“Jesus speaks this parable not to freeze us into fear. He tells it to us so that we may go out with urgency and love, knowing that this day matters. The people we meet matter. The actions we take matter. How we use our hands and our feet, our gifts and our time, it matters, not just for this life, but the next. Just as much as Lazarus means to God, so also are the faces and the names and the stories we meet. So also are the lives and relationships we form here on earth.”
“Welcome and Celebrate. We don’t often think of religion and celebration going hand and hand. But in our message today, we have so much to celebrate together. We have a Shepherd who seeks us. We have a God who made us. And we have grace which claims us over and over and over again.”
Jesus would be a terrible used car salesman. He doesn’t hide future problems. He isn’t going to say to you, “This car will ride smooth for at least another hundred thousand miles. You’ll have no problems at all. The engine and transmission will never break down.” Those won’t be Jesus’ words. Instead, he will tell you exactly what you are going to face.
“The Shunammite woman doesn’t know who Elisha is at first. She doesn’t know that he is a prophet. She doesn’t know the wonders he can perform. She simply sees a stranger in need of a meal. And she knows that she has plenty to share.”
One thing I have loved about this church is how you never say the phrase, “That’s not the way we used to do it.” Because it is okay if we do things a completely new way. It’s okay f we try something different, even if it might fail.
“Who does God belong to?”
The question is between faith that is alive and faith that is dead. Will your faith be active, will it be living and moving and breathing and joyful and great. Or will it be a one time thing? Will it be just some words you say, then shrug off and leave behind? James is asking us, “Which will your faith be be?”
“If we really believe in the radical grace and love and welcome of Jesus Christ, then we can’t favor and exclude people the way the world does. We can’t say to those struggling with finances or health or fitting in that you aren’t as important, that you aren’t fully welcomed. Because Jesus has come to us. Jesus has lived. Jesus has died and rose again. And Jesus did all of this to say that each one of us is a beloved child of God and deserves to be treated as such.”
“Do you love me?” Jesus is asking us this day.
“Then feed my sheep.”
Let us remember that as the wrong – as powers of terror and violence and destruction and hatred – as they seem often so very strong, we will not yield. We will not live in fear. We will not turn to prejudice or hate. We will step out in faith. We will hear those difficult and challenging words from Proverbs. We will listen to God’s call upon us as his children and heirs. We will care for the stranger in our midst. We will show hospitality and grace. We will love with reckless abandon. We will shout, “Love wins!” For Jesus won, and he is our ruler yet.