Sermon – September 22, 2012

September 22, 2002

Pentecost 18

The joke goes something like this:
The science graduate asks, “Why does this work?” The engineering graduate
asks, “How does this work?” The sociology graduate asks, “How will this
affect the rest of the community?” The accounting graduate asks, “How much
will this cost?” The theology graduate asks, “How can this be used to
further the kingdom of God?” The liberal arts graduate asks, “Would you like
fries with this?”

In that joke is a lesson that we all have a point of view, based upon
how we have been educated and reared, where our passions lie, what our
experience has taught us. Out of that context, then, come our
questions, and we need the answers to be reasonably congruent with our point
of view or we will dismiss them. We have a context in which we have
developed and we pose questions which we need to have answered within the
boundaries of that context. It raises difficulties if the answers are
outside of that, of course.

I have seen this, as you have, in people’s conversations and
understanding of Christianity. One will say, “Unless you can prove to me that God
exists, I will not believe.” or, People don’t rise from the dead.
Therefore your religion cannot be valid.” or, “I will not believe because a
terrible tragedy occurred in my life, and if God is God, then such
tragedies would not be allowed to occur.” or, “I don’t believe because I don’t
think God would want someone like me as a member.” These are responses
to the question of God and of Jesus Christ that are not uncommon and
are a consequence of the experiences people have had.

The problem is, for all of us, that the basket in which we put our
eggs, remains pretty static and constant. We don’t change so easily.
We’re not nearly as flexible as we let on. Once we get there we don’t want
to change because it is how we have defined ourselves, Nine times out
of ten it has taken us some work to get there, and now we want to stay.
I will not believe this because it does not fit my world view, how I’ve
experienced life, because this is what my little basket of eggs tells
me, even if some of the education or training or experiences that we
have are invalid or even destructive.

Even those of us who profess the faith routinely fall into this
behavior because of of how we have let other birds feather our nests. Despite
our confessions of faith, often we don’t want a Christ who calls us to
sacrifice, when we have worked to gain an abundance. Often we don’t want
a Christ who calls us to love all people when we have been raised to
hate those of another race or nation. We don’t want a Christ who
doesn’t meet all the fine points of our agenda. We don’t want a Christ who
makes us feel uncomfortable, because finally, any imposition on our
point of view is a source of discomfort. No surprise here. It is because
we are sinful people. But that is not enough to stop the persistence
of this Christ, this God, who so loves his people that he refuses to let
them alone.

God has been prodding faithful people since the disciples. The
church has been prodded to reform itself over the years. Each individual
believer is called to turn, change. And that reveals tender spots.
Causing us to examine ourselves as the church, to name was it essential
and where we can be flexible, where the Spirit can break in.

Tender spots. That’s how Christ comes to us. That’s how the Spirit
moves. Touching those tender spots, and if we feel that, then somebody’s
trying to tell us something.

I guess that may be the discomfort that we feel in Jesus’ parable
today. The discomfort that those who were called to the vineyard early and
those who were called late all share in the same wage, the same
benefit. Jesus hits those tender spots, knocks down those boundaries we
erect, and says in my kingdom, this is how the world goes around. He says
those who come to believe today share the same benefits of the faith,
the promise of God, as those who have come to the faith before them.
Grace would not be grace if it were available to all. Tonight we baptize
Jane, Kalmari, Annie, Colby, Paul . . . and tonight God claims them and
promises them the full measure of his grace.

Thing about Jesus, is that he would not be taken from his point, his
mission by people’s expectations. In fact he is drawn into those
challenges so that we might be changed and better understand what it means to
be a child of God. He was a man with a sense of urgency for his
mission, his sacrificial living and dying. He had a sense of urgency to
convey that his life was for the benefit of all who believed that it was
true. That was his mission. God is near. You can know that through me.

Too often, the world saw God as up here and humanity as down here. . .
. and now this Jesus comes to say God is this close, flesh and blood.
The one who bears into the world the full measure of grace to all who
believe.

We have a sort of personal space around us and whenever someone gets
inside of it we began to get a little uncomfortable. Jesus comes inside
that space . . . stirring up our preconceived notions. Pushing us in
the tender spots. Cause us to act or react. To learn. Reminding us
this is important. This is personal. This is close.

But we say, Whoa. Let’s keep God up here so I can beg ignorance, or
deafness and play by my rules. No. God this close means God in your
face. . . . Why? So may receive this gift. Against all expectations,
the one who gets inside of our space speaking shocking words of a radical
equality of believers. Comes to say, though others of greater faith
have gone before us, here is a great gift. I’ve not come to take from
you, but to build you up with this gift of life.

This is grace we’re talking about, friends. Close, personal,
sacrificial, focused. . . on us, for us, in our faces. . . flesh and blood,
grace.

To share in that mission and ministry, to be a part of this family is
to engage the character of this man and to wallow in the grace that he
offers whether we are new to the kingdom or veterans. It is to have
our status quo altered, our basket of eggs altered, made new. Changed.
Reformed. Even with those difficult things he will help us that
separate us one from another.

This Jesus has a way about him. He is not going to let the status quo
determine what he is to us. He will not let us be bound up in our
preconceived notions about who he is, who God is, why he would go to the
trouble, how this can be measured or proven or understood.

And so, Jesus is a bit our face, just as he was with the detractors of
his time, invites questions, shocking, encouraging us to ask and to
seek . . . as he still does for us today.

He calls out of the questions on our minds in the face of his great
mercy. He begs us to speak,
How does this work? Love
Why does this work? Because I love you. Because God wills it.
How will this affect the rest of the community? It will change the
world.
How much will this cost? He says, “My life, my blood.”

Why? Love

What? Grace, friends, Grace, Grace

Amen

Copyright (c) 2002 by Pastor Robert J. Rasmus