Gotta Serve Someone

Here is the sermon I am preaching at Reconciler tonight.  Thoughts are welcome:

Sermon 5th Sunday of Lent — 3/29/09
Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm119:9-16
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

Gotta Serve Someone

Hear these words from the Psalms.  This comes from the alternate choice for this Sunday.  Hear now Psalm 119:9-16 (read from Bible).

Let us pray:  May the words of my mouth and meditations of our hearts be acceptable to your purposes of grace.  Amen.

Sisters and Brothers I bring you greetings from your friends at North Shore Baptist Church.  It is really strange me being up here today.  For those of you who do not know me or my history with Reconciler, although I haven’t been around a lot recently I have been with this church since before she had a name.  Reconciler has been a formative milestone on my spiritual journey, and my love for her will remain as long as I do.

*****
The year was 1933 and a young single mother named Dorothy Day started a newspaper that helped to make people aware of the Catholic Church’s role in social justice an led to the formation of “houses of hospitality” that were there to provide shelter and food for those in need.

The year was 1942 and Clarence and Florence Jordan and Martin and Mabel England founded a place called Koinonia Farms as a “demonstration plot to the Kingdom of God.”  A place where anyone regardless of their race can come and live in peace.  Living according to the following precepts:

1. Treat all human beings with dignity and justice

2. Choose love over violence

3. Share all possessions and live simply

4. Be stewards of the land and its natural resources

The year was 1960 and a 22 year old young woman named Diane J. Nash helped found an organization called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.  Ms. Nash helped lead sit-ins that lead to the desegregation of lunch counters in Nashville, TN.

It is the late 1990’s and a man clad in a cassock made from tattered blue jeans — jeans taken symbolically from the dead — the man in the cassock walks into the middle of gunfire in the killing fields of Cabrini Green.  Brother Bill Tomes has made this journey countless times.  Brother Bill only knows how to handle the gang bangers one way.  Through the love of Christ.

It is 2005, not too long after Hurricane Katrina devastated Bay St. Louis, LA, and a preacher known as the Screaming Frenchman has returned home.  Tugged like Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem the Frenchman returns home.  He seeks to see after the spiritual needs of those in his hometown.  Seeks to rebuild a place of worship that ends up being the spiritual epicenter of Bay St. Louis

****

The Lord God of Israel, through Jeremiah, promises the people of Israel a new covenant.  “I will put my laws within them, and I will write it on their hearts,” says the Lord.  “No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”  The Torah, the law will be written in their hearts.  Their God will no longer be an impersonal, distant deity; No their God will be within them and always present.  They will know the voice of their God.

Earlier in Chapter 31 of Jeremiah we are told of the promised return of the exiles.  After years and years away from their land there are promised that they will be returned home and it will be a joyous time.

They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again.
13Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the Lord.

It is after this joyous return that the Most High promises them even more.  This is when the new covenant is promised to them.  Not only are they being returned to their land but they will KNOW the LORD.  They will have the Word written on their hearts.  The word that was in the beginning with God and the word that was God.  There are to be given their voices.  There are people of God.  They are the voice of God.

The Greeks come to Jesus and Jesus proclaims, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  In the section just previous to today’s reading the Pharisees have just said, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!”  Jesus is being glorified here as the savior of the world not just the Messiah of Israel.  This is points to the fulfillment of the promise of universal salvation.

He then explains what one must to in order to truly follow.  It is one of those passages that make it seem impossible.  “Those who love their life must loose it.”  Here, again, Jesus is asking the near impossible.  When he spoke to the rich young man he told him to sell everything and leave his family.  These things are hard, and I think indications that we are to rid ourselves of the things that inhibit us from doing what is really required, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am there my servant will be also.  Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”  Whoever serves me the Father will honor.

The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as a great high priest.  A high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.  Meaning that Jesus was of the highest order of priest.  Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High, and the patriarch, Abraham, paid him a tithe.  But unlike a normal high priest who is chosen from among the people Jesus was appointed by the Most High to that position.

These passages contain the building blocks for how we are to serve the LORD.  If Christ is the great high priest who was sacrificed for everyone and the new covenant promised to the Israelites was to have the word written in them then when the great high priest was glorified as savior of the world we were included into that covenant, and because we are part of the living body of Christ we are to serve as priests to one another and to the stranger.  We are called to be the voice for those who have no voice.  We are to serve as Christ would serve.  That is not just our calling but our duty as followers of Christ.  We are the priesthood of all believers.

The folks I mentioned at the beginning were just a few of the people serving as priests.  Serving and honored by the Creator.

These people did extraordinary things.  Some of us are called to be such voices.  Be it through writing or activism or art.  Others are called to priestly service in other ways.  By giving hospitality to those who need a place to sit and rest.  By holding the hand of a child as they are crying over a scrapped knee.  By fixing a meal to nourish our family and friends.

Many folks, Christian or not, serve as priests to one another.  I can think of many of my good friends who are not Christian who serve and show God’s grace whether they intend to or not.  That is the miracle of Grace.

As followers of Christ, though, it is our duty to serve.  We do not have a choice.  This is what Christ means when he says we must loose our life.  This is leaving our family and selling our possessions.  We must open ourselves up to truly be servants of the LORD.  We must give over all of the things that burden us.  The things that inhibit us from showing others the grace of God.  We must accept and live within that grace.  For to live in the grace of God is to share that grace with everyone around.  Once again, the miracle of Grace.

The prayer in the Psalm we prayed at the beginning of the sermon can be our guide.  Here these words again:  (read from Bible).

In everything we do we should exercise our priestly authority and gifts.  These gifts we have have been given to us to glorify God and to share God’s never ending never fading love.

If we sew:  may it lift someone’s spirit so that they experience God’s Grace.

If we write a song:  may it be a psalm unto the LORD.  A song that tells a story beyond words.

If we teach:  may each moment be a grace filled chance to open a pupil’s eyes to the wonder that is creation.

If we draw:  may the images be those that reveal the glory of God.

If we cook:  may we feed.

If we sing:  may our voice rise with the angels.

Even in this dark time of Lent as we make our way to the shadow of the cross; may we through our duty as priests of the Most High always reveal to those in need the hope that is coming on the third day.  The hope that was promised to the Israelites in exile.  The hope that is the new covenant.  The hope that is the being drawn into the the loving arms of the the one who is glorified.  The hope that is Jesus the Christ.

Amen

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