Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Feb 27, 2011; Matthew 6:24-34

Rev. George Miller Matthew 6:24-34 “Life A la Carte” Feb 27, 2011

Today’s message is dedicated to all the people who make worship and ministry at Emmanuel UCC possible.

To our Administrative Assistant who works hard to put out our newsletter and bulletin.

To our Minister of Music and the members of both choirs who works hard to give us such beautiful songs.

To our Moderator who spends time on the audio visual component of worship.

To all who head committees, sit on those committees, those who work behind the scenes, and those who work in front.

This sermon is dedicated to everyone here today because without you, we would not and could not be a church family.

Because we are a church family. And like any family we have our share of situations, personalities, and our share of traditions.

Traditions like Harvest Home, the Spaghetti Supper, and Yard Sale, in which so many worked so hard to make it all possible.

And new traditions like the Air Conditioner Chat.

We are a family, and every family has their own traditions. Right or wrong. Crazy or sensical.

Many times we’re not even aware of them until an outsider enters in. For example, last week I joined Rosie and her daughter for lunch at Homer’s, in which I was welcomed to their own family tradition: making root beer floats before your meal.

My family had our own traditions. Some of them dealt with order and control. Like my Mother’s need to get to church 45 minutes early so she could sit in her favorite pew.

Or going to McDonald’s. I was one of four children, which on Long Island was seen as a big family.

Before we could enter the restaurant, my father would gather us around and ask what we wanted to eat.

He’d frugally downsized our orders: a large fry became a medium fry; a medium shake became a small shake.

With all of our orders written down, Dad would go to the counter and we’d find our seats.

Looking back, I appreciate Dad’s logic. Who wants to be stuck behind some kids who can’t decide what they want to order?

There was this one time, when I had a girlfriend named Gina, and we all went out. We got out of the car. Dad took our orders. Even Gina’s, which caught her by surprise.

Although that was over 20 years ago, Gina still jokes about that day. Last month she e-mailed me and made a comment about eating at McDonald’s and it tickled me so, because right or wrong, crazy or sensical, my father had created a family tradition.

We all have traditions. They may bring back fond memories, they may irritate us, but they are ours, and those memories can not be taken away.

That’s part of what’s going on in today’s reading. Matthew has invited us to take a glimpse at an unusual family that did things different from the rest of the world.

After all, Jesus, his disciples, Mary Magdalene, were a family of sorts. They shared meals, they traveled together, they experienced life; they witnessed death.

Today, we hear a bit of from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus sees the crowds. He sits down. The disciples come to him. And he begins to teach.

In today’s portion, he is telling them not to spend so much time worrying about food or clothes. Jesus wisely reminds them that worrying does not add time to your life.

“God knows what you want,” Jesus tells them, “strive for the kingdom and these other things will be given to you.”

This is such a beautiful passage, so logical in its thoughts, so pastoral in its poetry. Simply reading it aloud gives one hope and a respite from their worries.

There is something about these verses that can make you feel as if Jesus is talking directly, assuring us not to worry about the things we think we need and items we wish to have.

But it also works on a corporate level. Jesus is talking to the disciples, people who had given up their way of life to help spread the Good News.

Comments about food and clothes were most likely directed to those who were already living in such a way that they were dependant on the hospitality of those they ministered too.

Following that line of thought, this message is not so much Jesus talking to the common person dealing with the every day aspects of life and survival.

Jesus is talking to the kingdom people who were busy doing the ground work for what would later become known as the church.

I don’t believe Jesus is saying food and clothes don’t matter. Nor do I believe Jesus is saying “Sit back, and do nothing.”

I believe that what Jesus is telling the disciples is “If you stay focused on why you are doing ministry, if everything you do is to make the Kingdom real, then you do not have to spend so much time worrying or being afraid of the what ifs and how-sos.”

Think about it: Jesus knew who the disciples were. Jesus knew what they were and were not capable of. Jesus knew their strengths; he knew their weaknesses.

But it didn’t stop Jesus from teaching them. From giving them the authority to cast out demons and cure diseases.

He trusted them enough to go out into the world to proclaim the Good News. He knew they would face dangers. He knew they would experience great joy.

And when they succeeded, they succeeded, and when they failed, they failed.

What mattered was that whatever they did, they did so for the sake of the kingdom, and for the glory of God.

Think about the Resurrection. When Christ appeared to the disciples, it wasn’t to chastise them, or judge them or to tell them what they could have done better.

When the resurrected Christ appeared to the disciples, it was to be present to them.

To assure them. To give them comfort. To remind them that they were “not losers but winners” (as one author stated).

In the Gospel of John, Jesus comforts a grieving woman who loved him with all her heart.

In the Gospel of Luke he walks alongside a couple trudging back to Emmaus and breaks bread with them. (*above 2 examples taken from “Snapshots of Truth” by A. Kenneth Hannum, pp. 17-18.)

In the Gospel of Matthew he greets the disciples in Galilee and makes a promise: “I am with you always to the end of the age.”

With those words, a new tradition, the tradition of Christ’s eternal presence, entered into the life of the Christian family.

…So what does this mean for us, as a church family?

It means that as a unified whole, we do not have to be so anxious, worrying so much about tomorrow, and about all the things we spend so much time worrying about.

It means that as long as we stay focused on the kingdom of God, as long as we strive to do what is righteousness, it is OK.

It is OK if from time to time the bulletin has a mistake or misses a key point.

It is OK if from time to time if a song falls flat or someone in the choir hits a wrong note or dings the bell at the wrong time.

It is OK if the AV does not project the right image at the right time all the time.

It is OK if we have a day where the sanctuary seems to be a bit hot.

It is OK if one of the banners is accidentally hung up wrong.

It is Ok if we only have 5 types of cookies instead of 20 types of treats.

It is Ok if we can only help out 5 organizations and not the 5 million that exist.

…It is even Ok if sometimes the sermon falls flat, or the liturgy is a little weak…

Because what Jesus is calling us to do is to strive first for the Kingdom, to set our sights on the Good News, to be reminded that what we do is not about ourselves or our egos, but it is about the glory of God and the work of heaven.

As long as we keep our focus on that, our heavenly parent will see to it that the other things will be given too.

In closing, we are a family. A magnificent, diverse, complicated family.

We are joined by a ministry that is not to be about tightly wound control or a fear of mistakes, set backs and missteps.

But instead, a ministry that is first and foremost focused on the Kingdom of God and the Gospel message.

Let us trust that as long as we strive to sing it, preach it, live it, reflect it and share it, God will do God’s part to make sure that everything else that is needed will be provided.

That is a beautiful tradition to behold.

All thanks and honor be to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, our heavenly treasures.

Amen and amen.

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