September 8, 2019

Pentecost 13   September 8, 2019   Psalm 139, Isaiah 40:27-31, Luke 6:31-38, Romans 12:1-13                      Present

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Present ourselves as living sacrifice – holy scripture tells us –

And as human experience tells us – the main problem with living sacrifice is just that – it does tend… to crawl off the altar…

We’re celebrating our heritage today. Reflecting on all the living sacrifice – given (for the most part) quite willingly – on the altar of worship, prayer, and humble serving of God and neighbor – over the past 225 years in the life of our Bourne Methodist church – over the past 250 years in the life of our Cataumet Methodist church (at least 188 of these years as Methodists)…

It’s often said “showing up is half the battle.” True enough – whether we’re talking about finding a job, making friends, staying married, or being the church – showing up is one of the most non-negotiable-of-necessities…

And when we’re talking about being a healthy church with good vital signs – showing up bodily – hearts and minds, hands and feet, eyes and ears engaged –  may be pretty close to 100% of the battle…Since – When we show up willing (or even willing to become willing)… God does the rest… Which is why –

Showing up – body and soul – really is our spiritual worship – as the letter to the Romans tells us. All the rest follows as we let God be God – let God change our minds – transform our hearts – guide our bodies and souls – so we can be

non-conforming to the world as it is – and be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Getting into the mind-set of Jesus is how we begin to know the will of God – the good, perfect, and beautiful will of God…

Transformation of our minds begins with showing up for God. Once we show up we can begin to live-into the rest of the message – and really – Be humble – for we are all one body… It’s humbling – in a good way – to know –

We can’t do faith alone. That’s why the New Testament’s favorite metaphor for church is “the body of Christ.” The body of Christ where all of us are members of the one body – and members of one another. No matter what our individual spiritual gifts may be, no member can fully properly function on it’s own.

And, as Christian author Rachel Held Evans has said, “The good news is you are a beloved child of God – the bad news is you don’t get to choose your siblings.”

And the even-better-good-news is – we don’t need to choose – since God does a far better job of choosing our family in Christ than we can ever possibly do on our own.

And (I suppose)… the so-called ‘bad news’ is also that – it doesn’t take long to figure out the church – which is also now our family – is made up entirely of flawed humans beings, like us. Differently flawed, but best to assume – no more  flawed than we ourselves. (As Jesus says today – judge not, then we won’t be judged ourselves.) We thank God for the faith, hope and love of all who came before us in this parish. But there’s no need to romanticize the past, or claim our ancestors in faith walked on water. They were all human, like us…

And the good news is still– God so loves us – just as we are – that God has sent Jesus to save the world, and God has decided to stay with us… All the way home to heaven…

And the good news is also that God loves us too much to leave us just as we were. Yet another reason why we need to keep showing up bodily, asking God to keep opening our hearts and minds to God and neighbor.

Transformation of our minds is an ongoing necessity…because the way of Jesus – is counter-cultural and in contrast with the ways of the world – which is always striving to make us into compliant-consumers-of-whatever-cause-and-product the powers that be are pushing… And it takes a genuine community of faith to stand up to all the false gods of the Empire.

So God reminds us again and again every day of the basics of the gospel… to love God with all our heart-mind-soul-and-strength and to love others as much as we love ourselves. Which needs lots of reminding since (speaking for myself) we can so easily aim just a little low.. and end up loving me-myself-and-I a whole lot better than anyone else… So Romans continues –

Let love be genuine – love one another with mutual affection. Hate what’s evil – hold on tight to what’s good…Serve the Lord.

          Rejoice in hope – be patient in suffering – persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints (– meaning all believers) – offer hospitality to strangers…

          The Bourne Enterprise ran an editorial this week titled A Maine State of Mind – about people in Maine patiently offering extra help to lost tourists. A gentle reminder to us here on the Cape to practice hospitality better than we sometimes do. For sure, there’s never any shortage of lost tourists here on the Cape.  But I’m hearing the editorial as a parable for all of us lost tourists on this lost planet… about helping one another find our way home… to God…

The neighbor we don’t know yet may be the neighbor we need to know most – may even be an angel in disguise… as we heard last week in the letter to the Hebrews…

And again, the good news embedded in the news that we don’t get to choose our brothers and sisters in Christ – is that by letting God choose our family and friends for us we often get to be pleasantly surprised… Seeing sides of ourselves and others we didn’t know were there… As we let go and leave the burden of our previous opinions of people with God.. And let God continue to work on us, and in us and through us …to make us together into a new creation… And….

One of the ways we often get to see the better side of ourselves and others – is singing the Lord’s songs.

The word of God tells us to stay humble so I seldom brag about Methodists.  But two things Methodist are good at are – eating together – and singing together. (Quite a few of us were blessed to be doing both last night – eating together and singing the Lord’s songs last night in Crain Hall. The rafters were ringing and the house was rocking…) Thanks God, we Methodists have just about always appreciated God’s good gift of music.

John Wesley and especially his brother Charles (who wrote more than 9000 hymns) – knew the gospel is often most effectively transmitted as we sing God’s good news together. Something about the word expressed in song congregationally, from the heart – makes it even more accessible, understandable, believable, and doable.

When we sing as we worship, pray, and serve together, the good news gets even better… So early Methodists put the stories of God, Jesus, the prophets and apostles and the church into song. Many at the time of the early Methodist movement (as at the time of Jesus) were illiterate – but they could sing – and they could remember, often, the words they learned in hymns set to familiar melodies borrowed from folk songs, popular songs, and older hymns…

All the hymns we’re singing today were written by Methodists – pastor and hymn writer Charles Wesley’s Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling from the 1700’s – Fanny Crosby’s To God be the Glory from the 1800’s – pastor and hymn writer Charles Albert Tindley’s Leave It There from  the early 1900’s – contemporary Methodist pastor and hymn writer Daniel Charles Damon’s Together We Serve, written just a few moments ago in 1998 – and Rev. Damon and other Methodists are still writing hymns today. We’re alive and singing… Methodists still love to sing…. And… I’m pretty sure God… still loves to listen…

And there will always be more songs to sing together… There’ll always be many things we can’t do alone – including being married – and being Christian. Some say faith is a private matter, between each of us and God. Which may be true of some religions – but its not true of Christian faith. It takes a congregation, it takes the whole body of Christ, to live as Christians… living and teaching and transmitting to our children, grand-children, and future generations – the good news of Jesus Christ – who God sent to save and transform this world which God so loves…

So we continue… to pray for one another and all the world… We continue to show up – presenting ourselves as living sacrifice – for worship – and for rest and regeneration in the love of God (as Isaiah says today) – as we wait…. on the Lord…

Then, refreshed, renewed, regenerated – we go forth to love and serve God and our  neighbors with gratitude… Freed-up from the burdens of the world to be able anew to give freely of ourselves… as we have received freely, from our gracious God…

As we recommit to continuing to be the body of Christ together…  as long as seedtime and harvest continue…. As long as we, God’s people, present ourselves… as a living sacrifice.

Thanks be to God. Amen.