July 31st, 2022 Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Readings: Hosea 11:1-11; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21
A Word for Weary People
It is summer! But today is the last day of July, and for many it is tough going. No matter where you live in the United States, summer and August make for uncomfortable days. July has gotten hot and dry. Vacations are used up; school is almost ready to begin, some have already started. Early August is an in-between time, and it is easy to feel a little worn, a little down, a little tired. So, the Lectionary serves up a great text to boost our spirits and help us keep going. In early August, in the middle of summer, we get the spiritual equivalent of a super vitamin B-1 complex.
Allow me to take the liberty of creating a paraphrase for today’s text about being raised with Christ. The writer of Colossians seems to say, “If you have been raised with Christ, then, by all means, live like it! Don’t get dragged down into ordinary, casual living. Live like people who are alive in Christ. Remember how good you look in the new clothes Christ has put on you. Walk with a spring in your step and a song in your heart. You have been raised with Christ.” In the dog days of summer this is a great text for us to take to heart.
Living like we have been raised with Christ means to take faith off the shelf and onto the streets. It means getting the Bible out of the bookshelf and blowing off the dust. It means to realize fresh ways that the Christian faith is not so much about what we know as it is about what we do. We need to realize faith as a verb and not a noun. Consider how the life raised with Christ could look today.
When we are raised with Christ, we can dare to live tomorrow’s life today. We can stop putting off living the best lives we are capable of. We can no longer make cheap and easy compromise with our best selves saying, “One day when things are right, I will do this; I will love more; I will be more kind; or I’ll trust God more.” Today is the day to live like that. Because we have been raised with Christ, we can take the future and live it now. We can dare to make real the petition of the Lord’s Prayer for the kingdom to come on earth as it already has in heaven. We can dare to live lovingly in a world that’s in love with war, destruction, social media, and character assassination. We can dare to live generously in a world choked by selfishness. We can dare to offer cups of cold water to strangers whom everyone else fears. Let the experience of being raised with Christ intoxicate you so that you dare to live as though tomorrow is today. The heaven that is coming to earth in the future can be here and now. The world of peace and love from heaven can be here right now!
When we are raised with Christ, we cultivate a new attentiveness to the beauty of the moment. So much of life is fractured because we try to do too many things at once. Multitasking has become a way of life for so many, me included. We multitask ourselves into a frenzy of living where one moment blurs into the next and we can’t remember at the end of the day what we have done. If you have been raised with Christ, live as Jesus did. If anything characterized his beautiful life, it was his way of being completely present in each moment. He felt the touch of a woman who needed him when hands of all kinds were reaching for his body. He heard the cry of a blind man through the overwhelming power of city noise. He knew how parched a woman’s soul was before she had any sense of being thirsty. He was present in ways we are often not because we are so distracted by things that don’t really matter. Think about the last time someone was truly present in a conversation with you and how that made you feel. One class in Stephen Ministry teaches you how to be present in the moment.
To be raised with Christ is to live with a clear vision about what is important and what is not. There’s that word from last week again, vision! When we are living fully in every moment, we experience aliveness and wholeness that are not possible when one is worrying about what comes next. To be raised with Christ is to live fully in the moment as Christ did in Christ’s vision.
If you have been raised with Christ, do something for the good of the world. Don’t get weighed down by the mundane concerns of life. Keep scanning the horizon and working for the kingdom of God. A college professor once told his students, “All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. People! Don’t tiptoe. Run, skip, hop, jump, or dance; just don’t tiptoe.” Bored people tiptoe through life. The antidote for boredom is to give ourselves to something larger than ourselves. This church is made up of you and me, but it is more than just you and me! When I respond on calls with Hope Fire, I am a life saver, physical and spiritual. It’s not about me, it’s about them who need help. I told Lyla Friday that we have made a difference here. She said no You have! I responded, no, we have; we are a team. Someone on Facebook tried to make it look like I was Hope Fire, no it’s been Merle Clouse, Charlie Biggs, Rev Jerry Crouse, Rev Ron Thomas, just to name a few. It’s been a team effort. I could not do what I do now without them. Some person was putting down the others on the Fire department for supposed inactivity. People out there do not know me as Ed the EMT, they know me a Pastor Ed from the Methodist Church who is also an EMT. So, people that makes us a team also. What are you doing in your Christian life that is about them, not you?
Have you ever had an idea pop into your head about how to do something or create something that would make life better for others? When that happens, usually a voice starts in our heads saying that idea is not practical; no one will listen; don’t be so foolish. Just get back to doing what you know and familiar with. Unfortunately, too many of us do just that and we start tiptoeing toward death. It’s a tragic way to live.
I believe that people who have been raised with Christ have the power to create a new world. The challenge of faithfulness is to live that power every day; to stay so focused on the resurrection experience that we know. We must overcome all obstacles and we can dare to live with holy boldness because of a Savior who walks with us every step of the way.
The words of Hosea 11 are the words of grace. There are people who believe the Old Testament is about retribution and legalism. These words offer another perspective. God cannot give up on God’s people. Such is God’s love. Even when the people sin and turn from God, the creating One will not abandon them. Grace is willing to make a move toward reconciliation even when all seems lost because grace can do nothing else. Here we see the sweet burden of love that will not let the loved one slip from love’s grasp.
The parable of the rich fool recalls the first commandment of having no gods before the living God. How easy it is to substitute false gods for the God of redemption and grace. Whatever we trust to save us is our God. Sadly, in all times there has been the idea, either a conscious or an unconscious level, that money, possessions, and things make for security. We give ourselves to obtaining these items, often at great sacrifice in terms of relationship and awareness and deepening of the soul. Ultimately, only the living God can and will save us. But false gods present themselves in attractive garb, and they promise great things. Maybe that is why the commandment to have no other gods before Jehovah is the first. Jesus’ parable offers great possibility for reflection on what or who we really trust for our salvation.
It is summer. The days are long and at times oppressively hot. To hot and tired people comes the challenge to reclaim the experience of being raised with Christ to know his energy and aliveness for today’s ministry. I read a story about a minister, that illustrates what being raised with Christ means today. An Episcopal priest, dressed in civilian clothes, walked into a motorcycle shop to look over the latest in two-wheel travel options. As he stood on the showroom floor wishing he could afford a large and powerful motorcycle, a salesman began to talk to him. The conversation went something like this.
“Hey, dude. That’s some bike, ain’t it?”
“It sure is,” said the minister.
“Man, you could put your woman on the back of this baby and really haul. I mean, it will leave rubber in three gears! Dude, if you come to town on this hog, there ain’t anybody who will mess with you. I’m telling you; this is one mean machine. By the way, bro, what do you do for your bread?”
“I’m a minister.” I find it somewhat humorous when people find out you’re a minister.
“Oh, excuse me . . . Reverend or Mister. What do they call you? You know, these bikes, I mean machines, they really get good gas mileage, and you can park them anywhere. Why, I sold one to a doctor just the other day!”
Reflecting on this encounter the minister observed, “No one is surprised to find a Christian looking at lawn mowers. Lawn mowers are safe, middle-class, and boring. Is being a Christian, more like pushing a lawn mower or riding a motorcycle?”
Good question! “If you have been raised with Christ . . .” Do people in our community know you are a member of Hope UMC? Do they know you are a child of the living God? My friends, maybe it’s time we take our living faith out on the road and give it the gas to see what this 137-year-old church can do!
(Adapted from The Abingdon Preaching Annual 2010 and Chris Andrews)