Trinity News and Sermons

11/23/14 Sermon Bullets

  • This story from the Gospel lesson has been with me for my entire ministry. Called to preach on it in seminary, I preached about how, “If you want to make it into heaven, you better look for the least of these and minister to them.” What a works-righteous NON Lutheran approach!
  • My professor, Dr. Richard Thulin, rightly told me that while my delivery was excellent, the sermon was terrible because I had gotten it completely wrong! This is where I learned about Grace colored glasses (though that phrase was not used by him – it took my dear friend Pastor Katie Carroll to teach me that much-loved phrase): Lutherans read the bible through the lens of God’s never-ending love given to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the lens through which we view ALL of scripture.
  • When we view this story, we are not to worry about whether we get into heaven or not – it is not whether we minister to others or not that will secure our place in heaven – it is the death and resurrection of Jesus that accomplishes that!
  • My colleague, Pastor Delmar Chilton has some amazing commentary on this passage. He shares that the story informs us that there is nothing specifically “religious” in this – one does not have to believe in God or worship God to “pass muster”.
  • Pastor Chilton says, “The point is both ordinary and mystical. The ordinary is the argument that atheists make all the time, and I agree with them. They say, ‘You don’t have to believe in God to be moral. You can be good without looking to gain a reward or avoid punishment.’ And that is exactly correct, and is truly Jesus’ point here. Reward and punishment as a motivation for goodness is a dead-end street; we end up focused on ourselves and wondering if we’re being good enough, and if we’ve done enough, etc. Jesus says, ‘Forget yourself and focus on doing what you can for the other, it’s that simple.’”
  • Pastor Chilton continues: “And here’s the religious, mystical part. We are called and empowered to do these things for others because we are the church, and the passage from Ephesians reminds us that as the Church, we are the body of Christ. We are the active agency and activity of God in the world, we are the ones who are fulfilling the role of king/shepherd, tending to God’s beloved children, who are, strangely enough, also the Christ. The hungry, the thirsty, the homeless stranger, the naked ones, the sick and suffering, those in prison – all of them are Christ, and our call is to respond to their need with active love and simple compassion.” Thanks Pastor Chilton.
  • When we focus on ourselves and what “we get out of being nice” – even the most loving act that has THAT as its motivation is self-centered, self-justifying and, believe it or not, is sinful. That may sound rather radical. And it is!
  • As those who are loved and claimed by God, not because WE are so good, but because God is so loving and good, we are motivated to do good things for others.
  • We read in 1 John 4 these words: 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.
  • And in Titus 2 we read: 11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
  • It is a matter of the order: God first loves, and then we are called to love. God is so good to us, and we are called to be good. God gives us what we need, and we are to give to others what they need.
  • And the mysterious thing, as Pastor Chilton says, is that when we are loving and good and helping – especially to the “least of these” we are ministering to Christ himself.
  • What would our individual lives look like, what would the mission of this loving community of Trinity to this world be like, if we understood that those to whom we minister ARE CHRIST??
  • It seems to me, as I have said to you before, that the BEST way we can show our love to our amazingly loving God is to love and care for each other – not just those who are here in the pews with us, not just those who we encounter in our own bubble of work and home, but those out there – the vulnerable ones who have no one to advocate for them, no one to visit them, no one to feed them, and perhaps, no one to LOVE them.
  • If not you and me to do it, then who? If not now, then when?
  • We are loved and cared for. Secure in that love, we are called to reach out in love.
  • Now I can read this story with Grace colored glasses!