26 Sep Children of the Light
Does God have a specific purpose or plan for your life?
Is there a reason you are here? Jesus calls us the “Children of the Light.” What are we called to do as God’s children in this generation? I think a morning like this in the life of our church, talking about Connections, requires us to ask big questions like this. And if there is a purpose, if there is a reason, is there a way for you to live out this life of faith you are called to in this community. Is there a group or team or ministry that can walk with you? And since were talking about big questions we might as well talk about the 16th chapter of Luke for a minute. The parable of the dishonest manager is often regarded as the most perplexing of Jesus’ parables.
Sandwiched between the story of the Prodigal Son & the Rich Man and Lazarus, it might be safer to just sum it up with the second half of verse 13: “You cannot serve God and wealth.” 500 years ago, Martin Luther warned us about the love of money, writing: “Many a person thinks they have God & everything they need when they have money & property, in them they trust & of them they boast so stubbornly & securely they care for no one. Surely such a person also has a god—mammon by name, that is, money & possessions—on which they fix their whole heart. It’s the most common god on earth.”
That’s about as timeless a quote as one can find from Luther. And indeed, the more things change the more they stay the same. In our world today there are people who do amazing things with their wealth. And there are people who exploit the poor and vulnerable of this world in a never-ending quest for MORE! The Torah, Jewish Law, prohibited the charging of interest on loans. But wealthy landlords found other ways to make a buck, by rolling interest into the principal of the goods or loans – at rates that appear to have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 25% for money and 50% for goods. Five zero percent. A modern analogy would be predatory types of payday loans. Or high interest student loans. When the manager in our story today was reducing client’s bills, he was likely just reducing the debt back down to the original principal. Restructuring the loan, making restitution, and thereby being restored back into community through his actions. Like Zacchaeus the tax collector when he makes restitution through his actions, repaying what he had defrauded four-fold. Jesus proclaims, “Today salvation has come to this house!”
Living out our Faith
In these chapters in Luke we’ve heard: the parable of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, Prodigal Son, Rich Man & Lazarus. Jesus is teaching and leading us into a way of life that doesn’t just involve worshiping God with our lips. But living out our faith as God’s children in our day to day lives, in a way that respects the poor and vulnerable, those discarded by society. That is what today is about, deepening our connections with God, self and Other so that we might live out our faith and serve God in a way that gives glory to God. I’ll go back to Martin Luther who said it best: “But know that to serve God is nothing else than to serve your neighbor and do good to him in love, be it a child, wife, servant, enemy, friend… If you do not find yourself among the needy and the poor, where the Gospel shows us Christ, then you may know that your faith is not right, and that you have not yet tasted of Christ’s benevolence and work for you.”
Luther really knows how to cut to the chase doesn’t he? Pretty convicting words for a predominantly white middle-class congregation. But no more convicting for you than for your pastors. In his book, Working the Angles, Eugene Peterson writes;
“The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper’s concerns — how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will spend more money. The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does this work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor’s responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is this responsibility that is being abandoned in spades.”
And I thought about these words a lot this week in my preparations. Preparing for our Connections Fair with the devout resolution that Jesus came to show us how we are to live our lives. As God’s children this is how we are to treat each other, both in support of one another in this community and out there in our neighborhood… in our world. Not to win God’s favor, but because that is how families treat one another. We are all part of God’s family. Called to love one another just as Jesus loved us…to love our neighbor as our self…to love God not money or wealth or possessions. This is how people will know you are part of my family, Jesus says, if you do these things. Richard Rohr once said: “We worshiped Jesus instead of following him on his same path. We made Jesus into a mere religion instead of a journey toward union with God and everything else. This shift made us into a religion of belonging and believing instead of a religion of transformation.”
Longing for Real Transformation
But we still want transformation, we long for transformation, that’s why the acquisition of more wealth is the fastest growing religion in America today. Because we’re sold a bill of goods that says money equals transformation. But real transformation comes from following in the footsteps of Jesus. Real transformation comes through face to face encounters. It comes from diving into the sin and messiness of communities like this. Because there is transformation happening in the life of Good Shepherd. We experiences it as we support one another through the ups and downs that come from living in a broken world. As we serve together side by side in this church and in our communities. The Moo Crew was out last weekend serving a meal to 500 of our closest friends with the folks from LIFE 102.5. And we got face to face with people and we prayed with some people. Who were blown away from the generosity shown through a simple meal.
This week kids from Orchard Ridge Elementary stopped by to say thank you for the many ways we support them, both with pen pals and fishy crackers… not necessarily in that order… and they made this sign with their hand prints and it’s just awesome. And this week we reconnected with members during weddings and funerals and as our AMPED confirmation program started back up. And getting to this Sunday with our Connections Fair. Getting to next Sunday with our Congregational Meeting to vote on our new welcoming statement. It’s been messy, and it’s taken longer than anyone expected. But this is faith, this is life and this is what being the church in the world is all about. Giving thanks to God by living in a way that would bring Glory to the very name of Jesus himself.
Thousands of Reasons Every Day
So, when we pose the question, does God have a purpose for your life? Is there a reason you’re here? Then I also have to ask, “Why are you selling yourself short?” Because you are God’s child and you are created beautifully and there are a thousand reasons each and every day why each and every one of us are here. A thousand opportunities to share God’s love each and every day. And this morning we see even the little things matter. As God’s children we inhabit a very important time in our world and our culture. We are the children of light in this generation. Called to worship God not only through prayers in here, but in practice out there!
We’re always tempted to believe that we can’t afford the time or money to help those in need. If I only had a little more ______, I could really help, I could do it. But today we see it’s not about the size of the effort, great or small, little or much. The truth is that our ability to help those in need is dependent mainly on our willingness to do so. SOME of us can give time. SOME of us can give money. ALL of us can give love.