with a warning. But as we see in chapter 5, the disciples go right back to preaching and healing, because they’re cool like that.

When arrested again, Peter says “We must obey God.” This time the court wants the death sentence, but someone states “Pay them no mind, and this weird religious cult will just go away.”

The disciples are given another warning, and to make sure they get the message they are flogged. The council assumed this would harden their hearts and weaken their spirits.

But instead, these coffee bean-like disciples of Christ celebrate and go right back to their teaching and healing.

You got to love and be amazed at what our spiritual ancestors endured for us.

Even after Jesus was murdered on the cross, even after the disciples’ repeated arrests and death threats, Christianity grew. From 12 to 500 to 5,000 people and beyond the Good News thrived, even while existing in political and social pots of boiling water.

Not only did the Good News survive, but like the coffee beans, it influenced and changed the world around it forever.

As we gather this morning to celebrate Father’s Day, it’s important for us to recall and give thanks for what our spiritual father’s endured for our sakes. This story isn’t just part of our collective heritage, but it’s also an example of what to expect in life.

Read the Book of Acts and you’ll meet people who overcome amazing obstacles, changing what’s around them. They’ve allowed the Spirit to empower their lives, witnessing to the world, no matter what the cost.

Here in Acts we come across true heroes: our Peters, our Johns, our Stephens, people we can identify with, who are not so different from us, working class folk who were touched by God.

But how can their trials compare to the trials we face in Wyoming, MI in 2009. We not only live in a different time, but a completely different culture.

When will we ever risk being flogged or have to stand before a court because of our faith? When do we ever have to answer to what we believe?

But if you think about it, as Christians we do stand before courts every day: the courts of life; of circumstance and situations.

There are those of us who are standing before the court of health. Our bodies doing things we don’t have much control over. We’re aging, we’re limping, our eyes are dimming, our heart’s erratic.
We have a disease or a condition, something’s broke, something’s bent, something squeaks when we stand up. For some its age, for other’s it’s a bad hand we’ve been dealt.

We stand before the court of health which says in all reason “You’re in hot water and look what you got. God is not real, Jesus is a lie, your faith is a joke and you are forsaken.”

And to that we say “I know my God is real, Jesus loves me so, and as long as I have hope I will never be alone.”

There are other courts we stand before, such as the court of money. Our bills are late, our checkbook over drawn, our credit cards maxed out.

We have to decide between food or heat, gas or telephone, medication for me or my children. Bill collectors at our door.

What happened to all the money we saved? Where did the pension go? How do I make my money last before I die?

We stand before the court of finances which says in all sense of reason “You’re in hot water and look what you got. God is not real, Jesus is a lie, your faith is a joke and you are forsaken.”

To which we reply “I know my God is real, Jesus loves me so, and as long as I have hope I will never be alone.”

We stand before the court of family. To which we are told our parents are dying, memories are being erased and final breathes are being taken.

Sisters don’t want to talk, brothers are fighting, exes are being total jerks and refusing to pay child support.

Your flesh and blood is making bad choices, going through tough times, and there ain’t nothing you can do. And the one person you despereatly seek forgiveness from won’t give it.

We stand before the court of family which says in all sense of reason “You’re in hot water and look what you got. God is not real, Jesus is a lie, your faith is a joke and you are forsaken.”

To which we reply “I know my God is real, Jesus loves me so, and as long as I have hope I will never be alone.”

It is not an easy time for our world right now. America is suffering, and we in Michigan seem to be in some really, really hot pots of water.

With the economy floundering and churches struggling we are correct to say the temperature’s being turned up and everything around us boiling.
And what should we do? We could be like the carrots and become soft and weak, leached of what make us wonderfully us.

We can be like the eggs and create a tough interior that no one can get to.

Or we can be like the coffee beans, finding ways to ride out the scalding current, working with the situation to transform it and be transformed by it.

One way to do so is to recall the joy of the disciples. Of how they welcomed the gifts of the Spirit, trusting its movement and allowing it to fill them with cool courage.

The disciples could do so because they saw their troubles through the lens of Jesus Christ, in which the final outcome was already promised and the end of the story was revealed

In conclusion, when the waters of life begin to boil and you find yourself beginning to sweat, may you muster up your courage and harness your strength, allowing Christ to take you to that higher level, trusting that God will prevail and anything we endure is truly but a moment in time.

Because of the resurrection we are assured that God brings hope out of despair, and no court of life can separate us from the amazing grace and love of our God.

All thanks be to God who gives us our story, to Jesus who offers us salvation and the Spirit that fills us with courage.

Amen and amen.

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