Sunday, June 22, 2014

You Have Value

One quick question before I begin talking about today’s scripture, how many of you heard creation speak to you this last week? The Old Testament lesson from last Sunday was Genesis 1 about the beginning of this world that we take so much for granted.
I believe that God speaks to us in his creation. Think about how you encounter creation every day. Have you ever thought that only God could have made something as intricate and fragile as a butterfly wing? Have you ever just sat outside and listened to the birds singing in the morning or the wind blowing through the trees in the evening? Have you ever talked with God then and had his answer come to you in a leave or a stick or an ant or a garter snake?
Sometimes we’re too busy to realize or understand how we’re connected to this world that surrounds us, the birds, the corn fields, the bees, dogs, our vegetable and flower gardens, and that they’re all speaking to us.
Today’s lesson from the gospel of Matthew reminds us that God is speaking to us, telling us the message we’re to share with everyone we meet. Maybe we’re deaf to creation’s voice but God is still speaking to us. He may talk to us in our work; he may whisper to us in our sleep; he may have a message for us as we enjoy our leisure time.
However God communicates with us the message is the same as it was for the disciples, “Don’t be afraid.” You are my child and I’ll protect you.
That I get. The part that used to trouble me the most was the last part of the lesson for today. Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”
That just doesn’t sound like the Jesus who told us that God is love and told us to love our neighbors. That just doesn’t sound right.
My friends, what I believe Jesus is saying is we must be willing to put him over and above everything, even our families.
This may very well be the hardest thing Jesus asks his disciples to do. Love him more than our spouses, more than our children, more than our grandchildren, more than our retirement savings, more than anything. Jesus comes first.
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus says. When he says he’s come to turn us against our parents, our spouses, even our children that scares us. It makes us uncomfortable. It makes us squirm and wiggle in our pews.
Jesus wants us to lose our lives. That’s hard. In the Message it puts Jesus’ words this way, “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”
That’s hard. Kind of like getting married. Letting go of your wants and focusing on your spouse’s wants. Jesus is telling us he comes before anyone or anything else just as our spouses…and our families…come before our wants and needs.
Jesus is our Lord. He deserves our utmost attention. This is nothing new. God told the Israelites he was a jealous God. He told them to not worship anything else. He commanded them to give him their all, all their love, all their attention, and in return he would take care of them forever.
God reinforced that when he sent his Son, Jesus to teach us, to suffer and die for us, to defeat death for us. God’s love is eternal and all he ask is that we give him first place in our lives.
It’s hard and I fail every day. Every day I start all over by thanking God for giving me another day to try and get it right. And then I pray that in his mercy he will forgive me. And then I move on doing what I hear God telling me to do. And sometimes I don’t hear. Sometimes I don’t listen.
So, what do we do? We keep trying. We keep reading the Word. We keep praying. We open our ears so we can hear God speak. Sometimes our ears are our eyes. Sometimes God speaks to us in all our senses, touch, smell, taste. Friends, we never quit trying to get it right. We never quit asking God for forgiveness, for strength, for courage. We never give up on God because he will never give up on us.

At least that’s where I place my hope and trust. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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