Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Reward

          Why do folks go to church on Sunday? What goes on inside these buildings that keep people coming back Sunday after Sunday? Why do we come here to sit and sing and pray and listen? Is there some reward for coming to church? Is there some prize awarded for coming to worship every Sunday? And why do folks always sit where they sit? Is there something special about the pew cushion in that particular spot? Are people going to receive some special reward for singing praise to Jesus and giving God thanks?  Are the ones who come to worship every Sunday better than the ones who don’t?
          Who are we? If we look around we see that we’re all human beings who are short and tall, young and old. Some of us dress up and some dress down. Some wear dresses, some wear shorts, some wear pants, and some wear whatever they touch first in their closet. Do the clothes we wear make us who we are? Who are we?
          What makes me different than you? What makes you uniquely who you are? What makes one person think that they’re better than another? And why?
          The wars going on in Egypt and Syria, why are they fighting? Is it because one group of people is better than the other group of people? Who are they? Who are we?
          We listen to the news and we wonder what all the fuss is about. Why is there so much anger and hate? Who are these people?
          I don’t know. The gospel lesson from Luke is about Jesus’ observations of people attending a banquet at one of the leading Pharisee’s home. Jesus pays attention to how people are jockeying for the most important, most prestigious seats at the table. And what does he say? He says, “When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ That will give the dinner guests something to talk about!”
          So, is that why some folks sit at the back of the church during Sunday worship? They are just waiting to be invited to sit up front.
          Is that what’s going on with all these wars? They’re all pushing and shoving to get the best seats in the kingdom. And for what? What’s the reward for winning? What’s the reward for annihilating an entire generation? What’s the reward for wiping off the face of the earth an entire ethnic group of people?
          Control and power, that’s what it’s about. The people at the party want the places of highest honor so they will be viewed as the most important, the most influential people there. It gives a boost to their ego.
          And what about those who are seated at the very last seat, the lowest seat? How do they feel about their position? What’s their reward?
          So, back to the original question, “Why do folks go to church on Sunday? Why don’t as many come now as used to come?”
          Have you ever noticed that when there’s a meal served the count at worship is considerably higher? What if we hosted a sumptuous banquet every Sunday? If we laid out a fancy feast on the Communion table every Sunday would there be pushing and shoving to be the first in line?
          Good friends, there is a banquet here every Sunday, even when the table is bare. This table is bursting with the promise of a feast. And as Jesus said, “The misfits are those who’re invited to partake of the bounty.” Those who can in no way return the favor are the ones who’re are first at the table. They’re the ones who receive the service of a 5-star restaurant. 
          And their reward, it’s the same as yours. God forgives all for our sins through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. All our sins, the ones so small that we don’t think about them and the ones so large everyone sees them, they’re all forgiven. Jesus took them with him to the grave.
          And the reward…its God’s grace, the gift of eternal life, a life of freedom that we can hardly imagine.
          So, who are we? Look in the mirror, look in your neighbor’s eyes, maybe then you will discover who you are.
          Sisters and brothers, we are children of God and heirs of the Kingdom. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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