June 28, 2020
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Sometimes I just get it wrong.
I read one thing and think another.
I’d like a quarter for every time I just knew I was right,
only to be proven wrong.
This has nothing to do with gender or marital status, quite frankly.
(I’m not going there!)
Humans tend to interpret the world from our unique point of view,
looking at life from our own background, experiences, values, and beliefs.
This leads us to jump to conclusions,
which may, or may not, be accurate or true.
You know what they say about assumptions?
Communication is hard work;
far more dependent upon the commitment of two parties to communicate
than on the actual content that is transferred from one to another.
Many years ago the United Methodist Church embarked
on a new media campaign.
The tag line is this:
“Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors;
We are the People of the United Methodist Church”
Problem is, it is not completely true and
Most of us know it.
The reality is
not EVERYone is welcome.
Our minds, hearts, and doors are open to
People just like us;
Who look like us,
Who think like us,
Who behave like us.
People different from us,
probably will not become just like us,
so they should just go someplace else.
The door slams shut.
If you are homeless, you probably smell and won’t get cleaned up.
If you are addicted, you will probably relapse and disappoint us, one more time.
If you are intellectually challenged, behaviors distract me during the worship service,
so look someplace else.
If you don’t look like us, act like us, or ask too many questions,
perhaps you should just keep church shopping.
If your sins are little, you’re in;
but, if you have some whoppers in your past,
keep moving on.
It’s impossible to not call out a history of racism in the church.
The United Methodist Church has long and painful history of segregation:
Laity, congregations, pastors, and conferences.
Central Jurisdictions were created to separate blacks from whites.
Denominations like the AME, African Methodist Episcopal church, and
AME Zion, African Methodist Episcopal Zion church,
Split away from the United Methodist Church
(or our predecessor denominations)
To be freed from our discriminatory ways.
We reflect the larger society.
Now racism is raging, boiling over in social discontent.
I own it. Do you? Are we willing to start a conversation about it?
There is so much work to be done.
Listening. Conversations. Education. Repentance. Forgiveness. Prayer.
Partnerships. Friendships. God’s love and grace.
It is going to take it all to open this door.
The message of
Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors is painful.
The message it portrayed is
“Come to us, become like us, and we will all be united.”
The media campaign is inconsistence with Jesus’ charge to his disciples
as he sent them forth,
into the villages, towns, and countryside.
Jesus didn’t tell them
“Build it and they will come.”
Ministry doesn’t begin with flashy ad campaigns, beautiful buildings, big budgets, or flawless preachers.
Ministry begins when we go;
when we GO!
meet people where they are at,
and address their deepest human needs.
It is helpful to remember the Church never closed during this pandemic.
The building closed, but the Church did not.
The past 17 weeks have forced all of us to
Take ministry out from the building,
Make ministry new, and
Take ministry into the world.
Ministry begins when we go;
when we GO!
If people are sick, cure them.
If people are dead, raise them.
If people have leprosy, clean them.
If people are living with demons, cast them out.
Often the interpretation of the Gospel for today is backwards;
totally upside down.
We often assume it is all about us extending gracious hospitality.
It is not!
Jesus is sending OUT his disciples
and instilling in them a sense of dependency;
the complete and utter reliance upon the
hospitality of strangers
and the grace of God.
Take no money for your work.
Leave your purse or wallet at home.
Don’t dress nice or drive a fancy car.
Don’t pack an overnight bag.
Don’t bring your own food.
If Jesus was speaking today, he’d say, “leave your cell phone behind.”
Stay as long as people will support your dependency
and leave when hospitality runs out.
Dependency is primarily an act of faith.
It makes us vulnerable.
Dependency can also be dangerous.
Consider old school missionaries:
They’d go to another country,
Baptize everything except the kitchen sink
and expect that locals to be reformed just like us.
Christian colonialization stinks
and the whole world knows it.
Jesus is telling us this morning the complete opposite;
something altogether different.
He’s telling us to GO!
Go to other people,
become dependent upon them,
assimilating their culture,
all the while
communicating Christ’s love
and extending Christ’s invitation
to become his disciples.
When we correlate our culture with the Gospel,
we’ve gone astray.
Jesus’ message isn’t
“come, be like us”.
The message of Jesus is
become dependent upon the Lord.
Trust in the Lord.
Love the Lord.
Love your neighbors and
Invite your neighbors into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The danger and vulnerability of dependency
is a complete reorientation for us,
a massive paradigm shift.
At the same time,
It can be insightful for Christians
who are ready to plumb to new spiritual depths.
We live in insular worlds of delusion.
We believe we are greater, stronger, smarter,
and more independent than we really are.
We live an illusion of independence.
We take pride in our accomplishments;
our education, our job, our compensation, our pension.
over our cars, our properties, our toys, and things.
We are lured to believe we are masters of our own universe
and there isn’t anything or anyone else to change it.
Yet, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes
are filled with dependent people
who once believed in their independence.
Each of us are a heartbeat away
from a catastrophe of dependence.
People with chronic mental illness, developmental disabilities, addictions
may have a lifetime of dependency
– may have never had a dream of becoming independent as we know it –
yet are no different from us
other than a barely mutated snippet of DNA
or a slightly different dollop of brain chemistry.
Graveyards are full of corpses,
once the vessels of life
of people just like you and me,
yet, whose souls are now completely dependent upon God for eternal life.
There is great danger and vulnerability
in one of the hardest stories in the Bible:
Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son, Isaac.
not knowing when, or how, or why.
Yet, in his vulnerability,
confronted with the danger of losing his son, Isaac,
Abraham placed his complete and absolute trust
in the Lord.
Abraham’s trust, faith, and courage
forever grafted his life with that of God.
As great as Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac,
there is no greater example of dependency
than our Lord, Jesus Christ,
laying down his life,
offering his life on the cross
with complete and absolute trust
– this was the way forward –
for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of souls.
Willingly stretch yourself out on a cross sometime;
ask a soldier to pound in a few nails.
That’s what I’m talking about.
At the end of the day
we are no more independent than the last choice we made.
We are dependent upon God for everything.
We are dependent upon God for grace:
for life, health, and breath.
We are dependent upon God for love:
for the people who are placed in our lives,
for the gifts and talents each of us are divinely given,
for the opportunities granted to us with the start of each new day.
let us join our destiny
with those new, fledgling disciples of Jesus.
You and I are given authority to perform miracles
in the name of Christ.
We must GO, as Jesus commands,
that his invitation might be to
“COME, follow me.”
GO! he tells us.
Take no money, no clothes, no food.
Place your whole trust in God;
It is primarily an act of faith
to follow God’s will and Jesus’ commands.
Be the dependent guest.
Allow vulnerability to teach you.
May the humility of dependence
grow our relationships with one another.
Let it deepen your faith and trust in God.