August 28th, 2016: "The Good Grace of Christ"

Text: Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 81:1, 10-16;           22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time          Sandy Nuernbegr

Hebrews 13:1-8,15-16; Luke 14:1,7-14          15th Sunday after Pentecost              Pastor

Title: “The Good Grace of Christ!”            Outdoor Worship Sunday

First Presbyterian Church             Sunday, August 28th, 2016                                Pardeeville, WI

 

Please pray with me; Lord, as we hear your words to us in our texts today and listen with opening ears, help us receive your Holy Spirit in a new realm of your intentions for us. Let us continually know of your love for us, and allow the work of your Spirit to preside in our hearts, souls, and bodies in helping others. Amen.

 

“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and

those who humble themselves will be exalted.”            

                                                                            Luke 14:11

 

            It’s always amazing to me how our weekly scriptures that we hear, from so long ago, have intentions for us in this world we live in today! Really, here we are at the close of the summer months and the beginning of a new season, schools begin, sports practice/games are upon us, and the church calendar is awash with exciting fall activities for all ages. Much of our country follows the inherent school year calendar, indeed.

 

            There is newness around us, indeed. We meet new people, strangers. Just as we are gathered in outside-house-worship surrounded by the good grace of Christ in the realm of glory, praise, and food, Jesus was invited to a church leader’s house with strangers for a festive meal on the Sabbath. The difference is that he is being watched, oh, so carefully every move he makes; not so for most of us today! The Pharisees are intent on finding fault; in their hostility towards Jesus, they are critiquing his words/actions.

 

            Funny thing, Jesus is watching and noticing their presence at this festive gathering as well. He especially notices where they are seated, who they are with, and importantly, who is not in attendance. I think of three areas for our thoughts; Jesus realizes it is a good chance to teach those he is with about a bit of hospitality, humility, and sacrifice-topics he is well-versed and has experience. Really, Jesus is offering wisdom, blessings, and warnings in his advice for living in the good graces of Christ, in his kingdom to come.

 

             We’ve gotten to know Jesus in Luke pretty well this entire year; haven’t we? Once again, he is eating with guests at a wedding banquet. Jesus eats more and is partying in Luke more than any other gospel, it seems, a part of the reign of God. Yet this meal is more about who’s in attendance and what they share with each other. It’s about grace and love shown others. Yes, Jesus was constantly witnessing God’s people; we might ask ourselves if we notice the good grace(s) of Christ in others?

 

            In early August (Saturday, August 6th in Oshkosh, WI) your Session allowed me to represent our church as the officiant in the marriage of a couple—Quintin and Jill; it all happened out-doors, on a farm, and was attended by a bit over one-hundred guests. It was a gorgeous day, the ceremony separate from the fellowship of drinks/food. I was especially watching who was coming (not mostly young) and where they sat (no more the tradition of bride’s family one side and groom’s the other!) and that the bride’s mother insisted on making the bulletins to accommodate the guests (show fan with wording—to be used for a breeze from the hot sun by the ladies). There was a stand and microphone for my use—they didn’t miss a trick for hospitality towards friends/family; a delicious family-style served pulled-pork meal, even a gift of home-made salsa to take home, and a barn-dance for all to kick-up their heels! Hospitality by the families for friends and strangers was unmatched.

 

            I, along with others, I’m sure, noticed that the best man was the only African-American in attendance; I choked-up when I saw his smiling face as we practiced a bit before the service. He is Quintin’s best friend and buddy, I learned (Darren gave a most beautiful ‘best-man’s’ tribute to the couple at dinner). I couldn’t help but think that Jesus provides an opportune time to reach us, teach us that our position isn’t nearly as important as that of humbling ourselves for our guests—their comfort and acceptance at a time of joy/love.

 

             Jesus is asking us in this story, and he asks the ‘one who invited him,’ to be aware of who is invited to come and celebrate; to whom we watch and notice and care about in our invitations to be with us, at anytime, and in any place. In Jesus’ work, healing, eating and partying, he is using metaphors (banquet) for the kingdom of God and yes, he notices who we are with and who we are not with (who is not invited) and how it all plays out---we say in our gathering (koinonia) for communion/invitation in worship, ‘they might come from east/west and north/south and sit at table in the kingdom of God. All are welcome at this table.’ Jesus is preparing those he is with to what he knows/sees as the practices of the kingdom of God and God’s reign to come; in grace, strength, hope, confidence, love. Surely, all God’s people are invited to come; Jesus helps shape our values as to what is to come.

 

“And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you,

for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

                                                                                                Luke 14:14

 

            My friend, Clyde, and I had a mutual birthday (August 3rd), and he was an active member in his Presbyterian church, nearby his home, all his life (Oakland-Cambridge Presbyterian Church, Cambridge, WI). He shared a story with me in his life at a young age; in 1942 he wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House. “How can I get into the service of the United States?” He was classified as 4-F, “the reason for the classification is that I am deaf.” He told of his school-attendance for the deaf in Madison, a great lip-reader, and his participation on ‘the first-squad’ in all sports, average grades in school, “ all my boy friends are fighting in the uniform of the Army, Navy, and Marines; I feel left out.” He concludes, “Isn’t there a way? I have the will, there must be a way.”

 

            In a month he had a return letter from WI State Officer, Major Grab, the State Medical Officer, saying Clyde’s letter was referred to him. “Your attitude is commendable, and your desire to enter the armed forces is appreciated.” However, Clyde was told they could not change his status to a 1-A. It further stated, “….since the enactment of the Selective Service Act, it may be possible that in the future one as well qualified as you might be inducted under new regulations to come.”  Clyde did not let that stop him---everyone knew his truck in the neighborhood; he laughed and laughed and told wonderful stories of his family. In his humbleness, he carried on; Clyde took his own life at home in December, 2014 at the age of 91.

 

            Jesus asks us to live in the ways of the covenant God has made with/for us—love, peace, grace, compassion, hope. Jesus does notice that good grace in all God’s people. He asks us to welcome the stranger in our lives. Are we paying attention to whom we are around and are we noticing who isn’t among us? Do we notice those who aren’t as privileged as we are? Are we thankful enough of our own blessings to share them with others and in meaningful ways? Is our hospitality, our humbleness, our sacrifices, are they in accord with Jesus’ teachings of love for our neighbor and for all humankind?

Let it be so.

 

                                                Thanks be to God.                                  AMEN.

           

              

 

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