Hi friends! We finished up our sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount this week with a beautiful Thanksgiving worship service, which included a baptism and a beautiful cornucopia on the altar. I used my sermon not only as an opportunity to talk about this text, but also to wrap-up what we talked about this fall.
Preacher friends, this was a great series! There are one or two things I would tweak in terms of the schedule, but I thought 12 weeks was a good amount of time to get through it. Did we touch on everything? No – but you never will! But if we had broken it down into a longer amount of time, I think it would have been too long. Feel free to reach out by email or comment here if you’d like me to send you our schedule and any more information.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
November 24, 2019
Walking The Walk
It is about more than talking the talk.
It is about walking the walk.
We have come to the end of our sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount.
And if I had to sum it up in four words, I would say this: Easier said than done.
Let’s face it: We know we are blessed in the eyes of God, but my gosh sometimes it is hard to remember that fact when we are overwhelmed and feel like we just cannot do anything right.
We know we are the salt of the world and the light of the world, but you know what? Sometimes it is easier to complain that the world is bland and dark than actually do something about it.
We know we should not let ourselves be tempted to sin, but temptation is such a force to be reckoned with in the world we live in that sometimes we cannot seem to help ourselves.
We know we should not retaliate, but instead pray for our enemies, but sometimes we just cannot figure out how to let something go.
We know we should love our enemies as fiercely as God loves us, but isn’t it just easier to hate them?
We know we should do things like pray and give quietly and not boast about our spiritual practices, but pride just has a way of sneaking in sometimes.
We know we should not serve God and wealth, but the problem is – wealth is a tangible reality of the world we live in and sometimes God is harder to see, understand and trust.
We know we should not worry and instead cling tightly to our faith, but there are also moments in our lives where our grip on that faith keeps slipping.
We know we should not judge others, but also – that’s sometimes they make it so easy.
We know the golden rule, that we should treat others the way we want to be treated, but sometimes we are tired, stressed and just over it and not able to muster up the grace to do it.
So here we are at the end of the sermon; Jesus is wrapping up his teaching on how we should live in this world and getting ready to head back out to proclaim the Good News with these disciples he has called.
And his final lesson is that following him is not about empty words, but about faithful action. Jesus says we have to do more than simply prophesy in his name, but we have to do the will of God. In other words, it is not enough to talk the talk, but we have to walk the walk. It is not enough to simply proclaim that we are Christian, but our actions – and our heart behind those actions – need to back up who we proclaim to be.
And here is the part where this is all easier said than done.
Because we are human. We are not perfect. We make mistakes.
We get tired and anxious and do not always make the best decisions. We find it easier to tear others down than to build them up, particularly when we are feeling vulnerable ourselves. We do not always communicate and then the little annoyances become bigger drama. And we forget to love people in those moments when we just really do not like them.
Yet here Jesus is saying that we have to try just a little bit harder; that this Good News – this new commandment – is not about traditions and rules, but about people and covenants. It is about loving God and loving one another and working really hard to be in community with one another.
Sometimes really really hard.
And here’s the thing – as hard as this is to actually live out, ultimately, I think this is what we all really want for our world.
Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with a really simple, yet powerful image of a man – a wise man – who builds his house on a rock and another man – a foolish man – who builds his house on sand. When the rains come the house built on the rock does not fall, but the one built on the sand comes tumbling down. We are reminded through this image that our foundation needs to be strong because there are things that happen in this world – naturally occurring things, things that we cannot always control – that will threaten what rests on that foundation.
The rain, the floods and the wind that beat on the house represent the things in our earthly lives that pull us away from Jesus’ teachings, the things that tempt us to make the wrong choice, even when we know what the right choice is, the things that cause us to stray from the lessons Jesus is teaching in this sermon.
But this is why the work we do here is so important.
We talk about the importance of our work here, at church, a lot in terms of our evangelism, outreach and service to others, but I would argue that it is equally important in terms of our own personal growth and faith formation. Because it is here that we strengthen the foundation of our faith; it is here that the build our faith on top of something that is strong enough to withstand the challenges we will, no doubt, face in life.
We are entering the most magical season in the calendar year. It is a season that, in our part of the world, would otherwise be overcome with darkness; but as Christians, we boldly proclaim – both with our decorations and also with our actions – that God’s light will always shine. It is a season that begins with a holiday that is not about gifts or other material items, but about food and fellowship; a season where families and friends put aside the differences that threaten to divide them throughout the year and gather around a table and break bread together. It is a season where we focus on the importance of giving rather than simply just receiving. It is a season where we believe; where we believe in the magic of the season, of the things we cannot see, of the truth that God broke through – and will continue to break through – the brokenness of our world and that God is always with us.
It is a season where we see glimpses of the world that we all so desperately want.
It is fitting that we end our sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount the Sunday before Thanksgiving, which, sort of, kicks off the whole holiday season.
Because the magic is about to begin.
Advent begins next Sunday; and in the church calendar, Advent is the start of a new year. So it is the perfect time to give ourselves and our faith something of a reset, to remind ourselves that we have to live out our faith as well as proclaim it and to position ourselves snuggly on that strong foundation.
Because as soon as Christmas morning arrives, the real work begins.
As soon as we proclaim to the world that Jesus – Emmanuel, God with us – is born, then it will be time to show them what, exactly, that means. It will be time to move beyond the manger and into Jesus’ ministry, to celebrate a man whose birth was magical, but whose life, death and resurrection changed the world.
As you enter into the magic of the holiday season this week, I invite you to also use this time to strengthen your foundation so you are ready to go out proclaim the Good News that our savior is born on Christmas morning. Intentionally step away from the hustle and bustle and remind yourself of the true reason for the season. Take time for outreach and charitable giving. Spend time in prayer. Read and re-read the Christmas story in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and marvel at how they unfold. Believe not only in the magic of the season, but in the promise of the season, as well. And know that God is always with you – and that you are blessed.
Your foundation will be strong – and you will be ready to proclaim the Good News to a world that so desperately needs to hear it. You will be ready to walk the walk.
Thanks be to God!