Category: Sunday Morning Sermon
Speaker: Rev. Wes Smith
This past week some of the preschool staff and a few others helped with a little rearranging. It had been on mine and Kathryn’s radar for some time to change the location of the preschool office, and wouldn’t you know it, the time arrived, and we finally got it done.
Everything seemed rather straightforward. We simply needed to move things from one place to another. If any of you are chuckling under your breath – you might have an idea of what is coming. Of course, everything went as smoothly as it could. Books, file cabinets, chairs, knickknacks - everything was moved – everything found its place. Once the great migration was complete the staff stood in the room, and suddenly, a realization swept over our faces. Where do we plug in a phone?! It was a fairly large oversight, and thankfully the phone line was simply covered up by a cabinet – but holy moly – the thought of having to move everything back, wasn’t at the top of our list. So after taking a large sigh of relief we went to plug the phone in – zero dial tone.
Full disclosure, I’m pretty fearless when it comes to electronics trying to figure out how things work – and I jumped into action. I tried, for what seemed like hours to try to get a dial tone back in that room.
I was convinced I could figure it out simply by the process of elimination. But in the best interest of not messing up the entire churches infrastructure the staff decided it be best to have someone come in fix and fix the problem. And that is exactly what happened. The technician came in moved a couple wires around and boom - dial tone.
Wouldn’t you know it though, I was really close to figuring it out. I simply had two wires placed incorrectly. I literally had my wires crossed. Go figure.
And as I sat down to write this week’s sermon, it dawned on me. That’s the story of the Bible. That’s the story of God’s people, and that’s what Christ came to solve. Since the beginning of time, humanity has had its wires crossed. From the start we’ve been given rules – don’t eat of that tree! – but time and time again, we’ve decided what’s best, and have used God’s direction as mere suggestions, assuming that we have all the correct answers.
Time and time again, God’s people go it on their own, realize they need God, and God being gracious, merciful and slow to anger, offers pardon and tries to get us back on track – God uncrosses our wires; if you like.
God reminds us of our priorities. God reminds us that placing God and our neighbors first are the cornerstone of Christian living, but as the cycle goes, and as many of us have experienced, the same cycle the Israelites fell into is the same cycle we fall into today, but with one major difference. No longer do our crossed wires led to condemnation.
Jesus came to fix what humanity failed to secure – salvation. It sounds corny, but it’s not all together incorrect. Jesus’s teachings rewire our thinking. And I think the only reason Jesus didn’t use that analogy in his ministry, is that it was a totally foreign concept there was no frame of reference for wires in Jesus’ time. Most everything Jesus teaches, most everything about his ministry is about transformation it’s about seeing the world differently it’s about interacting with the world differently; it’s about treating people differently. In short, it’s about being connected to what truly matters.
In 2018, a pastor transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000-member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filing with people for service, only 3 people out of between 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – no one in the church gave him change.
He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares, dirty looks, and people looking down on him. As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you our new Pastor.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with all eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ ‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry, and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?” He then dismissed service until the following week.
Wires got crossed.
At its core, this story highlights the major theme of this morning’s gospel lesson – what does it mean to be welcoming? The question is almost so common, perhaps so easily answered in our minds, that you might not give it a second glance or thought. We all want to be welcoming, we all assume we are welcoming, and many –for good reason, are. But make no mistake, this is a serious question, and if it makes you uncomfortable, that’s okay – The gospel both comforts and challenges.
Our passage from Matthew is short and succinct. Essentially Jesus says if you welcome other people you welcome me. If you welcome me, you welcome God. It’s pretty straight-forward, no? And perhaps there isn’t too much to say about what it means for you to be welcoming, only you know if you are – perhaps the best way to unpack this theme is to ask – how does God welcome me.
Well, I’ll tell you. God welcomes me, a sinner of the highest caliber, into God’s kingdom, not because I am worthy but because I am loved. I come before God as a wholly imperfect human with flaw, and insecurities, but God come before me, welcomes me, as the wholly perfect person loved not because of, but despite my shortcomings. When I say – God welcomes all, it’s not hyperbole, it’s not waxing-philosophical, it’s true. I mean if what Jesus is saying is true at face value – if I don’t welcome others – I’m not welcoming God…of what use is that?
For my money's worth, this morning we were invited into a type of transformation. And transformation is not some foreign concept to us – just think about our confession and forgiveness. In Greek, the word for “repentance” is metanoia. It can be translated a few ways perhaps the most helpful translation is “turn around” – because really, that is what repentance is meant to elicit – it is about turning around, changing your ways because of God’s grace and forgiveness. So transformation, its is about turning around, its about being part of an ongoing change knowing that God is with us every step of the way. And on this day we are particularly reminded of this as we welcome yet another child into God’s kingdom.
Today Margaret Josephine Chalas will be baptized in the same waters of grace and mercy that have flowed over the heads of so many before her. Today we are once again reminded that God showers us in mercy, and that because of God’s love we too are called to love and welcome others.
Today we are reminded that even though there are times where we, and lose our way, we trust that our God comes in and untangles the messes we create, and forever greets us with open arms.
This week consider how we welcome, why we welcome, and who welcomes us.