Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sermon from March 6, 2011; Matthew 17:1-9

Rev. George Miller
Matthew 17:1-9
“What the Outside Reveals”
March 6, 2011

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Beauty is only skin deep. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. That’s what we tell our children.

Then come Sunday we teach them about Rebekah who was “fair to look at”, Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat, and about Jesus’ face shining like the sun and his clothes becoming dazzling white.

If appearances don’t matter, why does the Bible share these details?

Is it possible that sometimes appearances do count and are a means in which the ways of heaven are seen and God’s glory becomes visible in the very fabric of our lives?...

…Today’s Scripture is known as the Transfiguration. It takes place 6 days after Jesus tells the disciples that he will die in Jerusalem and be raised three days later.

Although it was just 10 weeks ago that we witnessed the birth of Christ, we are about to join him on a death march that will bring us to the place where Jesus will be betrayed and nailed to the cross.

It’s a journey we embark on every year. But first we are first taken to a mountain top, in which past meets present to move us into the future and the ways of heaven are seen.

It is during this moment that we discover Jesus is a victor. His face shines, his clothes become luminous, not because of some mutation, but as a way to show what is already true, revealing God’s favor and the purpose that has been woven into his existence.

The Transfiguration is about the outside revealing what has always been inside…

A way to illustrate this is a scene from the Broadway musical “Legally Blonde” which played in Tampa not too long ago.

“Legally Blonde” is one of those feel good plays about embracing your full potential, no matter what others may say, and about celebrating who you are.

The main character is named Elle, a blonde beauty who makes her way into Harvard. While there, she meets and falls in love with a scruffy teacher’s assistant named Emmett.

Emmett has a great future as a lawyer. He’s smart, compassionate, a hard worker; unfortunately, his clothes don’t reflect this.

He wears a raggy corduroy jacket, an outdated tie and shaggy hair. At one point his boss kicks him out, citing his attire.

As a way to help Emmett out, Elle takes him to a department store where he is shown different clothes, stating what he likes, what he does not.

Eventually they find him the right tie, and a classic, fitted suit. He tries it on…and when he comes out of the changing room the audience applauds and he and Elle go “Woa.”

“I look…good.” He says “But it’s just me.”

To which Elle sings “That’s the best part. The outside is new. But now it reflects what’s already in you. Couldn’t change that if I wanted to. And I do not.”

…The outside reveals what’s already inside.

That’s part of what the Transfiguration is about, and it is a good theme for us as we embark on our Stewardship season.

Last week we heard about how it is OK for us to make mistakes and be imperfect if we have sincerely done our best for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

Today, as we gather in this holy house, we are asked “Is it apparent where our heart is?”
Do we present ourselves as the living, thriving family of God that we truly are?

Can an outsider or first time visitor tell that
Emanuel UCC sincerely loves the Lord, that we do the kingdom’s work and that we honor this space?

In other words: are we dressing our faith in a timeless suit or in raggy corduroy jacket?

This is God’s house. And as important as prayer, Bible Studies and sermons can be, it takes much more to keep this house going.

It requires time donated by our dedicated members. It requires talents shared by everyone. It also requires financial gifts.

Ministry is an expensive endeavor to perform. To keep our church running, we depend on donations.

What do those donations do? For one thing, they help to make sure that the outside reveals what’s inside.

First, we are a people who worship God. To do so, we have microphones, furniture, the AV system. Music.

As stated before, we have what’s been called the best music program for a church our size. Connie, Sue, both choirs do an amazing job. But it comes at a cost.

For example, it costs about $170 a year to maintain our handbells. Or should I say $3.27 a week.

The songs the choir sings cost about $200 a year, or $3.85 a week.

Can anyone say they are not worth it? The anthems, bells, organ, musicians; they all work together to give God our praise.

Raggedy corduroy? No, our music program is a timeless, well-fitted suit.

Second, the ministry that takes place. Cards that are sent out, calls that are made, house, nursing home and hospital visits; the mileage they require.

The Agape offering that helps those in need, not to mention the fees we pay to help run our conference and denomination.

Should these forms of ministry be treated like an outdated tie?

What about the buildings and grounds? The mowing of the grass, trimming of bushes, the landscaping. The signs of welcome, the care of our roof.

All these are ways we care for the space in which we worship and do ministry in.

But it doesn’t stop there. To truly welcome the stranger in, we need lights to illuminate the rooms, plumbing that works, clean water to drink, a heating system that keeps us warm, and air-conditioning to keep us cool.

Let’s not forget supplies like paper, ink, and computers to put out the bulletin and newsletter and the electricity needed to make it all possible.

All these things, plus many, many more, add up to create a budget we must meet each and every year. A budget that says we reflect
what we feel, that our treasures show off our hearts.

The question is, does our offering reflect a fine suit or an outdated tie?

To maintain our church, it costs $193,000 a year. That sounds like a lot. But allow me to break it down. In the last 11 months we have averaged 95 people per week in worship. 95.

If each person donated $39 a week, we would meet our budget. If each person donated $40 a week, we’d end up with over a $4,000 surplus. If each person donated $41 we’d have a $9,000 surplus.

Last week we heard Gene talk about the biblical principal of tithing and the importance of giving to God.

We acknowledge that like sex and politics, money is a very personal thing to talk about.

Agree or disagree, one of the main ways we show our love to God is what we are willing to give.

Give to church. Give to neighbor. Give to those in need.

Do we give in a way that says God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are deserving of a classic suit or do we give in a way that the Holy Trinity should make due with an outdated tie and raggy corduroy jacket?

Do we share our financial blessings in such a way that Emmanuel UCC reflects all the ways that God has blessed us?

Are we willing to step out on faith, trusting that our financial gifts will become a way to assist God in making the ways of heaven visible in the very fabric of our lives?...

In conclusion, let us embrace the joy of stewardship so that this glorious, living body of Christ can continue to be transfigured again and again, reflecting all the holy glory, peace and joy that dwell within.

Thanks be to God who has given us so much, the Holy Spirit that aids in our transformation and to Jesus Christ who makes the ways of heaven that much easier to see. Amen and amen.

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