Friday, June 27, 2008

Sermon for Year A Proper 6

See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
---Matthew 10:16

Uniquely Unqualified

Dear Sir:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests. We have not only run the result through our computer, but have also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychological and vocational aptitude consultant….
It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, educational, and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue to search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus have radical leanings and registered high manic-depressive scores.

Only one of the candidates shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness who meets people well and has a keen business mind. He has contacts in high places and is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right hand man. All the other profiles are self-explanatory.

We wish you every success in your new venture.

Sincerely yours,
Jordan Management Consultants
Jerusalem, Judea

God seems to have a special gift
for picking people who are uniquely unqualified.
And then these uniquely unqualified people
go out into the world and do amazing work.

That is incredibly good news for many of us!

God seems especially drawn to the uniquely unqualified
Sarah was much too old to have a baby--
yet God picked her.
Sarah was ninety years old and childless.
Yes, uniquely unqualified!
But chosen.
She laughed—but she said yes.

Jesus was only 30 years old when he began his ministry.
We won’t even let a person run for President in this country
until they are at least 35 years old!
Jesus’ ministry lasted only three years.
There are an estimated 2.1 billion Christians today.
Pretty good results
from a young uniquely unqualified carpenter’s apprentice.
Uniquely unqualified.

I am not suggesting that because I have never been to medical school
and am uniquely unqualified to be a surgeon
that you should stop by my office
and let me perform your gall bladder surgery
after our worship service.

That would not be good news.
God would be first in line to say, “What kind of crazy person are you?!!”

But I think the reason we have these stories in scripture
is to remind us that God may have a dream for us
even though we believe we are in no way capable or qualified
to live that dream.
We must not strangle the dream of God
with our own fears and uncertainties.

I think the reason we have these stories in scripture
is to remind us that we do not always know the best way.
But if we can surrender,
if we can be the sheep that is willing to go out into the field
even when the wolves are lurking,
God will open the way.

These stories also remind us
that we often may not know what our real work is in the world.

We may have a “job” and a “job description”
but our real work may be the way we parent our children
or the way we take care of our parents
or the kindness we offer our neighbors—or our enemies.

Our real work may be speaking up
for those who cannot speak for themselves
or for those who speak but no one seems to listen.

Our real work may be learning to keep quiet and listen,
to grow a heart filled with compassion
instead of loosing a tongue
quick to judge and criticize.

It is really really hard to do the right thing sometimes.
I think Jesus knew that.
I think when he says to his disciples,
… I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves…
Jesus knows.
There is nothing easy about trying to follow Jesus.

We are a culture that is addicted to achievement and success.
We try hard to be “pleasers.”
to make everyone around us happy.,
to make others think, “Wow! What a great person he is or she is.”
We want others to think we are super qualified.
We don’t want to be a loser.

But God seems to have a very special place in God’s enormous heart
for those who are willing to lose themselves
for the love of God.
Those uniquely unqualified people
who are willing to proclaim the gospel
in the way they choose to live their lives.

We need to stop playing it safe.
We need to let go of our own agendas,
our own “my way or the highway” mindsets,
to be willing to trust the love of God—
but also to be wise.

We are encouraged to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”—
even though some say that snakes are not all that smart
and that doves are just a variation of pigeons --
but wisdom has it’s roots in being able to recognize
and proclaim what is true.
We start by telling the truth about our own lives.

Maybe our family is a lot more like the Simpsons than the Waltons.
Maybe we are scared to death
with what we face in our lives right now.
Maybe what we do to make a “living” is actually killing us—
shaving off little pieces, one day at a time.
Maybe we are so caught up in the image we want others to have of us,
that we forget to look for the real human being
God has created us to be.

We start by telling the truth about our own lives.
Wisdom comes when we face, through the grace of God,
what needs to change.

When we begin to tell the truth about our own lives,
our demons are cast out,
and we and the whole world move closer
to the kingdom of heaven
becoming real and alive
here on earth.

The good news is--
no matter how many wolves lurk at the edge of the forest,
God is always present.

The good news is ---
that the love of the Shepherd never deserts the sheep.

The good news is—
God still continues to believe
in a bunch of uniquely unqualified human beings.

+ + +

The "letter" regarding the disciples being unqualified was adapted from Pulpit Helps, AMG International, Chattanooga, TN as found in SYNTHESIS, June 15, 2008.

The comment about snakes and doves comes from Barbara Crafton’s “The Almost Daily EMo from the Geranium Farm”, June 13, 2008.

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