Living a Jesus Life

Note: This was my first sermon preached at Grace UMC. Normally the sermons are recorded and available on Mondays by visiting here. To see an outline of the entire "Living a Jesus Life" sermon series, check out yesterday's blogpost.

2 Kings 5:1-14
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

So the other day I was walking my dog #Rowdy through the neighborhood and I was checking everything out. Lots of folk had their houses decorated with flags and bunting for the Fourth. Very nice. But I noticed lots of yardsigns around the neighborhood. They were for things like roofing or window companies, you know the kind that say, "Another satisfied customer." But two caught my eye, and they were right next to each other. I hope those homeowners aren't here today because I am going to pick on you a little!

The first sign said, "Clayton Williams for Governor." Now, Clayton Williams ran against Ann Richards in 1990-- that's an old sign-- and it looked brand new! This is a hearty Clayton Williams supporter. But the problem is: the sign was gone this morning. It was there Friday and Saturday, but gone today. It needs to go back up!

Next door was this sign, and I am not so worried about the homeowner being here today, because it was for another church in town. It said, "Rescue is coming." On the line underneath that line was the scripture Revelation 22:12. Revelation 22:12 quotes Jesus saying, "See I am coming soon, and folk will receive their just reward," basically. I am not a Revelation expert, but most people associate Revelation with the earliest Christian communities who had come under persecution by the Romans. So I understand "Rescue is coming" in terms of those early Christian martyrs. But today?? I mean it could have said, "Hope is coming," or "New life is coming..." but it said rescue. Was this person feeling persecuted? I mean their home was also wonderfully decorated for the Fourth, so they are obviously celebrating their freedoms, so why do they feel persecuted? Hmmm.

I offer those two signs, Clayton Williams for Governor and Rescue is Coming, to say that we have no idea who it is that we will encounter when we go out into our communities to share the good news of Jesus Christ. But we do know this: our society seems more and more hostile. Not in the sense of being hostile to the church; just hostile and suspicious of each other. I found this survey from the Pew Research Foundation this week. It asks folk how easy, or difficult, it would be to welcome a new person as a neighbor. I am interested in this because I myself am new to the community and I wonder how, or if, folk would welcome me as a neighborhood.
Click below for a link to the entire article:
Pew Research Center

Here are some samples of what people are saying. They asked respondents what issues would make them more or less likely to welcome someone as a neighbor:
43% of Republicans and 42% of Democrats said it would be easier to welcome someone who shared their political views-- not too surprising. But if the newcomer belonged to another party? 27% of Republicans would find it harder to welcome such a person. And ditto for 31% of Democrats. Then it was broken down by categories:

Served in military: 43% Republicans more likely to welcome; 18% Democrats more likely, 6% less likely
Gun owners: 26% Repubs more likely to welcome, 6% less likely; Dems 7% more likely, 41% less likely
Attends church: 41% Repubs more likely, 4 less likely; Dems 23%/11%
Does not believe in God: Repubs 10/43; Dems 15/21
Likes country music: Repubs 21% more likely to welcome and 3% less likely; Dems 17/12
Likes hip hop: Repubs 6% more likely, 24% less likely; Dems 15/12
Here's the part that hurts the most:
Welcome a liberal? Republicans: 3% more likely, 40% less likely
Welcome a conservative? Democrats: 9% more likely, 30% less likely

Now, I do not make it happen to broadcast what I believe about politics. I do not walk around with a sign that says, "Pastor Frank is a liberal" or conservative or Republican or Democrat or whatever. I do maintain this blog and folk are free to explore my beliefs about theology etc here, but I would hope that in my own heart I would still welcome those who disagree with me into my home as a neighbor. I would hope I would welcome those who disagree into my church fellowship here at Grace. Christians are to welcome and spread the love of Christ with everyone we encounter.

At the end of Chapter 9 of Luke, Jesus was having a hard time with those he sent out, or those he was trying to recruit to join him in the mission. James and John, two of the original disciples, were sent to Samaria, which was sort of enemy territory for Jews then. They could not have expected to be received warmly, but still they were upset when the Samaritans asked them to leave. So they returned to Jesus and asked if they should send down fire from heaven on the village! (Luke 9:55). "No," Jesus said, "That's not what we are about." Then two would-be disciples of Jesus had other commitments to tend to first. One said, "I'll go, but let me bury my father first (9:60). "Let the dead bury the dead," Jesus replied. But the guy disappeared. Another wanted to say goodbye to family first (9:62). "No one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God," Jesus replied. That guy never returned either.

But in Chapter 10 things turned around dramatically. Jesus sent the disciples-- not just the original but 70 disciples-- into the surrounding communities. Jesus gives them instructions regarding hospitality. If they are welcomed, extend peace to the household. Eat what is offered, and remain there. Announce to their host that "The kingdom of God has come near to you" (10:10). If they are not welcomed, they are to leave town. They go to the town center, shake the dust from their sandals, and announce that they are outta here! But on their way out of town, sort of over their shoulders as they leave, they say, "The kingdom of God has come near" (10:12). The same message is conveyed to those who welcome the missionaries and those who do not.

I love the story of Naaman that is recorded in 2 Kings Chapter 5. Naaman was the captain of the guard of the Syrian army. Only the king was more powerful. But this powerful man was stricken with leprosy, a skin disease which in biblical times would make the sufferer an outcast. Naaman would have been humiliated by this. His wife's servant girl, who was from Israel, told her mistress that if the general would see the prophet in Israel he would be healed. Naaman was not from Israel, so he did not worship the God of Israel. And Israel and Syria were enemies. Naaman went to his king to ask for permission to visit Israel for healing. The Syrian king sent word to the king of Israel that he-- the king-- was expected to heal his general. So the king of Israel tore his clothes-- how could he heal anyone? Elisha, the prophet, sent word to the king: send Naaman to me.

Now in Naaman's culture, favor, whether from the gods or someone important, must be bought; so he showed up to Elisha's parsonage with a wagon train of silver and gold and various other treasures. He knocked on the door and presented himself to the prophet, who refused the gifts. He said, "Go jump in the River Jordan seven times," and he closed the door. Doesn't he know who I am? Naaman wondered. He stormed off, saying his home rivers were much better than anything in Israel. And one of his servants says to him, trembling, "General, if the guy had asked you to do something difficult you would have done it. Why not do something easy?" So Naaman goes to the river, jumps in seven times, and yes, he is made clean. That story shows that God's power, love, and grace is available to anyone-- even/particularly, the outsiders. He went back to Elisha's house to thank him, and Elisha simply said, "Go in peace."

The other day I took the boys to Braum's for lunch. I had a giftcard with about $8 on it. So I figured I would owe about $10 after they ran the giftcard. Except when they read it nothing happened. So the student employee called another over and she ran it. Then the receipt printed out, saying I had paid $18 in cash. I sort of stared at them and the receipt. I said I didn't think the card ran through because it only had about $8. The first kid said, "You're blessed." He called the girl over to double check. She said, "You're blessed." Another student walked past and asked if anything was wrong. I said the thing about the receipt. This third kid said, "You're blessed." Ok I get it!

"You're blessed." "Go in peace." "The kingdom of God has come near." We do not know who we will encounter when Christ sends out into the mission field. They may have thirty year old Clayton Williams signs or "Rescue is coming" signs in the yard. They may be teenagers working at Braum's. They may have different political views. We don't know. But we have to go. Will you go with me into the world and share the good news of Jesus Christ? In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.