Monday, November 7, 2011

Lily Pad or Launch Pad?...Sermon for Year A Proper 26

I want you to keep two images in your mind.
The first is a lily pad.
That’s right--a lily pad--floating peacefully on the water.
Crystal clear water with this beautiful lily pad.

The second image is the image of a launch pad.
That’s right the kind of launch pad that shoots a rocket into the air.

Lily pad. Launch pad.
Hold on to those images.
We’ll get back to them in a moment.

Now some of you may remember the hit song by
country singer Mac Davis that starts...

..O Lord, it’s hard to be humble
when you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror,
‘Cause I get better lookin’ each day....

Now you may not care for country music
but Mac Davis captures the essence
of what Jesus is telling his disciples
about the scribes and the Pharisees.

These people are in love with themselves.
They do all their deeds to be seen by others.
Even their prayers and their worship are for show.

They like to have the seat of honor and be greeted with respect.
But they don’t lift a finger to help.
They let everybody else do the hard work
but they like to do the hard bragging
about all they do.

Jesus reminds us that God knows the humble.
Jesus sees clearly
 and tells us very very clearly:
The ones
who like to show off to others,
they really don’t have that much to show.
The greatest among you will be your servant.

The greatest among you will be your servant.

This is our call--to be servants.
Servants to one another.
Servants to creation.
Servants to our church and our communities.
Servants to God.

jesus does not disagree with what the Pharisees are teaching.
Not at all
in fact, Jesus says, do whatever they teach you and follow it.

But then he adds
...but do not do as they do for they do not practice what they teach.

Jesus is proclaiming to his disciples
about how to be a community of faith,
how to be the church in the world.

You know the church is not a building.
The church is the people of God.
We are a little community of God’s people
named St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Now back to those two images you have been holding
in your mind:
Are we a lily pad or a launch pad community?

Is Church a beautiful place to come
and just sit and rest and soak in the colored light
from the stained glass window?
Or is church a place to be inspired,
to be launched into the world as a servant?

Lily pad or launch pad?

Paul says to the Thessalonians,
lead a life worthy of God.
A better translation of that word we hear as “lead” might be “walk”--
walk a life worthy of God.

n other words,
“Walk the walk that the gospel teaches you.”
Walk and behave and do in the world
the good news you have heard from Jesus Christ.

Walk the walk.

Jesus is not critical of what the Pharisees are teaching.
He is critical of the fact that they are not walking the walk.
He is critical of the fact that they are walking AWAY from what they are teaching.

Lily pad or launch pad?
Are we called as Christians to sit and be eye-candy--
or are we called to go out into the world and serve?

Serving does not wear one face.
You can serve with a Habitat hammer in your hand
and you can serve with a loaf of bread
delivered to someone who is suffering.
You can serve by offering your time to someone in prison
and you can serve by offering your time and transport
to someone who needs a ride to church.

Gandhi said:
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.
Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

I think Gandhi was talking about lily pad Christians--
not the launch pad Christians Jesus calls us to be.

For most of his life Albert Einstein had portraits of two scientists,
Newton and Maxwell, hanging on the wall of his office to inspire him.
But as he grew older he took down those portraits and hung two others:
Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Gandhi.
EInstein said he needed new role models--
people who were not models of success,
but people who were models of humble service.

O Lord it’s hard to be humble...
And not because we are perfect.
(Sorry, Mac Davis!)

It is hard to be humble because the world around us
tells us in so many ways
that what we need is a beautiful new lily pad.
The world around us tells us that what we need is to be the best,
to beat out the competition, to win,
to get the best seats, the fastest car, the biggest paycheck,
to impress people.

I don’t think the Pharisees started out
turning their back on the launch pad.
I think they started off really trying to walk the walk.
But they got distracted by all the bells and whistles
and false truths of the lily pad.
And they wandered so far away
and felt they had so much to lose
that they just could not walk their talk.

Oh, they kept preaching and teaching and pretending to be holy.
But they probably feared and hated Jesus
because he revealed to them
the harsh truth about whom they had become.

Lily pad or launch pad?
Two thousand years later
we are still faced with choosing.

Who will we be as Christians?
Who will we be as the Church?

There is a story that many of you may have heard.
It is credited as a story told by a Cherokee Indian chief.

The old chief told his young grandson about a terrible battle
that was raging.
His grandson asked,
“Where is this battle?”

His grandfather replied,
“This battle is inside you. Inside me. Inside everyone.
This battle is between two wolves.
One wolf is Evil.
It is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment,
lies, apathy.
The other wolf is Good.
It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy,
generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

“But Grandfather,” said the young boy, “which wolf wins?”
The grandfather looked at his grandson and replied,
“Which wolf wins?
Whichever wolf you feed.”

We are called to walk a life worthy of God--
to feed the good wolf,
to leave the lily pad
and launch ourselves into the world
proclaiming the love of God
loving and serving one another.

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