St. Matthew’s Sermon 05-13-2018


St. Matthew’s Sermon 05-13-2018

Being Where You Belong (And Where You Don’t Belong)

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26, Psalm 1, 1 John 5:9-13, John 17:6-19

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Our Gospel reading from the Gospel of John is taken from the middle of what we refer to as Jesus’ farewell prayer for his Disciples. This chapter-long prayer immediately follows his “farewell discourse”, a three chapter-long speech in which Jesus encourages the Disciples to carry on his work after his death and resurrection.

In that writing, we hear Jesus jump from topic to topic and back again talking about himself as the vine and the Father as the vinegrower then referring to the Disciples as branches of the vine. He speaks of how “as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love”. (15:9-10 NRSV) And then he rolls into saying “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”. (15:12) And on and on he goes speaking about them being no longer servants but friends, the world hates you because I have chosen you out of the world, I am going away but I will not leave you alone, in a little while you will no longer see me but in a little while you will see me…

Now, in the prayer of today’s reading, Jesus starts all over again. They were yours and you gave them to me from the world, all mine are yours and yours are mine, I am no longer in the world but they are in the world, the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, as you sent me into the world, I send them into the world…

The reader could spend hours reviewing and re-reading these chapters trying to untangle it all in an effort to fully understand everything Jesus packs in and mixes together. One might think that he could have structured his words in a clearer, more linier, fashion; presenting and finishing one thought at a time before moving on to the next.

All together, as it is, this section of reading is confusing, disorienting, and disrupts our sense of belonging to either God and Christ, or to this world.

But the many topics he addresses in this lengthy section of dialog are only one part of his message to his Disciples and, in turn, to us. The way he presents them; flipping back and forth, turning around and mixing them up is, itself, another part of his message.

In doing so, along with talk of being in the world but not of the world, is his way of showing his Disciples, and us, just how mixed up this world is and how challenging it is for a follower to find a sense of belonging in it. He pushes the point that he is here, but he is not of here and that we are here, but we are not of here.

 

Just another chapter after this, Christ is standing before Pilate saying, again, “My kingdom is not from this world.” (18:36 NRSV)

Through it all, his mission is not about two separate ‘worlds’; it’s not about this physical world that is separated from the spiritual world of the kingdom of God; it’s about bringing God’s kingdom into this world; about having this world ruled and this life lived as God wants it to be; it’s about the mixing together of the Spiritual and the physical.

As Christ’s own life demonstrates, this is no easy task; it creates great tension when the way God wants things to be conflicts with the way humanity wants it to be. Yet Christ stuck with God’s plan; followed God’s command all the way to the end; all the way to the cross. And, in so doing, he was glorified in the resurrection, completely negating the efforts of his enemies in this world to take him out of this world!

 

Now, here we are today, still in this world trying to live as Christians in a system that seems ever more contrary to the rule and will of God. And, it seems we are no closer to bringing the kingdom of God into this world than when Christ prayed his farewell prayer.

So what do we do? Do we quit, do we give up, do we retreat to the confines of this house where we feel safe and loved? Or do we go out into the world and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ?!

 I think you know the answer; I think you know that we are called, in no uncertain terms, to go into this world; to be in the tension and the conflict; never wavering in our efforts to make the kingdom of God reality in this mixed up, messed up world.

We must be in this world but we must not be of this world; we must not attempt to bring in the kingdom of God the way the powers of this world would. The way of this world is to rule with force and violence, with hatred and oppression. We must not be like this world; we must be like Christ; standing in opposition to the hatred of this world armed with the only weapon that can overcome it; that being love: the love of God and Christ.

Once a week, this is where we belong; within these walls praising God, learning his word, and supporting each other in our spiritual growth; giving ourselves and those who join us here a sense of belonging in the family of God. But the rest of the week we belong out there; out in the world we don’t belong to yet belong in; out there in the confusion and disorientation, mixing our sense of belonging into a world that so desperately needs its own sense of belonging.

God so loved the world that he sent his own Son into the world, likewise the Son sends us into the world.

Amen

 

John 17:6-19
17:6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
17:7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;
17:8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
17:9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.
17:10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.
17:11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
17:12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.
17:13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.
17:14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
17:15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
17:16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
17:18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

 

 

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
1:15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said,
1:16 “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus –
1:17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”
1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
1:22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.”
1:23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.
1:24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen
1:25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
1:26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Psalm 1
1:1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;
1:2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night.
1:3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
1:4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
1:5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
1:6 for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

1 John 5:9-13
5:9 If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son.
5:10 Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son.
5:11 And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
5:12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.