2021-08-01 10th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
In my short 42 years of life, what I have noticed about people in general, painting with a broad Bob Ross brush, is that the majority of people want to get through life by doing the very least amount possible. Here’s an example. A young boy was in grade 5. The teacher gave the class an assignment that the little boy didn’t want to do. Paint a picture of spring or some other creative thing, something along those lines. But the little boy sighed in dismay because he thought the assignment was stupid. He did the very least amount of effort to conform with what was assigned. He splashed a bunch of paint of various colours onto a page of paper, scratched out a scary looking gopher, an evil looking bird, and a half-dead looking flower! It looked horrendous, but he didn’t care. It was dumb and he didn’t want to do it. A few weeks later, the boy’s mother came to school for a parent teacher interview. Then the jig was up! She saw her son’s “Picasso wanna be” painting and was horrified that a grade 5 student could paint something so terrible! The real blast came later when they got home from the meeting. Then the lecture began about doing every job to the very fullness of our ability and giving it my all - er, I mean, our all at all times.
Nobody teaches us how to be slackers. Nobody needs to show us how not to give it our all in life! It’s a hereditary trait that comes part and parcel with our fallen, sinful nature. The same thing can be applied to our Christian faith. Like in our Epistle reading today, we hear about St. Paul imploring all who would hear his message to realize just what has been given to them in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to put into practice what they already are in Christ. He has spent a few chapters showing and preaching to them all that God in His amazing grace has done for them in Christ their Savior, saving them by grace through faith, and now he illustrates for them what they ought to do in response to God’s love and mercy. This is the pattern of how God works. He speaks, we listen. He acts, we respond. He says “let the little children come to Me” and we are Baptized. He says “Take and eat, take and drink” and we receive His true body and blood, given and shed for us. This we do not as mere individuals, lone rangers Christians or mavericks, doing our own thing with “Jesus in my heart.” Rather we respond to our Lord’s offer of forgiveness, life and salvation as the church – the body of Christ. Sure, we are many people, yet in Christ we share one new nature. We each belong to the One Lord Jesus Christ, in the One Christian Faith through One Holy Baptism.
A few years ago, Regan’s home congregation in Grenfell had just finished their Vacation Bible School. My mother in law was telling me how they love VBS because it is a great way to reach out to a community and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. I couldn’t agree more! What better way is there to get people coming to your church who otherwise wouldn’t? But she also told me about one little boy who asked, “If a person is Baptized, but doesn’t go to church, but still believes in Jesus, will he still go to heaven?!” This poor little boy was speaking as child who’s parents brought him for Baptism but then abandoned their Baptismal promises to raise them in the church. The right response to his question is “yes, God always keeps His baptismal promises to you - even if you don’t go to church.” BUT! This is the wrong question to be asking! It takes us full circle again, back to the lowest common denominator, back to the least, back to the minimum connection one can have and yet still gain the full benefits.
I think about my gong-show grade 5 painting I did with the most minuscule effort I could muster! I think of so many Lutherans who don’t come to church in summer time because it’s nice and they live at the lake. I think about parents who bring their children to be Baptized and be given the most amazing gifts of God’s grace, yet quickly forget what they are promising to do in response. I think about Lutherans from years gone by who thought that having Holy Communion 4 times a year was “sufficient.” This is all complete hogwarsh! Our God is not into minimalism, He’s into fullness! The fullness of God’s wonderful, amazing grace is given in community our togetherness. I’m talking about the One, Holy, Christian and Apostolic Church. Jesus our Lord Who established the Church, the body of Christ, and so as we are joined to Him in faith and Baptism, we are also joined to each other. To say we love Christ, who is the Head of the Church, and at the same time reject His body is to deny the truth of the Scriptures and our faith.
So, the question that our poor little VBS boy asked was unfortunately the wrong question. Rather, he should have been asking about how he could use the grace that he was given in His Baptism to be a part of the church in unity and service. But I guess we should all be asking that question shouldn’t we?! God has blessed each and everyone of us with abundant blessing, gifts and abilities. It’s a shame not use them to build up God’s family! In fact, I’d say it’s sinful. It’s stealing! We are robbing God of His glory because we are still living for ourselves rather than trying to serve each other in holiness and love. Just think about Christ our Lord, did He come to be served or to serve? He was the One who put on a towel, bent down and washed the disciples feet. As such, a life lived in community that seeks to grow and build itself up in love is the result.
Most churches that I have seen that are in decline and fading away in influence and membership are ones that have lost this reality that church is a community. It is love for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, the family of God. These groups exist mainly for themselves, for their own comfort, for their own gain. As God’s people who live and dwell in His salvation in the Communion of the Saints, we must repent of our sins of self-centredness, gospel minimalism and a bare-bones, me-based faith. Instead, we must be energized and filled up with wondrous love of God and His forgiveness for us in Christ. Look at the many opportunities that exist before you to use the gifts that you have been given by the Holy Spirit. We have an opportunity to support Riverside Mission right here in Moose Jaw. They have a huge need for food and cash donations. This isn’t a burden. This is an opportunity for us and all Christians to reach out with the grace our Lord so richly gives us. Can we reach out and embrace our community with the infectious love of the Resurrected Savior? “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”(Eph 4:11-12). This is God’s design for His Church. It is a fullness. It is a body, with each part functioning and working as God blesses it. Each of you are a blessed part of the work of Christ’s ministry here and throughout the world. You have been equipped for this awesome task. You are a precious, Baptized child of God. Forgiven and loved and ready to serve. Amen!