Sermon – November 18, 2018 – Commitment Weekend

Y’all Come

I’m pretty sure that the Bible was not written by some guy down in South Mississippi. Real sure of that, but it seems like Scripture is written with a southern accent. Whether it’s the prophets, or the apostles, or Jesus, most of the instructions and admonitions and direction are plural you’s.  They are y’alls.   As in, y’all come back now, ya hear?

As the prophet Micah muses about what is pleasing and displeasing to God, he concludes it is the practice of justice, the love of kindness and humble relationship with God. This isn’t Micah’s personal diary, it is addressed to the covenant people, the people of Israel.   The group. Y’all.

When St. Paul lines out the forms of ministry and call in our first Corinthians lesson, it is to the budding community of Jesus that he speaks, articulating an intentional community for specific responsibilities toward a common end.

And, of course, when Jesus spoke these words in the gospel of Luke that we heard this morning he was speaking to the disciples and the multitude gathered on the plain helping them understand how they were to be with each other, friend and enemy alike, both as individuals and as his new community.

These are all y’alls.   and while we can read them as resources for our individual walk of faith, and they are most certainly that, we cannot lose sight of the fact that these are spoken to us as a community, as a people, indeed as the body of Christ. This is what it looks like to be a part of this salvation story. This is the template for how the community lives and moves in the world under the shadow of the Cross.

  • We as a people are led to seek justice, love kindness and remain in a proper orientation with God… One of humility and clarity of role. That is, you are God and I am not.

 

  • We are Fellowship where each person matters, each person counts, and each bears responsibility to the whole. “There are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  Each of us gifted and empowered for the sake of the community and the world. There are no exceptions.

 

  • We are a people called to love others and do for them as we would have them do for us. It looks like this; fed by the word in our encounter with Jesus, we love, we do good, we are merciful, we refrain from judging, forgive and we are generous.

 

It’s ‘y’alls’, meant for us to walk this path together. All of these anticipate our objections, our failures, or our refusal to find ourselves in these texts. That’s no big surprise. Scripture always speaks to our humanity, the reality of our self-interest or fear, but as it speaks to us as a fellowship, as a community, it embeds into our very being the accountability of the word. So, as this community of Christ we are never left in our fear or uncertainty because we are part of the very thing that Christ created himself by his death and resurrection, created for the purpose of bearing into this world a word of hope and grace forgiveness.

This is the community that is set aside, equipped with these gifts, given voice and led to encounter the world.   Just as individuals can be equipped with these gifts, so too, then can congregations, as we identify our strengths, our gifts our purpose in the broader community and then set about the business of being faithful and diligent to that call.

Part of that diligence, part of that faithfulness is to recognize and proclaim among ourselves that we are the recipients of these great gifts even as we practice their giving. Does that make sense?  Even as we respond in faith to the call of Scripture to love God and neighbor, to be merciful and kind and forgiving, to give God proper honor and praise, we are changed. We are fed, our lives gain clarity, our fear subsides and hope abounds. “forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap, for the measure you give will be to measure you get back.”

The next part of that diligence, that faithfulness is gratitude. Gratitude. We are a thanks giving people. That is core and fundamental to our worship. It is the fuel that fires our good works.  It is the heart of our proclamation. It is the story that we have to tell. God in Christ has blessed us with these gifts and we share them in thanksgiving.

And a final and essential part of being a faithful and diligent community is sustainability. How is it that we preserve and equip a community to be this kind of a witness to the Gospel? How do we recognize and celebrate that we are collaborating with generations of believers called to and sent from this place – St. Matthew Lutheran Church – to be God’s hands and voice in the world? How is it that we remain a place where disciples can have a solid footing to step into this journey?

The answers to those questions is to rise to the challenges that are posed to us in our time, to take up the task of sustaining and maintaining this mission outpost.  This is not a passive task.  It is part and parcel to our thankful response to the gifts of Christ.  That is the context in which we embrace the challenge of this capital campaign.  Ten years ago, we added a nursery, more education space, youth rooms, upgraded our heating and cooling systems, put on a roof.  A huge step to welcoming, fellowship, educating, stewarding our property. On the mission front, we launched the farm, increased our practice of taking our youth on service and learning trips, kept the faith with the folks in New Orleans, maintained the ministries of service, education fellowship . . .

Now kitchens bathrooms safety, financial security. . . .  all components of Keeping the Faith.  We diminish our purpose and our call if we view this as just tidying up.  It is an essential, necessary and unambiguous step in our common life. It is a reflection and affirmation of our intentions to continue to be a light to this community, to be faithful to our promises and to seek new ways to bear the good news.

As we listen in faith to the voices of Scripture across the centuries, of the salvation story, not only do we listen in collaboration with the Saints of the church that we have partnered with over time, we also listen intently and faithfully to the voice of the future.

Future calling.  Hey, y’all. We need voices of reconciliation, restoration.  We need communities that make and keep profound promises.  We need to hear again and again that God’s answer to the people is a loving yes.  We need outposts of ethical and moral leadership, kindness and grace.  Our kids are counting on you to be there for them as you were here for us.  Y’all.

Let’s get this done.  To each a gift.  To each an opportunity.  To each a responsibility.  We are a community called together to a common destination.

Let’s rise to the challenge as we continue to prepare the way for God’s justice, kindness, mercy and grace in this time and in the years to come.

Let’s do this, y’all.

Thanks be to God.