Sermon: “Just Think What We Could Do” (Oct. 23, 2011)

How are your investments going?  Are you getting a good return on your stocks, 401Ks, CDs, money market account?  Is your house worth more or less than it was worth three years ago?  Do you owe more on your house than it’s worth?  How are your investments going?

Jesus tells the story of an investor who got a great return one yearBhis fields produced abundant crops, more than he was able to store.  Mulling over what to do with the abundance, the man decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones.  But before he had the chance to fill the new barns, the man died.

That=s what you call irony.  Or maybe tragedy.  Jesus frames the story as a warning: ASo it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.@  Kind of makes you want to go right out and buy some God stocks, doesn’t it?  I mean, when you consider the alternative.  Perhaps our stewardship theme this year should be “Give, or Else!” 

No, I’m joking.  I really don’t think Jesus meant that if we aren’t generous toward God we’re going to die.  At least not die physically.

I heard once about a woman who died with a large balance in her bank account.  Just days before illness would claim her life, the woman had the chance to help someone with a small sum of cash.  She refused.  Despite her healthy bank balance, despite her advanced years, that woman died a spiritual pauper.  She hadn=t invested wisely.

Twelve-year-old Nkosi, on the other hand, was an extremely wise investor.  Born HIV positive in South African, Nkosi was raised by a white mother.  That mother, Gail Johnson, worked tirelessly for Nkosi and for other people with AIDS inSouthern Africa.

Among Gail’s many projects was a home for people living with AIDS, many of whom were children.  The place was called Nkosi=s House.

By the time he was 12, Nkosi was into full-blown AIDS and wasn’t doing well.  Even so, one of his favorite pastimes was going to Nkosi’s House and playing with the children there.  One evening, Nkosi asked Gail if he could spend the night at the shelter and maybe take his allowance money and buy the kids pizza for supper.  “Sure,” his mom said.

When Nkosi arrived, he asked the matron if he might treat the children to some pizza… but supper already had been prepared for the evening.  “Perhaps tomorrow night,” the woman said.  Nkosi looked disappointed–he loved pizza–but agreed.

After a lively meal–Nkosi was a charmer–the diminutive child climbed into the tub for one of his famously long baths.  The hot water relieved his body’s significant pain.  During that bath, Nkosi had a seizure.  He lived for several more months, but never regained consciousness.

Like the elderly woman, Nkosi died with money in his pocket.  But unlike the woman, it had been Nkosi’s deepest desire to share that money with others.  Nkosi didn’t live long, but he did live generously in the few years he had.  Nkosi invested his life and his resources wisely.

How about you?  How are your investments going?….your investments in your family, your children, your community, your church?   How are your investments in your church going?

Have you ever thought about giving up on church?  I sure have.  The first time was in seminary.  When you learn about things like the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the advocacy of slavery, it makes you wonder if the church is something you want to be part of.  By the end of seminary–after some close encounters with some rabid fundamentalists–I was toying with what has been called post-Christianity.  I was this close to ditching church.

But then I moved toAtlantaand got involved in a couple of really cool churches, one of which–Virginia-Highland Baptis–ordained me and called me to serve as Minister of Education.

My second flirtation with post-Christianity came one morning in 1999 at theCivicCenterinMacon.  Two thousand plus delegates of the Georgia Baptist Convention were considering whether to dis-fellowshipBthat is, kick outBVirginia-Highland and Oakhurst Baptist inDecaturfor our ONA commitments.  Two people spoke for us, and each church’s pastor said a few words. But the speakers who got the crowd riled, the ones who elicited whoops and hollers and applause were the ones who called homosexuality an abomination.  That’s the only time in my life I’ve had 2,000 people cheering against me and people I cared for.  I was terrified.

That negative encounter with Christians almost did it for me.  If this is what Christianity is all about, I thought.  Forget it.  Just forget it.

But then I remembered the faces of our church members in Macon…the way they winced every time the word “abomination” spewed from another speaker’s mouth.

And I remembered another church member’s face, the person who, after hearing a sermon I’d preached on the good news that God’s love is for everyoneBwhich seemed pretty everybody’s-heard-that to me…Even so, that person looked me in the eye and said: “Thank you.”  When I remembered that man’s “thank you”…when I saw how devastated my friends were that morning in Macon, that’s when I knew that–despite its flaws–I couldn’t leave the church.

Because, yes.  The church is deeply flawed.  There are too many parts of the body of Christ who beat up on the fragile, the vulnerable, and the different.  But despite its flaws, the church is still the best means we have of sharing the Good news that God’s love is for everyone.  All of us can cite examples, personal experiences with churches that have gone bad–or worse yet, churches that have gone boring–but what might happen if church went right?  What might happen if we took the Gospel message seriously, this good news that God’s love REALLY is for everyone, the good news that God really does hope for everyone’s wholeness?  What might happen if we really tried to live out that message?

Oh, man!  Can you imagine if the church were “clicking on all cylinders?”  What might happen to this world if the entire body of Christ lived the good news of God’s love for every person?  What might happen to this church and the community around us if we got even more intentional about sharing the good news of God’s love?  Just think what we could do!  Just think what kind of return we’d get–that God’s kin-dom would get–if we invested even more of our time, talent, and treasure in this place!  Think of all the people whose lives would change– people whose lives would change!–because they experienced God’s love in this place, among these people.

Don’t you know that that’s why we’re here?  We’re here to live God’s love and share it with others so that their lives can change…

so that the spiritually hungry might be fed,

so that the wounded might be healed,

so that the grieving might find comfort,

so that the lonely might find friendship,

so that the weary might find rest,

so that the outcast might find acceptance,

so that we all might experience God=s love

and in that love discover our own worth,

our own dignity,

our own preciousness in God=s sight.

What we’re doing here is holy work!  We are busy building God’s kin-dom.  What will you invest?  

 In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.

 Kimberleigh Buchanan   (2007)  2011

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

 

 

About reallifepastor

I'm a pastor who's working out her faith...just like everyone else.
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