Good morning! Hard to believe, but this is the last Sunday of our summer worship schedule!
Enjoy the sermon …
Rehoboth Congregational Church
September 1, 2013
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Letting Go Of The “Stuff”
Our congregation said goodbye to a good friend this week, Bob Wray. In my homily at the memorial service I spoke of Bob’s faithful, yet humble generosity to this church and of the lives he touched – and will continue to touch.
Later in the service there was an opportunity for those who had gathered to share their own reflections on Bob’s life. And much to my surprise, most of those reflections came from moments in people’s lives when they – as well – experienced Bob’s generosity. Throughout his life, most people never spoke of the gifts that Bob had given to them because he never wanted any public recognition.
And yet people always wanted to say “thank you” – so in his death, they were able to honor a humble man with a word of thanks.
As we processed to the cemetery later on that day and paused at Bob’s house to pay one final tribute, I thought about my reaction to those reflections. It wasn’t necessarily the generosity that surprised and touched me so much – it was the humility. It was the sincerity in which he did not want acknowledgment for what he gave. That was what was truly remarkable. Yes, I do think that generosity is something to be celebrated, but the humility in which some people choose to be generous is something to be exalted.
“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” we read in the Gospel this morning.
What does it mean to be Christian?
Oftentimes when I reflect on the Gospel I focus on its call for us to reach out to the poor and the marginalized and to give of our time and our resources. I wonder if I should be giving up more, living with less or finding new ways to truly be in solidarity with those less fortunate. I am no millionaire, but I do enjoy luxuries that so many do not have. I even take for granted my access to clean drinking water, food, shelter, transportation and healthcare. Should I give it all up? Is that what it means to truly live out the Gospel? Is that what we are called to do in our own lives?
That is a tall order.
This morning’s Gospel reading reminds us that Jesus calls us to do more than simply give things up and give to those around us. Jesus showed us that being a follower of the Good News has more to do with how we give things up and how we give to those around us.
Do not assume a position at the place of honor at a wedding, Jesus told the Pharisees in a parable. Do not host a meal at your home and only invite your friends, relatives or wealthy neighbors, but welcome those off the street. Jesus denied the old adage, “don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want to have,” and reminded us that it is not always about moving up, having more or getting better. It is about service – selfless and humble service.
Be humble in your actions and in your outreach to others, Jesus wanted us to remember. Do not always look to be repaid.
This parable is a beautiful reminder to us that living out the Gospel does not really have to do with “stuff.” It is has to with people.
The fall months are quickly approaching. After a (hopefully) Sabbath-filled summer, we are busily preparing for a new program year here at the church. We are about to be inundated by words and phrases like “church school,” “youth fellowship,” “stewardship,” “nominating,” “the bazaar,” “homeless awareness weekend,” “missions committee events” and “cabinet meetings.” It is easy to get caught up in these things and start to worry solely about the “stuff” – about whether everything is set up properly, if there are enough people to help out, how much money we have, if it was more successful than last year or whether other people can see what we are doing.
Even in our own lives, we are often pressured to get caught up in the “stuff.” Is our house big enough? Do we drive the right car? Was that party that we threw big enough? Did we get enough ‘likes’ on our latest Facebook post?
But the Gospel tell us that – before any of the rest of that “stuff” matters – we need to focus on the people that surround us.
“Let mutual love continue,” the Letter to the Hebrew people says. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.”
Do you think that we can do that this year? Do you think that we can heed this call, let go of the “stuff” and focus on how we act towards others? Do you think that we can be humble in what we do and gracious in our relationships?
This will not be an easy feat. The notoriously difficult part about being a member of the Body of Christ is resisting the humanness that exists within us all that seeks acknowledgment, perfection and success. It is who we are as humans and – unfortunately – it is the world that we all live in.
But I think that God not only calls us to rise above this humanness, God also gives us the strength to rise above this humanness as well.
“Let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God,” Hebrews says, “that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.”
This year, I challenge us all – in our personal lives and here at the church – to offer a sacrifice of praise to God. I challenge us to emulate and embody the humility that Jesus showed within his own life. Let us not seek to live a life that matters by cultural and societal standards, but rather let us seek to live a life that matters by God’s standards.
Let us be humble in our actions, in our service and in our generosity.
Let us be in service with others, not for others.
Let us love unconditionally, even when that is difficult and makes us uncomfortable.
Let us remember that it is God who calls us to live our lives a certain way – not the people around us.
Let us let go of the “stuff” that makes us human and embrace the God that makes us whole.
Thanks be to God!