Sermon by: Linda McMillan Bowman; July 29, 2018 - Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Peter 2:11-12
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::: Music ::
Come, Christians, Join to Sing
O Word of God Incarnate
Let Your Heart by Broken
:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf) :: This manuscript represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
Earlier this week I was at Bald Head Island with my kids and grandkids. Really tests your love of family when trapped in beach house with 10 grandchildren, ages 1 to 7, and it rains for three days and three nights.
God bless those little boogers. They can demolish a house in no time at all. There were cookies tucked between sofa cushions, partially deflated balloons hanging from lamp shades, half empty baby bottles poking out from under beds and sticky fingerprints all over every-thing!
And there I was grumping around- picking up this, putting away that, hollering “shut the door, were you raised in a barn?” yet all the while, smiling discreetly- thanking God for those precious little babies. For in addition to leaving sticky fingerprints on the doors and windows and walls, those adorable little monsters were leaving fingerprints on my heart.
Speaking of fingerprints, a 19th century statesman for world peace named Eli-hu Buritt once said this:
“We are each forming characters for eternity. No human being can come into this world without increasing or diminishing the sum total of human happiness, not only of the present but of every subsequent age of humanity.”
What Mr Burritt meant was that all of us are leaving fingerprints not on just walls and windows and doors, but on people we come in contact with through our words and our actions.
Question is: What kind of fingerprints are we laying down? What is the message we are sending? To our children? To the person at the office? At the gym? In the classroom? To that random person at the stoplight or in the Target?
You might remember a FB post several months back. In it, a New York woman can be seen and heard threatening a Delta FA. Moved/crying baby. Threaten FA job/curses Her fingerprints? The message she was sending? U-Galy and it went viral……..1.8 m people.
Unfortunately negative messages make far better news stories and leave bigger fingerprints than acts of goodness and kindness. And thanks to social media, these messages can go viral in seconds. We’ve got to realize our actions and our words have a powerful impact on people. Elihu Buritt had no idea just how right he was; we are indeed forming characters for an eternity.
In our passage from I Peter, the author, the disciple Peter himself is talking to those on the inside, the devoted church goers, similar to us, and he is reminding them to “live an exemplary life among the NATIVES.”
Live an exemplary life among the NATIVES.
I don't know about you but calling people who are outside the church “Natives” sounds dangerous to me. Might have been different in Peter’s day but in this day and age, we should be very careful about how we use language to type people into categories.
Other translations for this word natives
pagans (yicks) try calling your neighbor who doesn’t believe a pagan and see if you get invited for 4th of July picnic.
People who don’t believe
Let's settle on “Live an exemplary life among the people who don’t believe.” But as you heard read earlier Peter didn’t end there. He went on to say “so that your actions will refute their prejudices.”
Refute their prejudices? Why would we, the church of Jesus Christ have to refute or prove wrong THEIR prejudices? Where did they, the natives, the folks that don’t believe, get these prejudices in the first place?
1. Some of their prejudices against Christianity are just unfounded. Plain and simple, wrong Another sermon for another day
2. Some of it is uneducated. A lack of knowledge that a little bit of education will clear up. When you grow up outside the church, you don’t have the opportunity to learn about Jesus and the Bible.
3. What I want to talk about today But guess what?? Some their prejudices we gave them
A young mom who home-schooled her kids tells the story of getting involved with other moms who also home-schooled their kids. Moms had a lot of similarities as moms do with one major exception: This mom was a non-believer.
As the relationships progressed the non-Christian mom felt pressured by the other moms to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior and join their church.
And when she said thanks but no thanks, the other moms stopped calling and she was left to explain to her sad children why their new friends wouldn’t be playing with them any more.
Final straw was when her 6 yr old son came home crying because the boys down the street said they couldn’t play with him anymore because he wasn’t a Christian.
She went down to see what was going on. She confirmed that what her son had reported was indeed what the kids had said. And if that wasn’t hurtful enough, the 6-yr-old girl across the street told her kids that if they weren’t Christians, they were going to hell.
Forming characters for eternity? Leaving fingerprints on people? Influencing people for a lifetime? Maybe just maybe the church has been going about this ALL the wrong way.
Our text says Live a life so that YOUR ACTIONS…….
Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me. REALLY????? Who said that? Words can kill!!!
Very few of us have the spiritual gift of evangelism or prophecy. Gift of speaking about our faith. Difficult task and few could do it as eloquently and lovingly like the Reverend Billy Graham or Robert A.
So maybe its time to stop quoting the Bible and start living the Bible? Maybe its time for the church to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk?
Listen to these words from Jesus, recorded in Matthew Chapter 5 verses 13-16. I'm reading from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message:
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you lightbearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
In this passage, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, his “people”. And just as this charge was from Jesus to a handful of his most trusted disciples, I feel certain Jesus means this charge for his church in 2018.
If we look at the original Greek, we can hear Jesus literally say “you are salt, you are light.” He wasn’t suggesting to his disciples (or to us) that they might one day mature into salt or light. He wasn’t imploring them to please work harder and try to be salt or try to be light.
He was using an emphatic pronoun. You, my most trusted disciples, those of you that I hand picked, YOU are the only shot we have at being salt and light. You are it. If nobody else steps up to the plate, we are done, cooked FINISHED!
You and I, individually and collectively are the best shot, the last shot at influencing this world, this dark and corrosive world, and Jesus is using salt and light to get our attention.
Think for a minute with me how salt and light work. They are different but really quite similar: Salt, a seasoning agent, in order to be effective, must come in contact with the substance it is affecting right? Yet, even then, it is still distinct from that substance.
Light, in order to dispel darkness, must shine into the darkness yet it is still distinct from the darkness right?
Both salt and light have a powerful influence over their environment because they are radically different from their environment. Yet they influence their environment not by ACTIVELY working on it/ by changing it but just by BEING. By being present.
Could it be that the way to SHARE the gospel is not to tell people preach to people or come up with this program or that ministry But simply to just be salt and light. To stop doing and start being. Being the body of Christ. Being Jesus with skin on.
Story goes a little girl was frightened by a storm as she lay in her bed one night. She called to her dad asking him to come in and stay with her. He stayed for some minutes and then left. A few minutes later she called out again. He told her not to worry; Jesus was with her. Thats when she said, “I know Jesus is with me, but I need someone with skin on him!”
Jesus does have skin on. REMEMBER? We are his body. The church is the body and he has left us here to be salt and light to a world that is very corrupt and very very very dark.
Matthew 18.12 we hear Jesus tell the parable of the lost sheep. If the shepherd has 100 sheep and one of them wanders away, he leaves the 99 and searches for the one until he finds him or her.
We know the Shepherd is Jesus and we know the lost sheep is that one person who has lost his or her way. At sometime in each of your lives, you too were lost. Lost and alone. And Jesus, the GREAT SHEPHERD, left the 99 and came looking for you! And for when he found you, he put you in this fold, in this flock. What a blessing.
What if ONE Christian had come alongside of Nicholas Cruz, the 19 year old who murdered 17 and wounded more than 2 dozen in Parkland Florida high school? Just one Christian; not with a Bible and a youth program or ministry for young adults but with a hug and a shoulder and a listening ear? What if?
What if just ONE light had shone in the darkness of the heart of Stephen Paddock before he blew out the window in the Las Vegas hotel, ultimately killing 58 and injuring 851 men women and children? Just one Christian; not with a sermon or a covered dish or Bible study just a friend to download his problems? What if?
What if the salt of ONE Christian could impact the life of Jen a middle age mom and grandma who lives under an abandoned tractor trailer because her family threw her out because she is addicted to heroin? Just ONE Christian come alongside her and be Jesus with skin on?
If Jesus Christ can leave the 99 for just one, shouldn’t we? Amen.