Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Here is this morning’s sermon …
Rehoboth Congregational Church
February 2, 2014
It’s Not That Complicated
On Friday evening WPRI 12 ran a story on the Wheels for Bella fundraiser that many of us have been supporting over the past several months. As soon as the story aired, donations began to appear online – a true testament to the kindness of strangers.
While I was overwhelmed by everyone who was reaching out, I was touched by one contribution in particular; a $10 donation with a note attached that said, “Every little bit helps.”
I am not sure truer words could ever be spoken.
All too often we think that in order to make a difference in the world and in our faith and in our community, we have to perfectly and extravagantly give of ourselves and then some.
But every little bit helps. It is really not that complicated.
In the reading that we just heard from the Old Testament, the prophet Micah reminds Israel of this very same thing. The setting for this passage was in a courtroom; Israel was being accused of breaking their covenant with God.
Micah makes it clear at the beginning of this passage that he is addressing a very serious matter. “Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD,” he starts off by saying. “For the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.” The prophet opens his case by telling the people of Israel that they will have to defend themselves. “Hear what the LORD says,” Micah demands. “Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.”
Israel was in trouble; they had broken the covenant that God had made with them through Moses. This was a very serious matter.
The prophet asks how the people of Israel can atone for what they have done.
With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of ram, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
Micah is offering up some very serious things, extreme ways for Israel to reconnect with God.
And yet that is not what God wants.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?
The prophet did not say that the LORD requires perfection. The prophet did not say that the LORD wants us to give all of our time, money and possessions. The prophet did not say that the LORD requires us to understand and live out an overly complicated faith.
No; God wants us to seek justice in our lives. God wants us to love one another and to be kind to one another. God wants us to be humble in our journeys through life and faith.
It is not that complicated.
If ever there was a passage of scripture to underline and memorize – this would be it.
You know, Jesus called us to live our lives as radical and progressive proclamations of the Gospel. But in so many ways that radical and progressive proclamation of the Gospel is not that complicated; in fact it comes from doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.
Jesus’ words in this morning’s Gospel reading are called the Beatitudes; they begin his well-known Sermon on the Mount, a series of teachings that contain the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule, the Lord’s Prayer and various other sayings and proverbs that have sustained our lives and faith for 2,000 years. This sermon lays the foundation for our faith; some surveys have identified the Sermon on the Mount as the most widely read chapters of the bible.
So what did Jesus say when he spoke to the disciples on the mountain? What did Jesus say as he laid the foundation for a lives as baptized disciples? Did Jesus say, “Blessed are those who achieve perfection”? Did Jesus say, “Blessed are those who are able to give away millions of dollars every year”? Did Jesus say, “Blessed are those who rise to the top in their jobs, who are in the public eye and famous and who achieve material success? No! Jesus said:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
I promise that being Christian and living faithfully is not as complicated as we often make it out to be.
People sometimes tell me that they are not sure that they can come to church and be involved because they do not know much about the bible. People sometimes tell me that they are intimidated to talk about church because they are not sure of how to use the big words and fancy phrases. People sometimes tell me that they do not want to pledge to our stewardship campaign, because they do not have a lot to give. But guess what? Jesus never said that he wanted us to be highly educated, eloquently speaking and richly giving Christians. Jesus said that he wanted us to be humble and pure in heart, to seek peace and justice and to love others.
Sometimes it is hard not to over-complicate our faith. We read well-edited books and think that we need to be able to think and speak and write like that. We see news reports and documentaries highlighting people doing extraordinary things and feel inadequate. We flip through magazines filled with beautiful people, homes and food and think that we are doing something wrong if our lives do not look like that.
We live in this pinterest-inspired world that often gives us the false impression that we have to be perfect all the time and it is just not true. It is not about perfect faith; it is about humble faith. It is not about giving the most; it is about giving faithfully. It is not about understanding complicated theological dogmas; it is about connecting with God on a personal and spiritual level. It is not about being able to pray using big words and beautifully crafted sentences; it is about speaking to God from your heart.
Every single person in this room has the grace and ability within them to be a good Christian and a faithful member of this church. It does not matter if you are male or female, old or young or rich or poor. It does not matter if you have been coming to this church for your entire life or you are new to the community. It does not matter if you have the entire bible memorized or you do not understand a single thing it is saying. It does not matter if you are loud and outgoing or quiet and like to keep to yourself. There is a place set at the table for all who seek God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation and no one – no one – should have to jump through hoops to get there.
You are all in different places in walks of life and in your journeys of faith. But today I invite you to pause for a moment and step back. Peel back the complicated layers that have formed around faith and religion and spirituality in your life – and I know that for many of you they are very complicated! – and see yourself first and foremost as a blessed child of God.
Give what you can, even if you wish that you could give more. Reach out and serve others, even if you wish you had more time. Every little bit helps!
Read the bible, even if you do not have the slightest idea what is going on. Choose a succinct and easy passage of scripture – like this one from Micah – to read, post somewhere in your house or office and memorize.
Pray often; do not worry about find the “right” words or the “perfect” words. Just talk to God like you would talk to your best friends.
Talk about your faith using words that make sense to you.
And be blessed.
Do not make it complicated.
It is your life; it is your faith. Let it be you!
Thanks be to God!