Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sunday Sermon: Ministers -- ALL!

"Just do it!"
Matthew 28:16-20

The scene is a mountaintop.  Any time you have a mountaintop scene in the Bible, get ready for something big!  
Remember where Moses met God to get the 10 commandments?  A mountaintop.  The prophet Elijah ran away up a mountain when all looked lost for him and God showed up for Elijah where?  
On the mountain.  Jesus’ disciples surely would remember that amazing day that Jesus had taken Peter, James and John up the mountain.  It’s the day we call Transfiguration Sunday -- Jesus was transfigured, his clothes turned a dazzling white and two strangers appeared with Jesus -- guess who? -- Elijah and Moses! -- up on that mountaintop.
The disciples knew all about the mountaintop.  Back then, people believed that if humans were to encounter God, the best place to go was up the mountain.  
This mountaintop story is the very next story that Matthew tells after the story of Jesus’ resurrection.  Matthew says that newly-resurrected Jesus met the disciples and said:  “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” [Mt.28:9-10]
So here they are -- in Galilee -- this time ALL the disciples of Jesus gathered on the “mountain to which Jesus had directed them.”
What do you think they were expecting from Jesus there?  Some things they might have expected, they didn’t get:
Explanations -- Jesus didn’t explain to them what went so horribly wrong after that great Palm Sunday parade where Jesus was cheered as “King of the Jews” only to be crucified dead and buried in less than a week.  
Re-hashing -- If Jesus was still thinking about what had been done to him by the priests or the judges or the disciples even, Matthew didn’t find that worthy to talk about.
Solutions -- Jesus didn’t help them to understand how Jesus, dead and buried, was now Jesus back with them.
If Jesus did have some explaining to do, those explanations are not recorded by Matthew.
If Jesus told them important things to believe about him, we don’t know those beliefs from Matthew.

Matthew’s story of what Jesus did and said after the resurrection is so short and so direct, it is stunning.  If you want to see a contrast, go back to the beginning of the gospel of Matthew and see how many -- how many -- verses Matthew takes to lay out -- generation to generation -- the genealogy of Jesus -- from Adam to Joseph.  Matthew goes to great lengths to explain how Jesus has all the right ancestors.  Matthew also gives a very detailed account of Jesus being arrested, charged, tried, and crucified.  Matthew uses more words to tell what happens to Jesus’ crucified body than about what happens on this mountaintop.
About the resurrected Jesus, Matthew has few words.  
The gospel good news according to Matthew is simply this: Jesus is alive; he said “meet me at the mountain”; and the disciples show up where Jesus said he would be.
And then and there, on that mountaintop, Jesus gives them -- ALL of them -- their marching orders.  Church tradition calls this the Great Commission -- what Jesus said up on that mountain:  
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me...”  Whatever else this means, Jesus’ having been given “all authority” means that Jesus has the freedom and power to say and do whatever he pleases at this point.  All options are open to him. What will he require of his disciples? What will he incite them to do?  
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations [“the human family”], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Now, if you are a disciple on that mountain, hearing Jesus commissioning you in this way, sending you out to do what Jesus himself had been doing, what do you do?  
If you are a Peter-type disciple, you might say, “Gung ho!  I’m ready!  You can count on me, Jesus!”  Because that’s how Peter was:  bold, always ready for a challenge, ready to fail and get back up again and go on to the next place where Jesus was going.
But what if you are a Bartholomew or a Thaddeus?  Who? Bartholomew and Thaddeus were called by Jesus as two of those first 12 disciples, but we don’t hear much about them that was worth writing down.  They were never in a leadership role that we know of.  Other disciples were in the spotlight. Others are more famous. Yet unsung Thaddeus and Bartholomew are given the same commission as the others -- the same good news; the same marching orders; they were passed the same mantle of ministry that Jesus himself had carried out:
ALL of them were sent to GO to whomever and wherever God’s love and healing is needed.
ALL of them were being sent out to seek others in the human family and invite them to join together in community to learn and grow to love Jesus and serve him too.
ALL of them were being encouraged to introduce others to God the Creator, God the Redeemer, God the Sustaining Spirit.  Hadn’t Jesus initiated those first twelve into God’s holy priesthood?  Now ALL of them were to be priests to others.
And ALL of the disciples had graduated to become the teachers who would walk with new disciples.
In other words, ALL of them were now sent to do with and for others the very same things that Jesus himself had done with and for them.
ALL of them -- the confident Peters as well as the “who me?” types, the Bartholomew and the Thaddeus and the Mary and the Martha -- the unlikely YOU and the unlikely ME.
ALL of us sent off the mountaintop with a mission, and ALL of us held together by the same promise:  Jesus goes with us, always.
In our own United Church of Christ Statement of Faith, we say “yes” to following Jesus off that mountaintop.
God calls us into the church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be servants in the service of the whole human family, to proclaim the gospel to all the world …
"… We're not called to make churchgoers, [that is we are not called to “bring people in here” just to “fill the pews” with] people who include religion as one among many respectable civic activities. We're [each and every one of us] called to make disciples, people who really follow Jesus as Lord." [Dylan Breuer, with my modifications]
So to become a church member, then, is really to make the decision to enter the ministry. Each and every one of us has been given the ministry that Jesus had:  to share good news; to make disciples; to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  That’s the good news ministry of the church of Jesus Christ.  It is YOUR ministry – and mine!  The Bible tells us so.  Ready or not, Jesus goes with us.  So be excited!  Be ready!  If you are a baptized member of this church, Jesus has already called YOU to ministry in his name – and given you everything you need to be faithful to that call.  God has called US together – and made us ministers – ALL!  Thanks be to God!
Above photo is of a teen's feet from UCC General Synod 27

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Five: Discovery

well_behaved_women_LOn today's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five, Dorcas shares a beautiful experience of taking her four year old granddaughter to the symphony and wondering if young Trinity would enjoy the experience.  An avid Mozart fan, (in Dorcas' words): "[Trinity] was hopping with excitement, but we gave her lots of coaching, and when we arrived she gazed about with wonder at the lovely venue, and when the orchestra began to tune up she sat up straight and gazed, enraptured, with her mouth literally open. It was pure delight to watch her enjoying brand-new sights, sounds and surroundings."  A discovery moment for both generations!

Here is a Friday Five of my own moments of insight, discovery or awareness from childhood and later:

"Do what Daddy says."  Recorded in the baby book of my sister who is 19 months younger than I am is this precocious advice to me, uttered when she was probably two and a half:  "Sharon, if you would just do what Daddy says, you wouldn't get spanked so much."  I tried.  I tried to learn the "behave" lesson.  I'm not there yet.  Hence the pic above.  My hope: Maybe I'm making history!

Love is Awareness.  A fifth grade writing assignment was to complete the phrase "Love is . . ." with one, and only one, word.  My conclusion:  Love is Awareness

I am not a feminist!  Another assigment, this time in a seminary theology class:  Choose a non-traditional theologian's book to read and compare/contrast with more traditional theology. For those of us who had no clue where to begin with the long list the prof had given us, she suggested choosing a theologian that we thought we would not like. That was easy; this native Texan stay-at-home mom chose a feminist theologian.  I was about one and a half pages into Rosemary Radford Reuther's Sexism and God Talk and, to my incredible shock, I found that she was she was speaking my language about God things.  She made sense.  I had not even realized how much "translation" work I had been doing in order to make the gospel message real in my life. 

Please understand me!  I began to understand myself much better when I was introduced to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in seminary. I knew that people had different personalities, but I had never had the differences explained in categories that made sense. I began to see that there are many different ways that people approach life and process information, and that we need all kinds in order reflect God's image more authentically in community. Through further testing at the end of seminary, I discovered that I had learned to function a certain way (as an ESFJ) when I had to be "on" and in front of people.  When I am relaxed and safe and "off duty" or too tired to keep up the pretense, I go about life in a far different way (INFP).  Good to know!

Grandmother world.  Because we lived in the same city until I was 13, I was blessed to spend time with my grandmothers during my growing up years.  At their houses, I discovered the world of feeding chickens, gathering eggs, flower gardening, making jam, learning to sew, eating "ladies lunch" at the department store restaurant or at the lunch counter at the drugstore.  With them, I was someone I couldn't be anywhere else: a granddaughter.  And they got to be the grandmother.  Now I'm the grandmother to a grandson.  I wonder what we will discover with each other?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Friday Five: Summer Reruns

"The cousins" on the family cruise
Today's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five is an invitation by Songbird to be inspired by this season of summer TV reruns and list five things that are worth a repeat.  Coincidentally, today is also National Repeat Day!

1. Family vacations:  My extended family is spread all over the country from east coast to west coast to gulf coast and beyond.  We do attempt to gather for special occasions, the next one being my niece's wedding in September in Baton Rouge.  A few years ago, we took a family cruise -- my first cruise -- and all of us were there -- my mom, all of her children and their spouses, and all of their children and the newest family member at the time, my son-in-law.  We have also taken some beach vacations in Florida and met in Gatlinburg, TN one year.  We don't do it every year, but a family reunion-type gathering is always worth a repeat.

B.E. 4.0 new friends
at church together, sorta!
2.  A cruise:  Last year's RevGal B.E. 4.0 was my first repeat cruise after the family cruise.  I had an ever-lovin' blast!  B.E. is definitely an experience worth repeating, so I'm getting my application ready for next year's B.E. 5.0.  Since we sail from New Orleans, that week of Continuing Ed will definitely be combined with a vacation to the Louisiana relatives (see #1).

3.  Planting a garden:  I repeat the "dig in the dirt" ritual every year.  My main "crop" is herbs and this year's star is basil I grew from seed.  Some oregano apparently didn't make it from the plant, but did reseed itself.  The others are cilantro, parsley, sage, chives, mint, and dill.  I tucked in there somewhere an orange pepper plant.  I also sprinkled some extra color by planting few marigolds and impatiens among the perennials that are already looking great.  

GranGran and Daniel:
an "I love you" moment
between my mom and my grandson
4.  "I love you":  Always worth a repeat, as often as possible.  

5.  "Damages" TV show:  I had never heard of this show but ran across it on instant Netflix and was hooked on the reruns after watching the first episode.  Glenn Close stars as a lawyer, and it is dark and very suspenseful.  According to its Wikipedia entry: "The show is noted for its plot twists, nonlinear narrative, technical merit, season-long storylines and the acting ability of its cast."  I also have enjoyed reruns of "Deadliest Catch" and "Modern Family" and "Desperate Housewives."  I didn't get hooked on "Glee" or "Pushing Daisies," for what it's worth. 

Thanks, Songbird, for the rewind through some things worth rerunning!