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November 13th, 2016: "Our Endurance!"

Text: Isaiah 65:17-25; Isaiah 12; Luke 21:5-19; 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time            Sandy Nuernberg

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13                                     26th Sunday after Pentecost                Pastor

Title: “Our Endurance!”                                    Caregiver Sunday

1st Presbyterian Church                                    Sunday, November 13th, 2016             Pardeeville, WI

 

Please pray with me, O Lord, we give you thanks for being our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer in life. We ask you to fill us with the knowledge of your will, through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. In your Name we pray, AMEN.

 

            Paul, the apostle says, “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.”

                                                                                                                                                2 Thess. 3:13 (NRSV)

            Contemporary author Eugene Peterson says it this way,

 “Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty”

                                                                                                                                The Message, 2 Thess. 3:13

 

            For you and I, isn’t this really what it’s all about; ‘stay with it’ until the end (The Message, E. Peterson, p. 1446)? Isn’t it that we do good, what is right, and never, ever tire of it? That might be it—end of sermon. AMEN.                       (….pause….)

 

But wait, stop!! You and I both know that this can be a real challenge, even impossible when we think about it. Let’s face it, there are just some situations in which we can honestly, go crazy; when times arise where we are stressed to the ‘hilt’, tension is at its peak, or we are worn to the core! Truly, our world is coming to an end, depending upon how we reflect upon the election!! In our near year-end lectionary in Luke’s gospel, in Paul to those Thessalonians, to us, Jesus says,

 

“Do not be led astray…this will give you an opportunity to testify.”   Luke 21:13

 

We are told to do what is right, to keep on doing what is good!

 

            In the early nineteenth century William Ellery Channing, a Unitarian preacher and theologian in the United States, addressed many topics on slavery, war, and church doctrine, in the many places he spoke.  I like his quote especially in these present times:

 

“Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage.

The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.”

11/5/16 Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.azquotes.com/author/2715-William_Ellery_Channing

 

            Lord knows, how unpredictable, how intense, and stressful just this last week in American history has been. And if I’ve said it once, I’ve shared with you many times that these texts, our lectionary lessons weekly, are in the times in which we live in our world. They are still here for us to ponder, discern, learn.  As we ponder, today is Caregiver Sunday, and as well, nationally we celebrated last Friday, our Veterans, those who did what was right for our freedom in this beloved country of ours (we celebrate Veterans Day 11/11 yearly!).

 

            Do you want to hear one example of ‘doing what is right? Culver’s, the restaurants that are locally owned and operated independently have a slogan: “Doing It Right” and this all began back in 1984 when Ruth and George Culver and their child Craig and his wife Lea Culver opened their first Culver’s Frozen Custard with the famous ‘Butter Burger’ up in Sauk City. Lea said a few years back, “We really struggled the first few months when we started our business…but we are happy we stayed with it and continued to do things right.” (Overture Center, Madison, WI, I attended 11/12/10, “Honoring those who change the world  with a giving heart”—23rd Annual National Philanthropy Day Celebration Luncheon).

 

            These days, from the Sauk-Prairie area they have built sights in 500 places in 21 states, with 25,000 employees, and the Culvers continue to ‘walk the talk.’ They bring their family tradition to the work place; playing active roles in supporting families with whom they do business. They are family-run franchised operations. Many of us have visited their locations; my fav is their ‘Concrete Mixer’ or a shake with the flavor-of-the-day ice cream, and Rick likes their shakes, salads and ‘baskets.’ Patrons get free custard when the UW-Hockey men’s team scores five goals or more at home, they have free newspapers to read—more than five, nation-wide, they hire senior-citizens, give a 10% discount on senior’s food purchases(when customer asks), and they are especially active in local mission (Just to name a few:  local Mobile Meal programs, scholarships to The Culver VIP program, and they give 10% of their proceeds at all restaurants to the local Red Cross Chapters).

 

            That said, here’s what I think:  the message of ‘good and right’ is of God’s unconditional love for us, that God’s people ‘matter.’ We need to get closer to that love that destroys fear! Paul, (and Luke also) urged those early Christians to get to work: to proclaim, declare the good news of the Gospel, and he wanted people to be diligent in testifying their faith because it was the right thing to do. Paul tells us that if we are people of faith we are to live that faith, doing what we can as good, sticking with it to the end, doomsday deceivers be damned!(The Message, v. 8, p.1446).

 

            Luke, likewise, also knew that routine histories of war and uprisings where ‘nations will fight nations,’ kingdoms against kingdoms and rulers against rulers, and where the sky seems like it’s falling in on us, it may seem to be panic-time. Yet, in all of this, Luke tells us in our suffering, in Christian persecution we can cope; we need to tell it like it is, and NOW. Our endurance will see us through; in our every word and wisdom of testimony, we will be given the Spirit to be lifted and not lost. In our staying with it, we will be saved, not shaken to the core, says the physician, Luke.

 

If you are like me, as a lifer-Presbyterian (even if you’re not!), I swell up with resentment and guilt in reading Paul’s and Luke’s commentary. I have to read, reread the before, during, and after to get the full import. Presbyterians might be intellectually educated, follow doctrine, practice all the Reformed tradition we believe, but my background is not to ‘tell all’ in public testimony of my life and faith-upbringing: we are the ‘frozen chosen’ and aren’t known to often give witness, publicly, to what we believe or know as the ‘truth in love.’ I do believe we ‘show it’ by our actions, and often!

           

            I dare say Paul is not and I repeat, not giving us a guilt-trip. He is checking us at the door, so to speak, in what is our endurance for a faithful journey ahead; how much can we take before we ‘tell the whole truth’ about ourselves? Luke tells us that we will be hated by all because of our testifying why/how we are intent on doing good. I think at the end of the day, as faithful Christian disciples, we are asked to do what’s right and good, and God will lead us. We must trust that we are in God’s care.

 

            In my ministry with you and others, I admit I am learning to share my own story of my faithful journey, whether it be labeled ‘testimony’ or ‘witness’ or just personal interest. You do this with me as your pastor. For God’s sake, this is how we live together! I think it is part of being in community and in relationship; I have shared with you how important we are as a community church in building relationships, relationships, relationships. I look forward every month to our newsletter ‘person of the month’ and try to guess who it is---I want the prize! Yes, this builds our community (koinonia) of being the Body of Christ.

 

            On WPR (part of National Public Radio) I was listening Thursday on the way to prison ministry in Fond du Lac, and commentary (The Kathleen Dunn Show, 11/10/16, 1-3pm, FM90.7) was that in this post-election and most divisive of times, it is important for us to learn to live together, to ‘share our personal story’ of how we got to be where we are today, and most importantly, listen to one another’s story as well. I also refer you to a powerful testimony by a very good friend and pastor, Scott Anderson, who’s written about God’s transformative power in his own early child witness, where he says, “In my life and ministry, the power of personal testimony continues to be a gift I receive.” (“Reflections on the lectionary, “Christian Century: October 26th, 2016, p. 21).  

               

                The good news of the gospel for us is our knowing of the right things as good things in the beginning, presently, and in the future of our lives. Our endurance is in never growing weary or tiring of doing what is right, staying with it, caring for and reaching out to others, sharing our joys and sufferings, loving those who are unlovable, sometimes tolerating the intolerable. We do it all in our faith and practice of Christian discipleship. Proudly, we are truly God’s fortunate children.

 

                                                                        Thanks be to God.            AMEN.

 

           

 

           

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