FILLING THEIR SHOES
Isaiah 9: 2-7
Selected verses Ephesians
MATTHEW 11: 25-30
November 1, 2020 – DRESS for SUCCESS SERMON SERIES
“A CHILD is BORN TO US … a Son is given to us, and authority will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and PRINCE of PEACE.” No, that extra hour of sleep last night in this bizarre world where time blurs has not brought you to Christmas morning so today you can focus on Christ rather than worrying about Santa … but those words from the prophet Isaiah that are so often used during Christmas Eve services carry a connection to this morning’s message. Paul having listened to Jesus’ teaching is telling people of faith that we must “put shoes on our feet so that we are ready to spread the good news of peace.” The Gospel from the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ. Are you doing that church? Are you willing to get dressed each day and be prepared with what it takes to move into the world for God? Have you decided to follow Jesus? To obey his commands? Are you a believer in Jesus Christ? Jesus did teach us to spread the good news … just read Matthew, Mark Luke, John, and Acts for His very specific words, “Go into the world and preach the Gospel … the Good News … my teaching … to every creature! Those who believe will be saved and those who don’t will be condemned.” EVERY CREATURE … SAVED or CONDEMNED no middle room.
Can you imagine what the saints of the church must be thinking this morning? Just what might the venerable contributors to the distribution of God’s message … of Jesus call to love all … what the treasured saints of the church whose work and very sacrifices that all too often included their very lives who kept Christianity alive what would they think about today’s church? Have you ever thought what they would think of the Christians who claim the name today, perhaps attend a service virtually or in person on Sunday’s and then mock, hate, and shout down their neighbors across the street just because they disagree about November 3rd? Oh, how those saints must be saddened by the world we have given them and our neglect of their lessons on faith.
But, as we read the names of those who have gone before us … as I considered the special people I have lost this year and in years past … I have thought that they would be aghast to think that their faith walk could produce such people and I remember my mom and dad’s words … given to me when Megan was born … ‘what you do in your life will impact your child’s life. Be sure to tell the stories of Jesus.’ Is that what is happening … are Jesus stories being shared? Are people thinking about the children?
As we consider the next step in our journey to dress for success in our walk with God it is time to consider our legacy because the children of the world will all too quickly be filling our shoes and leading our churches. Are we willing to provide them with our shoes that we are walking in during the year of our Lord 2020? Are they shoes that have spread the gospel of peace? The gospel of Jesus Christ? The lessons of love for all of our neighbors? I can tell you what God expects … I can tell you what people of faith should do … but it is you and I who decide whether we cheer on individuals whose vehicles ram the cars of those whose politics differ from ours or whether we condemn those acts. It is you and I who decide whether or not we support language that taints other human beings, makes fun of human’s God given names … whether in writing or speech … future generations are sure to notice. They will notice what we cheer on and also what we condemn. It is you and I who decide whether to preach fear to our families or whether we share the essential love of God that brings hope instead.
And, so on this Communion Sunday I am concerned for the future. I have thought about my personal saints this week … mom and dad, Aunt Hazel, Pastor Lewis, Dick Shoenthaler and Art Banzhof two special Sunday School teachers, and others. I have tried to rewind their lessons of faith. Do you have family members? Special people? Mentors? People who taught you that God’s Word is the essential word for living? Have you considered who is watching you, hearing your words, and carefully viewing your actions and more importantly noticing your faith walk? Or lack of a walk with Christ?
Jesus taught, “Come to me all of you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” The Son of God continues, “Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And, you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.” PUT SHOES on YOUR FEET SO THAT YOU ARE READY TO SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS of PEACE.” LEARN FROM ME, Jesus says; if we walk with God that is what we do.
I have never found feet to be a sign of beauty but our feet are essential to our ability to be mobile on our own. They support us in our movements and take us on journeys. I only have to pause to look at Megan to see how cerebral palsy has limited her gait all of her life. She can’t run freely and easily but yet my beautiful daughter knows how to walk forward and has a little bonus energy in her step when she can hug a person friend or stranger. Having a good pair of shoes helps our entire body’s health … even in the days of Jesus people knew that protecting one’s feet was important. The Roman soldiers wore a multilayered leather shoe that they pulled up and laced around their ankles called a CALIGAE. It protected their feet against blisters and foot diseases … they added spikes or bits of iron to make sure their shoes gave them a firm grip on the ground.
Paul fully understood the value of good shoes for entering battle and so in this letter the Greek word hetoimasia (HET-TOY-MAH-SEE-YA) is used; this means preparation … firm footing or foundation. Paul’s focus for believers, creating a foundation in the GOOD NEWS … a foundation in the GOSPELS. The same word is used in the Greek translation of Psalm 89:14, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation or HET-TOY-MAH-SEE-YA of Your throne. Mercy and truth go before you.”
Paul reflected on this theme in Romans 10 when he wrote, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things.” He obviously wasn’t talking about foot models for fashion magazines in describing how beautiful those feet are but rather that in establishing one’s personal foundation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then by living a life focusing in on the peace and love Jesus taught … we, well I hope this is we friends because if you are not focused in on this perhaps you need to add another prayer to God before we go to God’s Table later this morning, together when we share the GOOD NEWS of JESUS CHRIST our foundation of faith is solid and what we share with the world is a message of hope or as Paul wrote, “glad tidings of good things.”
The prophet Isaiah probably was Paul’s source of inspiration because Isaiah told God’s people, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who proclaims peace, who brings good news, who proclaims salvation. Who says “GOD RULES!”
So there is a challenge here on ALL SAINTS DAY but truthfully it is a challenge those of us who have been exposed to the GOOD NEWS … THE GOSPELS … the direct words spoken by JESUS CHRIST … words that God sent us to discover … our challenge is do we accept those words? Believe in the Good News and then live it out each day? We can also choose the world … the political theater … we can worship humans and sort some humans into our camp and others into cages on the other side. But, I am here to plead, beg, and urge you to consider the benefit of Jesus Christ because this is my moment to make you consider whether an eternal life with God matters … the clock is ticking even though we gained an hour today.
Faith is not just a casual word … faith is a commitment representing a change that the world can see not just something you think you are. Faith is a journey where you and I have responsibilities to God. God who created the universe … yes, God has expectations and that is why Scriptures remind us that FAITH without ACTIONS is DEAD … not sleeping, not resting, not ready to be revived when facing God when we die but FAITH IS DEAD when we don’t live it out. Hard truths … the saints of the church knew it .. they lived their lives to share that message … they wanted those of us who followed to fill their shoes so future generations got the message.
Yet, today … Sunday Schools are empty, young families have abandoned churches, and people claiming the name are living lives that counter everything that Jesus taught. I am worried … I pray for each of you … this series of messages I am hoping gives you strength in your faith for your days to come beginning with looking in your faith mirror followed by reminders to tweak your diets for God, to wear love for all on your sleeves, to understand the truth of faith and the consequences of rejecting it, and that God’s protection plan is all about our standing together for justice for all. Together, we can no longer allow the message of Jesus Christ to dissolve into mere meme’s to be looked at occasionally on FACEBOOK … we need to shine the light of Jesus brightly into the world!
Paul’s truth is our truth, “We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against forces of cosmic darkness and spiritual forces of evil.” Together we need to commit ourselves to follow Paul’s directions to “Pick up the full armor of God so that together we can stand our ground” for God and Jesus Christ. We need to fill the shoes of the saints that have come before us while making our shoes of faith something that the next generations view as worthy of their beautiful feet!
The GOOD NEWS is truly a message of peace and love! The GOSPEL message of Jesus Christ is a clear message of peace and love for all! We are commanded … not a suggestion but Jesus commanded us to go into the world … to share the GOOD NEWS and it begins at home. It begins in how we live our lives, the words we use, who we cheer on and who we condemn.
We’ve all probably heard this saying “If you’re going to talk the talk, you also have to walk the walk.” That’s pretty fitting for a message about putting on the shoes of faith … are your shoes prepared for the walk with Christ? Are your feet willing to go into the world representing God’s messages … or has the world broken your feet and toes so badly that you can’t fit into God’s shoes any longer.
Jesus can heal … God can bring you back … the Holy Spirit can guide you but you have to decide. The very souls of future generations including people you love may be depending on what you decide to do. Will you put on the armor of God to take on the force of evil … living with and sharing the Gospel of peace?