The Lighthouse Keeper

Greetings from Pastor Kerry, former pastor of Spring City UMC. This blog contains my sermon outlines and/or manuscripts from my pastorate among the people of Spring City PA, from 2006 to 2011. Pastor Dennis is now the lighthouse keeper. Come and worship on Sundays at 10:00 a.m.!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lord, I Want to Be Like Jesus

August 31, 2008
Sixteenth Sunday in Pentecost

Matthew 16:21-28 and Romans 12:9-21

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."
(Matthew 16:24)

My sermon outline:

• Sometimes the lectionary texts weave together well, usually not. Today I find they do. A lot of sayings today, some difficult, some easy. Start difficult.

• Matthew. Jesus explains Passion, Peter doesn’t want Jesus to die, Jesus responds by calling Peter Satan. Get your priorities straight: divine over human. If you’d follow me Deny yourself, Pick up your cross, and Follow me.

Self-denial not a popular topic, but remember: Love God first, love neighbor as self.

Pick up cross:
what it doesn’t mean (general suffering or burden. Cross to bear, cancer, etc).
What it does mean: voluntarily shoulder a burden, at personal cost, that will help someone who couldn’t shoulder that burden. When you pay someone else’s debt... voluntarily shouldering their burden, at cost to you. (note this is a deny-self action)

Follow me. Do what I do. So far being like Jesus is not very appealing.

• Then Jesus gets weird. Those who want to save their life will lose it, those who lose their life for my sake will find it. Is survival instinct bad? Are those folks who are evacuating the gulf coast not followers of Jesus? Nah, but if you compromise your integrity, you’ve lost it.

Teachings like these are hard, and in fact in the book of John, disciples throw the towel in... say “Follow Jesus? Pick up cross? Deny self? Eh, not me.”

• Turn the page... Romans has some almost warm and fuzzy sayings. Stuff we already do, stuff we like to do. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good, love one another with mutual affection. My favorite: outdo one another in showing honor. Good, community-building stuff. The kind of stuff that prompted folks to say See how they love one another!

But the warm fuzzies start to become less warm and fuzzy, and a little more difficult... bless those who persecute you, don’t repay evil for evil, in fact show exceeding kindness to your enemies. And forget about revenge. Don’t even go there.

• Roy and Rodney:
Roy is a prison inmate who, becoming a Christian, had some hard lessons to unlearn. All his life he had been taught to hate his enemies, particularly within prison walls. One of his most vexing enemies was Rodney, who stole his radio and headphones one day while Roy was playing volleyball in the prisonyard. The radio had been an expensive gift from his mother, and the earphones a Christmas gift from his sister. Roy was angry and wanted revenge, but as he prayed about it, it seemed to him that God was testing him.

Day after day, Roy wanted to respond violently, to knock the wisecrack grin off Rodney’s face, but Romans 12:20-21 kept coming to mind: Paul’s instruction to avoid vengeance, leaving it to God to settle the score. Roy began to look at Rodney through God’s eyes and have compassion on him. He began praying for him. He began trusting God to accomplish something in Rodney’s life.

By and by, Roy’s hatred for Rodney began fading, and he found himself helping his enemy and telling him about Jesus. Then one day, Roy later wrote, “I saw Rodney kneeling down next to his bunk reading his Bible, and I knew that good had overcome evil.”

• Peace Like A River, principle of escalation.

• From the New Interpreter's Bible:
Yes, there is evil “out there” in the world. But God’s people are to meet it in the way that even God met it: with love and generous goodness. The theology of the cross, in fact, can be glimpsed under this apparently detached ethical maxim: when God came to defeat evil this was not achieved by using an even greater evil, but by using its opposite – namely, the surprising and initially counterintuitive weapons of goodness. To be consumed with vengeful thoughts, or to be led into putting such thoughts into practice, is to keep evil in circulation, whereas the way to overthrow evil, rather than perpetuating it, is to take its force and give back goodness instead.

• These sort of things make me want to be like Jesus.

• Hymn 402 Lord I Want to Be a Christian in my Heart

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: pray for New Orleans. Again.