Sermon for October 10th, 2021
My singular goal, as your priest and pastor, and as the rector of this church, is for each and every one of you to have a living relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord AND Savior. My only mission, my only agenda, the thing that I actually, really care about is that the people in this parish are given the space, the resources and the guidance that they need to meet Jesus and to develop a relationship with him as Lord and savior. Maybe that sounds very churchy and pious, but it’s true. Now naturally I can’t force this relationship to happen, you can only lead a horse to water, and it’s not that I don’t get distracted sometimes, like anybody, but that’s what I really care about and everything else needs to serve that goal.
Do I love this building and want to preserve it and improve it and keep it as beautiful as possible? You bet, but only because this is a sacred space where people meet Jesus. I have no interest in being the curator of a museum. We have pretty things here, and I love pretty things, but they are not idols to be worshiped in and of themselves. Their real value is in their ability to point us to God. And that is the value of this building; if this building ever stops pointing people to God and serving as a sacred space where people meet Jesus, then it will be worth no more than the land it is sitting on.
Do I love this community of misfits and want the parish to grow and expand and gain new members? Yes! But we aren’t here to run a fancy private club, nor are we here to run a senior center, a commercial enterprise, a social service agency or a daycare. Church has to be about more than that. There needs to be a deeper connection here, more than just hanging out with some friends once a week, or just doing nice things in the neighborhood. People don’t need the church for that. They can do that on their own.
There needs to be a connection to Jesus Christ; to God. We need to be teaching people to follow him as Lord and Savior, and I say we very intentionally, because it’s not just my job; it’s our job. Helping people to meet and walk with Jesus should be our shared mission and agenda, not just something I am trying to sneak in on you. And I am also saying follow him as Lord and Savior very intentionally, because these are two distinct ways of living in relationship with Jesus and we need them both. We need a Lord and we need a savior.
If Jesus is Lord, then that means when he says to do something, you do it. You take it as a legitimate command that has authority behind it. That means understanding that you are accountable to him. The Book of Hebrews tells us that “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” The true word of God, the word made flesh, Jesus, is living and active. He is a Lord that has authority and power. He cuts right through all your garbage. Nothing is hidden from him, and before him, one day you will give an account. Jesus, as Lord, gives commands that he expects you to respond to; he cares about how you live your life. He cares about what you do with your money.
What did you think I wasn’t going to talk about the gospel reading this morning? Jesus is approached by a man who thinks he’s doing pretty good commandment-wise, thinks he is obeying God’s laws, thinks he is a good person, he’s a nice guy, but he asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus has the audacity to tell him to sell his stuff, give the money away and follow him and the man can’t do it. There are limits to his commitment and to his obedience. You know in the gospels, Jesus calls all sorts of people to follow him, and they usually do it; they leave behind family and jobs and security and they follow Jesus because they see in him something that is just so compelling, but NOT this man. Something is holding him back. He can’t commit to Jesus. Not fully. Now do I think that Jesus is some peace love and dope hippie that is trying to push a communist economic agenda? No I don’t, but Jesus is very clear that money and possessions can be a barrier between us and God. With money comes a little power and security. I like to have power and security. I like having money in my wallet, but here’s the thing if you’ve got your fist clenched around a dollar bill, then it will be closed to everyone else in this world, including Jesus. It is so easy to substitute the power that comes from money, for the power that comes from knowing and following Jesus. People settle for money power every day. Jesus doesn’t want you to settle. He wants you to have a connection with real power and real security, and that can only come from putting your hand in his hand, not putting your hand in your wallet. So yeah, Jesus cares about how you live your life, how you follow his commandments, and how you follow and serve him in this world as your Lord, with the resources that God has entrusted to you. Jesus cares about that.
But Jesus isn’t just a Lord, he’s also a savior. He knows that there are some things that you just can’t do. We need more than just a good teacher in this world; we need a God that can do what we can’t. Thing is, no matter how hard you try to live a good life, assuming that you are trying, no matter how good you are at following Jesus’s commandments, you are going to fail somewhere. You are missing something. You lack something. You are not as good as you think you are. Jesus said no one is good, BUT God. In the Book of Hebrews this morning, we are told that we will be accountable for our actions and that the secrets of our hearts will be revealed, that’s the bad news, BUT we are also told that those secrets are being revealed to a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because he was tested just like we are, that’s the good news. Because of this we can approach the throne of God with boldness, because we are assured that there is mercy and grace there. Jesus is not just a Lord that gives commandments, he is also a Savior that forgives us when we break them. We need both, and Jesus is both. That is what a relationship with him is all about.
Yeah, Jesus cares about how you treat people, how you obey the commandments, what your priorities are and yeah one way of evaluating your priorities is looking at what you do with your money, that is just a fact, but no amount of money is going to buy you a ticket to eternal life, and no amount of correctness or doing the right thing or being nice is going to earn you salvation. It doesn’t work that way. We are sinners and we are mortals and for mortals, eternal life is impossible, but not for God. Everything we have as Christians: our hope, our security, our power, our righteousness and our promise of eternal life all of it comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Nothing is more important than that. So that has to influence everything we do here. I can’t fix any of you and we cannot fix the world, but Jesus can. Jesus can fix you. Jesus can change minds and hearts in ways that you can’t even imagine. So my goal, our goal, in this place, in this church with all of the resources that God has entrusted us with, with every Fair we organize or worship service we conduct, is just to help people meet Jesus and follow him as Lord and Savior. We have to try and trust him to do the real heavy lifting.