Editor’s note (because I’m posting this five months after I preached it) – the invitation at the end of this sermon to everyone in the church to participate in the parade …
… it was better than I every could have dreamed it would be. <3
Rehoboth Congregational Church
September 16, 2018
A Powerful Truth About Church
I was talking to one of the other moms at daycare pickup this week about the differences between churches and she asked me about RCC and, specifically, what we believe and what we do at the church.
Coincidentally, that night at the Deacons meeting we were joking about the fact that sometimes church is what happens when you have this one person who has an absolutely ludicrous idea and then a bunch of people come together and somehow find a way to make it happen.
And I wouldn’t necessarily call my ideas ludicrous or anything, but, in the spirit of full disclosure I will admit that the next morning I asked Rob Johnson if we could possibly paint his trailer bright teal for our float in the Rehoboth 375thparade.
You now, the trailer he uses for his business.
(We compromised on blue.)
The conversation around our church’s participation in the Rehoboth 375thparade next month has been really thought-provoking, because the default question initially was, “What is our float going to look like?” but I think, in our conversations, I have pushed back to ask the question, “But what, exactly, do we want to show the community?”
Because the conclusion I have come to this year is that it is not exactly about the float itself, but about the people who are marching. After all, churches are not defined by their buildings, but by the people who are inside those buildings and what God is calling them to do.
So what, exactly, are we being called to do?
Jesus used parables in this morning’s scripture reading to speak powerful truths about what the church is called to do in this world. “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” he cried. “Pay attention to what you hear!” Jesus wanted people to know just how important what he was saying was. This was what it meant to bring God’s Kingdom here to earth; this is what it meant to not only believe in the Gospel, but to live it out in every day life.
This scripture reading speaks those same powerful truths to us, today, as we think about how we want to live our lives and how we want to “do” church together.
Shine That Light
Jesus started off this lesson by talking about shining God’s light into the world. Are we supposed to hide that light under a bushel? No! We are supposed to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine for all the world to see! The world can be a dark place sometimes, but think about this way: What was the first thing God did when God was creating this world?
God said, “Let there be light!”
And there was light.
As Christians, we are called to first shine God’s light into the world. We do this by showing kindness, love and compassion. We do this by showing up in those moments when our friends and family need us most. We do this by bringing food, offering to run errands or clean and just being a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. We do this by praying for people and letting them know that they are not alone.
At the core of the Gospel is this bold and undeniable claim that God’s light always shines and this is not something we should be keeping a secret. Jesus said in verse 22 of this morning’s passage, “For there is nothing hidden … nor is anything secret.” It is through our actions that the world will see the truth of the Gospel and believe that light can truly shine even in the darkest of moments.
So don’t keep it a secret; shine that light! Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!
The More You Give … The More You Receive
The second thing Jesus talked about was what it meant to give and then to receive. “The measure you give,” he said, “will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you.” In other words, the more you give, the more you will then receive.
This is a tough one, because, as human beings, we all understand the realities of our capacity to give, both of our time and of our money and other resources. We see both of these things as finite resources. But Jesus said that our resources are, in fact, infinite; that whatever we give, we will get back and then will get even more.
And so I challenge you this morning to think about what you give – and then think about what God thinks you have the capacity to give.
And then try to give a little bit more.
Money, time, other kinds of tangible donations – just try to give a little bit more.
Because I am telling you – even though I have noidea how this works – when you prioritize giving to God and to your faith and to your church above everything else – everything else still has a way of falling into place.
I don’t know how it works; I think that’s why it’s called grace.
Spread Those Seeds
Jesus continued speaking in parables by saying that, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself.”
In other words, sometimes we scatter seeds and somehow they take root and they grow and eventually they are ripe for harvest and we might now have any idea how it happened. But, again, I think that’s why it’s called grace; because somewhere along the way God takes over. And the most unbelievably and undeniably holy things happen when there is an element of us and an element of God and those two elements come together.
But we have to start by scattering those seeds.
What does that mean for us, here at the church? It means making connections with other people in the community, reaching out to someone who might be new to the church or offering support to someone who might be going through a difficult time. It means getting involved, perhaps even stepping outside of your comfort zone to do so. It means jumping into our favorite traditions and also raising your hand and saying, “Hey – I have a new idea!”
Scattering seeds also means talking about the church outside of our walls, in your day-to-day life, to your friends who might not necessarily have a church family, to your friends, who – to bring it back to the beginning of this passage – might not know that the heart of the Gospel really is love and light and grace. People tell me all the time that they don’t want to talk about their faith because of the negative stereotypes about Christianity; well let’s change those stereotypes! Let’s scatter seeds and talk about ourchurch, ourfaith, ourGod. Our lives have been changed; let’s try to change some other lives, too.
The Small Things Make A Big Difference
Jesus said the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed on the earth, but grows into one of the largest plants. Do you know what this means? It means that every single thing that we do – no matter how small it might be – can have a large impact on the kingdom of God. The small things can and will make a big difference.
This means that even in the minutiae of every day life, we can spread the Gospel; we can widen the reach of the kingdom of God. The pieces of our day – whether we are making lunches and trying to find socks that match or jetting off an international mission trip – matter. We matter. This church matters. What we do here matters. Our lives matter.
We can make a difference here at the church; we can change lives and extend the Gospel out into the world. But first we have to believe that is possible.
And then we have to take action.
Jesus did not hold back in these parables as he called his followers to rise up and be the church that the world needed. And so do I extend to you a similar call. Shine God’s light into the world. Give more of yourself, knowing that the more you give, the more you willgain in return. Spread those seeds and watch with awe as God takes over and nurtures those seeds so they take root, grow, thrive and produce harvest. Believe that the small things can and will make a big difference – in your life and here at the church.
Friends, this is your official invitation to participate in our church float at the Rehoboth 375thparade. When people ask me what my vision for the float is, I see people; I see a mass of our people – our church – marching together and showing the community what our church is all about. I see our babies in strollers, our older members in convertibles, our youth and children piled onto Rob’s trailer (which will be a freshly painted blue, not teal) and everyone else walking alongside. I see our new logo displayed on a banner, car magnets, flags and t-shirts. I see people waving, smiling and chanting RCCSTRONG.
I see us, too, telling a powerful truth about what church is. I see a visual invitation to everyone who watches us march by to come to our church, be part of our community and be changed by God’s grace. I see us shining God’s light, giving of ourselves, spreading those seeds and – together – believing that we can make a difference.
Thanks be to God!