YOUR LIFE YOUR CHOICE
Psalm 37: 1-11 & 39-40
LUKE 6: 27-38
February 24, 2019
“Let go of anger … leave rage behind! Don’t get upset … it will only lead to evil.”
Those words from a different David, not me. Those words from a man whose sins would take more than one blockbuster movie to showcase. Those words from a rich and powerful man. Those words from the man whom God chose to be in a direct line to Jesus. Those words from one of history’s greatest people of faith … LET GO OF ANGER … LEAVE RAGE BEHIND. In other words don’t try to fit in with today’s world.
His words … words that are fitting for this Sunday in the 21st Century when we find it oh so easy to get angry. When rage … frankly RAGE friends is the driving force in America whether you reside on the left of center or the right. We are angry people … we get upset even from a simple cartoon or comment by a television entertainer … we rage against anyone who is in disagreement with us or different from us.
We are the people of the modern age and we fail to heed the wisdom of our Scriptures. This morning, I had a plan for my message of the day or so I thought. But as the cat woke me before my already early morning alarm and my eyes just barely opened I paused to read what a friend had written on FACEBOOK, which I then shared on my own page … I read what a pastor from Arkansas shared about her incredible son who as an eighth grader has actually brought people to know Jesus and to come to church.
I thought I had a plan church … but these are difficult times … these are overwhelming days … we are alive and in church or watching church online and we are breathing the air and able to look around at the beautiful people God created in God‘ s Holy image that are seated with us this morning or whom we will see at the diner, the mall, and along the highways as our days go forward. ALL … ALL created in God’s Holy image. ALL … ALL loved in the exact same way with the same intensity with the same opportunity to experience Jesus as we do. God plays no favorites … well Jesus was God’s Son with whom God was well pleased but this morning what about you? As God watches and listens to you is God well pleased?
Have you heard David’s reminder that we are to commit our way to the Lord? Are you trusting God? Is your life wrapped up in bringing justice and love into the world? Or are you allowing anger and rage and your being upset at others and the world to allow yourself to fall short of God … to ignore Jesus and frankly to accept the evil that is lurking around all of us …. to direct your life?
Friends, there is only one life that I can impact and control. It’s my life and that cup of coffee I had this morning at 6:30 was my choice. David at the conclusion of this morning’s Psalm wrote about a choice for us … “The Lord will help them and rescue them … rescue them from the wicked and He will save them because they have taken refuge in Him.”
A choice … an active not a passive choice because frankly the passive just can’t do any longer. The Lord will help them who TAKE REFUGE IN THE LORD.
I could travel to any church in America this morning and if given the opportunity to stand before the congregations to ask one question I am sure every hand would go up … ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN? CHURCH? Of course pastor … yes, yes, yes … that is the expected for those seated on the hardwood pews of older churches like ours or those holding their lattes in the modern churches that offer coffee service or on the benches in the tent churches that friends of mine in Liberia worship in. Yes …Yes is the answer the poll takers who want to know ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN because that is acceptable. It is still powerful in some corners when tied to political messaging but being a Christian is not a shiny business card mention, label or club membership but being a Christian is a choice … it goes against the accepted ways of the world and David in today’s Psalm is spelling it out.
And, frankly Jesus in today’s Gospel lesson is clarifying it in a way that any person in any church needs to assess whether they have made the choice to become a Christian. Those of us in church today need to determine whether the message that Jesus teaches matters. In today’s world, we don’t have to look far to find church attenders and church leaders focused on division and energized by raising themselves up while judging those who are different as being not only different but less in God’s eyes than they are.
“IF SOMEONE TAKES YOUR COAT … now I am sure that Jesus was not talking about my Buffalo Bills’ jacket and Buffalo Bills jersey in this lesson because he says that the thief should not only take my jacket but I should give up my willingly … well I have an old torn and tattered shirt to give away that I would never wear in public but not the jersey.
Those homeless drug addicts who are criminals and deserve the life that they have … let them suffer … oh wait, Jesus said “GIVE TO EVERYONE WHO ASKS and DON’T DEMAND your things back from those who take them.” Seems that this Jesus might not fit in very well in the 21st century … this Jesus wants us to behave in ways that just don’t work in our world so this Jesus. … this Jesus … this Jesus.
Do we really want to follow Jesus? Do we really accept God’s directives through God’s Son? Are we more than Christians in name … it is a challenge church and church at the end of the day it is your life – my life … your choice – my choice but God offers us an eternal life but that does require Jesus. LORD, MASTER, SAVIOR. It begins with “Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.”
I have been fortunate in my life … I think I have worked hard and gained the respect from those I worked for and with. I still get asked to guest host talk radio programs so I must have done alright with that phase of my life … the Social Security questions continue to be asked even though I left that job more than a decade ago. But today I have a difficult job that perhaps I don’t do as well at as I should.
This morning I am concerned with the world … I am concerned with the nation … I am concerned with the United Methodist Church but I am concerned with each of you because I have been put in this position that can impact your lives and I often struggle to come up with the right words … I pray for all of you but this morning I want to apologize to any of you I may have slighted or harmed by my actions or inactions. They never give pastors the gift of mind reading and I am as far away from perfection as anyone I know and my sins continue as do my life’s struggles. But, this morning church you need to know that when I hear that I have failed any one of you it breaks my heart and so I am asking your forgiveness if I have harmed you or hurt your feelings. This simple pastor loves each of you and will listen to you as long as I am your pastor or even beyond these limited days here at St. Paul’s if you need an ear to listen any time in the future.
We have a challenge to be a church that loves all … a church that grows by making disciples for Jesus Christ … a church that is in mission to the world … 130 in the pews each Sunday by May … 150 kids in Vacation Bible School … we need to be a light shining out into the world and it is you the church who need to decide if your life is worth investing in God’s work … are you willing to make the choice to live as Jesus taught? As David taught? As Scriptures teach?
If there was a posting that I wish every believer had in their homes … if there was a Scripture I wish every believer could memorize … it would be this morning’s lesson from Luke. Not John 3:16 because John 3:16 needs John 3:17 but most who toss out John 3:16 want to judge and damn rather than love … today’s Scripture in Luke is about how we need to be transformed … you and me and every church attender who would raise their hands if asked if they were a Christian but who choose to rage at the world and get upset at anyone they disagree with instead … friends those who say they are Christians all have the choice to actually become one or they can just add the name Christian to their resumes … Jesus message from Luke today is about that choice and if we all made this choice for living our lives then the hurting in the world would rush in to our churches to discover what we have. Why we are so joyful. Why we worship God.
BE COMPASSIONATE … DON’T JUDGE … DON’T CONDEMN … FORGIVE … GIVE … LOVE YOUR ENEMIES … DO GOOD TO THOSE WHO HATE YOU … LEND EXPECTING NOTHING in RETURN … Jesus words; Jesus directives; words that God instructed Jesus to share … life changes that are part of following Jesus. Life changes and choices that only we can make but if we want to be part of the Kingdom … then it takes more than raising our hands it takes changing our lives.
So, this morning I read about this pastor’s teenage son. I don’t know my fellow United Methodist pastor … she’s down in Arkansas. Her son identifies not as a heterosexual … her son has been bullied and told by some that he is damned to hell. Her son has helped a classmate who questioned God by bringing her to church with him to see how the church of Jesus Christ can love and welcome all. This pastor wrote of her love for all the children in her church … she wrote of her hurt at what her son has experienced but also at her joy in his strong clear faith. She does not know what is ahead … her son is who he is that was not a choice just his reality but her son’s faith and decision to walk in this world by showing the love of Jesus Christ was his choice.
And, I think about my life choices … I remember the days when God was a mere afterthought for me. … I consider my successes and failures wondering where I will go in the days to come but friends I know I choose Jesus Christ and strive to hold onto His directives for living even when the teachings of Jesus might make friends, family, and even some of you upset … people of faith … our choice is to run against the world … upstream towards eternal life … as David said, “TRUST IN THE LORD and DO GOOD. ENJOY THE LORD … COMMIT YOUR WAYS TO THE LORD! TRUST HIM! He will act and make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like high noon. Let go of anger. The Lord will save those who have taken refuge in Him.”
Your life … your choice … I pray that you allow Jesus to be more than a name for you.
Watch a video of today’s worship service: