Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sunday's sermon

14th Sunday after Pentecost
September 2, 2012

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 15
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Please pray with me,

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen. 

There’s an old story, from the days before eHarmony and Christian Mingle, of a man and a woman who meet and fall in love by mail. 

After months of correspondence, the two of them agree to a rendezvous; he will travel to her city, and they will meet for the first time at a train station.  Because they’ve never exchanged photographs, each of them has no idea what the other looks like.  So, they agree on a simple visual code:  She will wear a green scarf, a green hat and a green carnation. 

As the man gets off the train, he begins looking for the one he loves.  Eagerly scanning the crowd,  his eye lights upon a woman with a green hat, green scarf and green carnation. 

In the instant of recognition, the man’s heart sinks: for this is truly one of the most homely, unattractive women he’s ever laid eyes on.  He very nearly walks off without speaking a word – but, he has come this fair, and she is expecting him, so he introduces himself.

“Am I glad to see you!” the women responds.  “Can you tell me what this whole thing is about?  That woman over there gave me twenty dollars to wear these things.” And there, on a bench, sits the most beautiful woman the man has ever seen.  Later, she explains that, all her life, men have fallen over themselves to get to her, only to become tongue-tied in her presence – and all because of her looks.  “I want someone to love me not for my outward appearance,” she confesses, “but because I’m beautiful inside.” 

So there we were, sitting on the floor in a circle in Assembly Hall at camp Nawakwa this summer.  I was in the middle of Bible Study with a group of 16 girls in fourth through sixth grades.  As we sat in the circle, we went around the group sharing something that all of us had in common.  We went through the basics, we’re all girls, we’re all at camp, we’re all in Assembly Hall, and then we made it to Audrey, who without even skipping a beat said, “We’re all beautiful.” 

In that moment, sitting on a dusty floor, the gospel was preached. 

Through the words of a 12 year old, we were each reminded who God created us to be…and that our beauty shines through when the message of a loving God is shared with others through words and through our actions. 

In our reading from James this day, seems to call all of its hearers to task.  The verse that jumps out and is printed on the front of our bulletin is, “Be doers of the word.”  But what does that mean for us here and now? 

This is where James can sometimes get tricky.  Martin Luther had concern over the connections that the writer of James made between good works and the grace of God.  For us as Lutherans, we understand grace as a gift, a free gift (no strings attached) from God.  There is nothing that we can do….no amount of ‘good and righteous’ works that will cause God’s grace to flow upon us. 

God’s free gift of grace was given to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

So what does that mean for us?  Knowing that we are loved….knowing that we are saved by grace alone…..what then? 

Do we just sit on our laurels in thanks and praise to God and hope that the rest of the world hears this message as well? 

We are encouraged, not just to hear the word…but to be doers of the word…

How are we different people because of this great gift from God? 

How do people see that we are marked and claimed and sent by what we do and say each and every day? 

What does it mean to be doers of the word? 

Is it like the cover of our bulletin, that shows children reading the Bible?   

Here are other pictures that would easily show people being doers of the word. 

It can happen at camp, like it did for many thousands of youth this summer.   

Or the city of New Orleans……as it did in July. 

Martin Luther said, “Our faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing."

I began the sermon with stories about being beautiful.  In the first, the woman was worried that her outer beauty would keep someone from seeing her inner beauty.  In the second, we don’t know if she was talking about inner or outer beauty…..but she saw us all as beautiful.  
You see, it's not about our outer beauty....letting the Word of God fall upon us and just rest upon us.  It's about letting people see us as beings that God created us to be....changed through the gift of God's grace in Jesus Christ....

I think that’s part of who God calls us to be in this world.  To see outside of ourselves….to not be concerned with how we look, or what we are wearing or about our size and shape….but to be able to see beyond ourselves.  Being able to put up a mirror in front of ourselves with the opportunity to see those who are around us, our neighbors, the people in our community and in our world who are hungry, homeless, sick or hurting.  To be able to see those around us to whom we can share God’s love and God’s grace with our own hands and feet and words. 

It’s safe to say that we have all had those moments, when someone has spoken to us, or done something for us and we have seen God at work in that person.  Because the action wasn’t about that man or woman, but it was about loving and serving their neighbor. 

Our faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing…..we are doers of the word. 

In what way do you show others your faith? 

In what way do others know of a caring and loving God because of ways that you are able to see beyond yourself? 

Take time this week to see beyond yourself….to look into a mirror….to see the one who Jesus loves….and to see how and where God calls you to be at work and at play living and breathing your faith to those around you. 

May all of our words and actions make even just the slightest ripple in our community and our world this week and 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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