Have you noticed lately how difficult it is for people to be clear about what they saying?
Well, if our Gospel is any indicatro this is not exactly a new phenomenon. It seems we have always had difficulty in saying what we mean and meaning what we say. Let me show you.
Please take out the green insert from your bulletin.
Find it? Even the children can participate in this activity.
- Now hold the insert in your hands.
I am going to give you a set of instructions. I want everyone to follow the instruction without asking questions. Please follow the instructions without talking, so everyone can hear what is being said.
Now close your eyes. Your eyes need to be closed for this experience. Once your eyes are closed, fold the insert in half. Ok. Once you have folded the paper in half, fold it in half again. Now. Tear off the left corner of the paper. Now tear off the other left hand corner. Now open your eyes, unfold the paper, and hold it up.
How does it look? How does it look compared to others? The same? Different?
Amazing isn’t it? We all heard the same instructions and yet we came up with different looking papers. I thought I was perfectly clear.
Listen again to today’s Gospel story. This time it’s a contemporary translation. Jesus is speaking to good church leaders and members: he says,
John came to you showing you the right road.
You turned up your noses at him,
but the crooks and whores believed him.
Even when you saw their changed lives,
you didn’t care enough to change and believe him.1
Ouch! Jesus doesn’t pull any punches. Do you think Jesus would really say this to us? Could you hear Jesus say that to you? Amazing isn’t it? We all hear the same gospel and yet we all hear different things.
In what way have you said to Jesus, Yes, I will go do what you ask of me, and then not been able to do it? Or, in what way have you been like the other brother, who at first said, No, I won’t go, then changed his mind and went and did what the father asked?
I meet a woman recently, at the Lansdale farmer market, who told me she had her children baptized at Trinity; two boys, now 8 and 10 years old She apologized for not being a good member.
It has bothered her because at her children’s baptized she promised to bring them children to the services of God’s house. Place in their hands the Holy Scripture. Provide for their instruction in the Christ faith… but hasn’t. Because this family has not been at Trinity recently they haven’ heard that we don’t focus on membership much anymore. We care about making disciples – We even call our New Member Class, the New Disciples’ class.
How you hear the difference between the two words will determine how you go about living your life. For many, membership is about privileged. It often involves paying dues, doing your fair share, which entitles you to certain benefits – like pastoral care, counseling, funerals. It’s thought of in reciprocal fashion where you are entitled to your hymn preference, worship preference, or pastor preference because you made a commitment.
Discipleship, on the other hand, is about, embracing diversity and connecting all generations to God’s family – Trinity mission statement. Discipleship is being part of what God is up to in the world, an undertaking that may lead you into places you don’t want to go and inspire you to do those things you’d rather not do. Discipleship means being on the road with Jesus. It means undertaking the journey from the life of conventional wisdom to the alternative wisdom of the Spirit. It means listening to Jesus, to his teachings – sometimes understanding it, sometimes not quite getting it. It can involve denying Jesus, even betraying him.2
We began a new D2D Dare to Deviate confirmation class in September. Each year when the class and parents meets for the first time the confirmation ministry is introduced. We try to be clear about what we are working for in confirmation. We try to get everyone on the same page (hold up torn insert). But we can never be certain. People hear the most amazing things. We have confirmation so we can make disciples 2x
We don’t want our youth simply to believe things about Jesus, to agree to certain doctrine or teachings of the church. Membership may be about giving one’s mental assent to something but discipleship involves what you do &say, don’t do & don’t say.3
Tell me what you think: A man had two sons.
He went up to the first and said,
“Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.’
“The son answered, “I don’t want to.’
Later on he thought better of it and went.
“The father gave the same command to the second son.
He answered, “Sure, glad to.’ But he never went.
“Which of the two sons did what the father asked?”
If you are listening there is some really good news in this story. For example, there is time yet to reconsider and change your mind. It’s is never too late to respond to the grace of the Gospel. Your past actions or current status do not determine your future. And ever when you get judgmental, and we all do trying to decide who is Christian enough, good enough for God the ones we have doubts about are never, ever beyond the reach of God.4
In case you checked out somewhere in listening to this sermon, or think you understood what I said. Here is the clarify statement for today. God is on a mission and everybody’s welcome. Both those who say yes and do no as well as those who say no and do yes. Which is us, if truth be told. We are at the same time people of only words and people whose actions speak louder that words. God is on a mission and all of us no matter what our insert may look like are called to journey with Jesus, journey with Jesus in a company of other such disciples.
We are the ones called to remember and celebrate Jesus; to gather, tell the stories, and break the bread at the table where all are welcome. How difficult can that be?
A man had two sons…
2 Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith, Paperback – April 7, 2015 Marcus J. Borg 3 Journey to Jesus: The Worship, Evangelism, and Nurture Mission of the Church Paperback – November 1, 2001, Robert Webber 4 www.davidlose.net/2017/09/pentecost-17-a-the-eternal-now/