Monday, March 21, 2011

this week's sermon

Before you start, I should let you know that at each service this sermon sounded just a bit different.  I am a manuscript preacher, so read scripture, pray and eventually write up what I will preach, but that doesn't mean that at the three services that it will come out the exact same way.  The main message is the same, it may sound a bit different in this form. 
Thanks for reading . . .

March 20, 2011
Second Sunday in Lent
Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Please pray with me,
As you led the Israelites through the wilderness, as you were with Joseph and Mary as they journeyed to Bethlehem, and as you journeyed with Jesus to the cross….you journey with us now.  Guide our hearts, minds and bodies on this Lenten journey.  Continue to turn us toward you, our light and our path, guiding us every step of the way.  In Jesus’ name, amen.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited this weekend.  Those of us here have been scattered around the community and the region during the week, but this day, right here and now, we have been gathered in together.  For some of us this is the place we are every week at this time…for others it may be a first time in this space and for others it may have been a while since you’ve been here.  But, really, none of that matters. 
We have all been gathered into this place by the work of the Holy Spirit…yup.  The Holy Spirit has been at it again!  And we are the proof of that work.  Surely we have been a part of God’s work here…handing out seed packets and inviting people to worship, but it is the Spirit that has brought each of you here. 
All of us, right here, are the example of seeds that have been planted by God. 
That’s why today is so exciting for me…you see, you don’t always see the results of planted seeds.  If you garden, you do often see the results of planted seeds.  You sow the seeds in the spring, move plants into the garden at the beginning of the summer and by early fall you are biting into tasty, dark red, juicy tomatoes J  (can you tell that tomatoes are my favorite?)  So sometimes you do see the results, but other times you may not. 
As we saw and heard from Heather…sometimes she sees the results of things she has said or taught and other times she may not.
You may share a kind word or prayer with someone…and not know what impact it had on him or her.  You may complement someone on a job well done, but not know how that affects them in the future…you may even make a suggestion to someone…they may or may not take it right away…so you don’t know if it ever helped them or not. 
I moved to Robesonia in January, so as you can imagine that I still have a few boxes to unpack.  As I was unpacking a box of books last week I came across this one.  It was a book I received in middle school…and no, I haven’t read it….yet.  But look what is in the front cover:

...signed… My 7th & 8th grade Sunday school teacher. 
And look at me now….proclaiming the grace of God and the good news of Jesus Christ….and sharing God’s love. 
That was just one of the seeds God planted within me…those many years ago…guiding me on my faith journey and bringing me to be here to serve you, now. 
I share this, because in the midst of Plant a Seed Sunday (Saturday) the reality is . . . is that we aren’t the best farmers in the world….(sorry to say it that way) but when it comes to spreading the God’s seeds…we are weak and foolish people….it took the quote in this book and many, many other people urging me to think about ordained ministry…it took lots of people to get God’s message across to me. 
I think it’s that way for all of us in our faith…we need those constant reminders of God’s presence in our lives…it’s as if we are all seedlings….always in need of that nurturing, love and care.  We need that reminder that we are only human…that we cannot make it through this life on our own.  Through the good and the bad….We need to hear that God is with us every step of the way. 

And we, foolish and weak, seek answers to questions that we have here and now….questions about our financial stability now and in the future, concerns and worries as our children grow up in a world that changes every day…questions and worries about the people of Japan and how come in the days and weeks after the earthquake things just seem to be getting worse and worse instead of showing signs of healing and recovery….
Every day we face challenging situations and questions like these...and we search for answers…
I think that in that way we connect with Nicodemus in our gospel lesson for today.  He comes to Jesus because he has heard that Jesus is a teacher who has come from God because of all the signs he and the other people have seen.  Nicodemus comes to Jesus to ask questions that have either been weighing heavily upon his heart or on the hearts and minds of others. 
He asks these questions of Jesus….and there seems to be this word play...answers from Jesus that don’t necessarily answer Nicodemus’ questions.  Jesus seems to skirt around Nicodemus’ questions…and maybe that’s because Nicodemus isn’t asking the right questions…
I had a professor in seminary who, if you asked him a question, he would immediately respond, “Why do you ask that question?” 
Sure, on the surface that response is frustrating, but I think it helped us get to the heart of what we were truly asking, why we were asking and it help the professor to truly give an answer that we were seeking. 
Maybe Jesus should have just said that to Nicodemus.  Why do you ask that question? 
Maybe Jesus should have said, Nicodemus…what is truly troubling your heart? 
Nicodemus, why has the Spirit guided you to talk with me? 
Dear Nicodemus, what is the good news of the grace of God that you need to hear from me? 
It’s no mistake that Nicodemus was meeting with Jesus, even if he didn’t get the answers he was looking for he was at least shaped and directed through his conversation with Jesus. 
It is no mistake that you are here today, any of you….
It is the Spirit that stirs within us, that drives us to and fro in this life…and guides us on the path and to the places where we will see, hear and taste God’s grace in our lives.  The Spirit has brought us all together this day to remember our sinfulness and to give thanks to God for continued forgiveness. 
The Spirit has gathered us together here, to hear God’s word, to share our deepest concerns with God through song and prayer….and to gather around this table.  A place where we hear the words “Given for you.”  No matter who you are….no matter what questions trouble your heart…this meal is a gift for you. 
The Spirit has gathered us here together and when worship ends, we will be like a pile of leaves that will be blown in all different directions…into our homes, our jobs, our schools…into our place in the community.  Strengthened and nourished by God’s word and meal we are sent out…into the world to continue to nurture and help other seeds grow. 
Who knows what the tending may bring…but we encourage others because we know God’s amazing love, grace and forgiveness….and we know how nourishing it can be for others…
As you go from this place…think about the seeds you have helped nurture in others…you may not see the impact today, or tomorrow….but you have made a difference in the life of someone in this room.  Because you are here…someone else has felt God’s presence….
So come back to this place, because you never know what impact that little action may have on someone else. 
And now may the peace which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

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