St. Matthew’s Sermon 06-30-2019


St. Matthew’s Sermon 06-30-2019

Living in the Real World

Children’s Day!

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14, Psalm 16, Galatians 5:1, 13-25, Luke 9:51-62

Luke 18:15-30

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

 I must tell you that I spent a great deal of time choosing today’s Gospel reading with our celebration of our children in mind. You might think it’s a no-brainer to pick the16th verse of Luke 18 (or one of the parallel verses from Mark or Matthew that read almost exactly the same); “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

But, as simple as that seems, it’s harder than you think to discern what qualities children have that adults don’t and therefore makes “such as these” owners of the Kingdom; harder still to interpret it in terms that children such as these can understand.

However, the story that immediately follows Jesus’ words about the children (that I included in the reading) adds to our understanding. It may seem completely unrelated but it’s actually connected, it’s Jesus’ way of expanding on the previous thought.

There are several things that make the connection… One is the affirmation of the “little children” in the first part and the rich ruler’s statement that he has kept the commandments since his “youth”. Another is Jesus’ statements about the “Kingdom” “…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” in contrast with “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God”. But, perhaps the most important connection is how Jesus upsets the social norms of his day where little children weren’t to bother a great teacher before they reached the age of understanding and where, much like today, wealth and power were considered virtues.

Like so many other accepted norms of the time, Jesus turns both of these up-side-down by accepting and affirming the children and by rejecting the rich ruler! And he does this not just to upset people or stir up trouble, but because the way things were in the world wasn’t the way God wanted them to be.

Now, children (and many adults may identify with this too (pointing to self)) when you’ve complained about life being hard have you ever had an adult say something like “you think this is hard, wait ‘till you get out in the real world”? And they might add something about having to work for a living, pay bills, keep your boss happy and so on.

I’ve always had a problem accepting such talk, even now that I live in the “real world”. First, who says your childhood struggles aren’t real? Second, who says everyone faces the same hardships, whether in childhood or adulthood?

Children’s struggles may be a little different than adults’ but a careful look reveals that the differences are slight Adults work for a paycheck, children work for a diploma. Children and adults wrestle with building and maintaining friendships and family relationships. Both face the disappointment of limited ability, suffer losses, and face uncertainty. Are these not real for both young and old?

And, here in our world, and out there in the world beyond us, there are rich and poor. Do they experience the same reality? There are boys and girls, men and women. Are their realities the same? There are those with white skin, black, brown, yellow and red skin. Do they share the same reality? Do the well educated and the not so well educated experience the same reality? There are 195 countries in the world with well over 6,000 different languages spoken, and countless cultures. Do all of those have the same view of reality? We all live in “this world” but who gets to define the values of “Thee real world”?

The fact is, children, you do live in the real world; your real world. But the difference between you and us adults, is that you still have the ability to adapt to the things you cannot change and the time to change those things you cannot adapt to.

This is what Jesus was talking about when he said

“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

Those little children (and you, children) can receive, become a part of the kingdom, the real world as God planned it by using your time and flexibility to make God’s plan the reality of this world for yourselves and for everyone else; a world full of justice, peace, love, and joy for all people, not only for the rich, the white, and the well educated who live in our nation and speak our language but for everyone; the kind of reality God intends us to live in!

In contrast is the rich ruler to whom Jesus said

“How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

That man was stuck in his view of reality, so rigid that he wasn’t able to change the thing that needed to be changed even for his own good, much less for the benefit of the world in which he lived.

You, children, still have the ability to shape yourselves and your world; you’re not yet stuck with things the way they are, rather, you can make a difference. Following the teachings of Jesus you, too, can turn what’s up-side-down, right-side-up, and make the Kingdom of God the reality of this world.

Amen

 

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
2:1 Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
2:2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
2:6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.
2:7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan.
2:8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
2:9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”
2:10 He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.”
2:11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.
2:12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
2:13 He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.
2:14 He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

 

Psalm 16
16:1 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
16:2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
16:3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.
16:4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.
16:5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
16:6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.
16:7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
16:8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
16:9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.
16:10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.
16:11 You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

 

Galatians 5:1, 13-25
5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.
5:14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
5:15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
5:16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.
5:17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.
5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.
5:19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,
5:20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,
5:21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
5:22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
5:23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Luke 18:15-30

15 People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it.

16 But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

17 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’ ”

21 He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.”

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

23 But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich.

24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!

25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”

27 He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.”

28 Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.”

29 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God,

30 who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”