Sunday, September 08, 2019

Sermon: The Freedom and Risk of Discipleship

Sermon: The Freedom and Risk of Discipleship

            I think I need to begin this sermon with an apology to my parents… this is the second time this summer that you’ve showed up in worship and I’ve read words from Jesus about denying, in this case hating, father and mother… this keeps up it might give you guys a complex…
            Jesus is making a point today about following him, and what it does, or does not, mean… what being faithful to the God we find in Jesus, and the God to whom we journey toward by following after Jesus, means…
            Jesus is saying clearly to his contemporaries and to us—being a follower of Jesus means taking the 1stcommandment seriously
—faith is about God and what God is up to…
            So if you think faith is about your family, you are related to so and so and therefore you’re faithful… you’re wrong.
            If you think your faith is tied to the towers and temples of Herod, if particular religious or cultural buildings or dynasties are what tie you to God… you’re wrong.
            If you think pushing out the Romans and siding with the zealots and reclaiming your country will prove your faithfulness… you’re wrong.
            The Kingdom of God is not about land, and it is not about possessions…
            And thank God for all of that
—within a generation the Jews were kicked out of Jerusalem,
the zealots were defeated,
the temple, Herod’s grand building projects, and Herod’s line itself, destroyed…
Thank God that God’s being faithful to us, and our being Jesus’ disciples, isn’t about all these centralized things of religion…

            Now, this truth is a strange mirror image to Moses’ reality; we see its flip side.
For a generation Moses’ people had been gathered together traveled through the desert, God’s tent right there in the center of them…
the danger and risk that Moses warned about, was the danger of dispersion
—that it was easy to be a faithful person when everyone was tightly compact around God
—but flowing out into the promised land was dangerous,
it was a time that required re-commitment, it required the life of faith to be spelled out and a formal agreement verbally accepted, complete with blessings and curses
—a terms of use contract.
            Both Gathered together and Sent out, Discipleship is Risky.
Let us pray

            Both Gathered together and Sent out, Discipleship is Risky.           I say this, conscious that this is Rally Sunday, the start of our programming year.
            Conscious of the tension of two different impulses, gathering everyone together and sending everyone out, both necessary for a life of discipleship, but both heavy with import and each like threading a needle.

            I am aware, for example, that in 12of the next 14days, we will gather together… and I really want you all to come every day, because I know each event has the potential to be a step on your journey of discipleship—becoming more fully your baptized self… I know each event can remind you of the promises made at your baptism.
-I know you will get to gatherwith fellow believers at our pot-luck, and where two or three are gathered, there is Jesus.-I know that between worship services and bible studies God’s Word and Sacramentsare continually available to you.
-I know that Christians of many denominations here in South Plainfield praying together for our town and our state this coming Saturday, is a powerful witnessto Jesus.
-I know when we feed people at our Pop-up Food Pantry we’re servingpeople as Jesus served.
-I know sitting down with fellow Lutherans down in East Brunswick and working out how to best use the gifts God has given each one of us points to the Kingdom of God.
            But I also know sitting in a garage doesn’t make me a car.
            That there is always a danger of confusing doingchurch things with beingthe Church… you could spend 12 of your next 14 days in church and end up feeling kinda self-righteous and nothing more…
we could all fall into the same trap that Jesus’ generation did, grasping Family, Temple, King, & Country, and miss out on what God is doing completely.That is the danger of being gathered.

            But there is a risk to being sent out, as well… the risk of freedom.
-I know that all of you have non-church roles and responsibilities, that need your faithfulattention!
-I know there are folk who can’t make it to worship, who need you, their fellow Christians, to visit them.
-I know you have relatives for whom you are the only Gospel they will ever see.
-I know your kindness and attention are the only thing keeping a kid on the right track.
-I know you have jobs that, when done justly, truly provide daily bread to those who hunger.
            I know that how you live your faith outside these church doorsmatters so very much—it too is your baptismal calling
            … but I also know we all spend plentyof time ignoring, and even rejecting, our baptismal identity.
            I think of Luther’s experience with institutionalized prayer
—he released all monks who left the Roman Catholic Church from the requirement to pray The Hours (a group of prayers prayed 8 times a day) and found that many of them stopped praying completely!
The risk of freedom, right!
            As your Pastor this is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night, finding the balance between being a called people and being a sent people, knowing the risksfound in both
—have I burdened you with so many Churchthings you cease being Christian and become a building instead,
or have I been so liberal in my leading of you all that you take that freedomas license and forget that you are disciples of Jesus altogether?

            Yes, discipleship is risky…But what a worthwhile and exciting risk!
            Discipleship is a category beyond the secular and the sacred… finding our whole identity in God!
We aren’t filling our calendar, but are on a journey.
We’re not content with human-doings, but seek the center of human-being.
            Discipleship is where we find the way that gives us life,
and realize that The Kingdom of God has come near!
Both Gathered together, & Sent out, Discipleship is Risky.A+A