Sermon Options: December 30, 2018

November 27th, 2018

A REASON TO KEEP GROWING

1 SAMUEL 2:18-20, 26

A person who has a purpose for which to live has a reason to keep growing. And when a person keeps growing, life becomes an adventure.

I. Are You a Growing Person?

We admire people who are alive and growing. Are you that kind of person?

That question has a unique importance for young people. Their lives are often intentionally planned around becoming all that they can become. They go to school to push back the horizons of their knowledge. They go out for sports and discipline their bodies to achieve. They set goals and work at accomplishing them. At its best, youth is a time for exploring brave new worlds.

But there are always some young people who just don’t see the point in it all—or who really don’t believe anything will come of it. They may drop out and drift into some stagnant or self-destructive existence.

What is true for young people is true for all of us. Aren’t the most interesting people you know people who are still growing and learning? Aren’t they the people who are studying to advance in their careers or developing latent talents or traveling to broaden their perspective? Winfred Garrison, a great Christian teacher in the first half of this century, undertook to learn Chinese in his eighties just to keep his mind alive.

Of course, it is easy for adults to drop out and quit growing. Some think that is what they are supposed to do. But the results are sad.

II. A Person with a Purpose Has a Reason to Keep Growing.

Our scripture lesson tells of the boyhood of the prophet Samuel. Samuel’s parents had dedicated him to God and brought him to live with the old priest, Eli. Eli must have brought the boy up knowing that he had a special purpose in life. In fact, God was preparing Samuel to be one of the pivotal leaders of Israel. The text says that, “Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and with the people” (v. 26).

Something similar was said about Jesus. No one ever had a greater purpose than he. In preparation for it, he “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52, NKJV).

We need purpose to keep us growing. Those young people who are making the most of their educational opportunity are often those who have a clear sense of purpose. And the adults who keep a growing edge on their lives are usually those who are committed to something.

III. Where Can We Find a Purpose to Bring Our Lives to Life?

The purpose is there. We just have to discover it and put ourselves into it. There is a current in human life and history that is the purposeful movement of God working to bring his creation to fulfillment. That movement calls out to us all to follow.

The biblical story can help us recognize what God is doing among us. Where can you see that same movement going on around you and within you? What within you would move you toward the fulfillment of God’s purpose for you? Say yes to it. What in the world around you moves the world toward the fulfillment of God’s purpose for us all? Lose yourself in serving it.

Allow that purpose to take over your life. It will push you to become a growing person. It will turn your life into an adventure. (Jim Killen)

TABLE TALK AND HOME FOLKS

COLOSSIANS 3:12-17

It is as if in our text today, the apostle Paul’s positioning himself at his rightful place at the head of the table and remarks to the gathered fellowship at Colosse, “Now here is the way we do things in the family of God.” We must continue to “put to death” the old life with its unregenerate ways (vv. 5-9) and “put on” as clothes the life of the new person in Christ (v. 10). In relationship to each other there is no racial or class distinctions in the fellowship (v. 11).

This is family talk. As members of the family—chosen, beloved, and set aside for service—there are certain values that should characterize our relations with each other.

I. We Should Put on Virtues of Family Unity (vv. 12-14)

Paul relates seven virtues with which family members should clothe themselves. Family members should genuinely and compassionately care for each other. We should show kindness to those who would seek to do us harm. Our own powers should be brought under the Father’s control, resulting in gentleness with each other. Our tempers should have a long fuse. We should be patient with each other’s peculiarities. We should grace each other with forgiveness, just as the Father has graced us.

Above all, we are united as we embody the selfless love so evident in Jesus Christ. What we hold in common, Christ, is greater than anything we could ever hold in difference.

II. We Are to Reflect the Nature of the Family Name
(vv. 15-17)

Whatever we say or do should be done in the name of Christ (v. 17). In Paul’s day, a name was more than just a handle affixed to an individual; it was that individual—his nature, character, and personality. When we pray in the name of Jesus, we pray in his character and nature. We seek to pray the prayer that Jesus would pray.

So the nature of family life should reflect the character of Jesus—for we are Christians, “little Christs.” Our relationship within the family should reflect the peace, graciousness, wisdom, and joy of our joint heir, Jesus Christ (vv. 15-16).

Sigurd Bryan said, “If we can be a Christian in our own homes, we can be a Christian anywhere.” And it also may be true, “if we aren’t a Christian at home, are we a Christian at all?”

Keith Miller tells about his early struggles to develop a prayer life. Waking early to pray he stumbled around disturbing everyone in the house. His young daughter came to him as he knelt in prayer.

“What are you doing, Daddy?”

“Don’t bother me, Honey, I’m trying to pray.”

She persisted, “What are you doing, Daddy?”

“Go on, Honey, Daddy’s busy.”

“Let’s play, Daddy.”

Exasperated, Miller screamed, “Will you leave me alone. I’m trying to pray!” She ran crying to her mother, now also awake and preparing breakfast.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?” the daughter asked.

“Leave Daddy alone, Honey,” her mother replied. “Daddy’s got to pray so he can be a Christian to the people downtown.” Ouch!

I heard a story years ago from an elderly preacher. One of many children, he grew up poor during the depression. As the large family gathered around the table for the evening meal, the father would come in fresh from milking the family cow. The family watched this nightly ritual as he first strained the milk and then filled each child’s glass full and then the mother’s. He would turn his back to the family, pour what little was left into his glass, and then used water to make his glass full of liquid. The preacher said that it was years before he realized the selfless love and devotion of his father, whom he thought liked water in his milk.

How are you doing in reflecting the family name? (Gary L. Carver)

WHAT’S A KID TO DO?

LUKE 2:41-51

I’ll bet there is hardly a person in America between the ages of five and forty-five who hasn’t seen the movie Home Alone. Some of you have probably seen it a half dozen times. My kids have memorized a fair amount of the dialogue and can anticipate every scene. But for the benefit of you culturally disadvantaged few who have not seen the movie, I’ll give you a thumbnail sketch.

Around Christmastime, a large family is preparing to leave for a vacation in Europe. They plan to get up early in the morning to catch their flight. Unfortunately, during the night the electricity in the neighborhood gets knocked out. Consequently, the alarm clock goes off late. The house breaks into total chaos as the family frantically dresses, packs, loads up, and dashes off to the airport to make their flight.

Once the plane is in the air, the mother has this haunting feeling that she forgot to do something. Were all the doors locked? Yes. Was the garage closed? Yes. Was newspaper delivery cancelled? Yes. With an explosion of realization, she cries out “Kevin!” In the rush and jumble of leaving, Kevin—the youngest child in the family—was left behind. The rest of the movie deals with his antics as he copes with being alone and as he foils the efforts of two bungling burglars from robbing his house. Kevin, who began the movie as a little boy who can’t tie his own shoes or pack his suitcase, quickly learns to be independent.

I can’t help thinking of Home Alone when I read our text for this morning. Of course, the star of the story is not Kevin but Jesus. In the bustle and confusion of getting ready for a trip, he gets left behind. Jesus mother, Mary, was even slower than Kevin’s mother to realize he was missing. Instead of a few hours, it took a whole day for Jesus parents to notice that his seat was empty.

The family had been in Jerusalem for the Passover, the most important religious holiday of the year for Israel. After the festivities, they packed to head back home to Nazareth, their hometown. Jesus family was traveling with a group of others. Apparently his parents thought he was with some other people. I can’t imagine the shock they must have felt when they realized they left him alone in the big city.

It took Mary and Joseph three days to find Jesus. Three days of anxiety, tears, and guilt, I imagine. I can hear it all now. “We should have been paying more attention. We should have been absolutely certain he was with us. How could we have left him there? What rotten parents we are.” But after three days of frantic searching, they neared the great Temple. They turned a corner and there he was. He wasn’t crying and worried. He didn’t blame his parents for neglecting him. Instead, Jesus was sitting with the teachers, the religious experts, asking questions and listening to their answers. It seemed that the people who heard Jesus were pretty impressed with what he had to say.

His parents were more appalled than impressed. When they saw that Jesus was not frightened or in any kind of danger, they got upset in a different way. Parents are like that. Sometimes, if they think their child is lost or in trouble, then they find out he’s all right, they don’t know what to do first—hug him or spank him for not listening to them in the first place. It seems that’s the way it was with Mary and Joseph.

When they found Jesus, his mother said, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety” (v. 48). In other words: “Jesus, we’ve worried ourselves to death because we thought you were lost. You should be ashamed of yourself for making us feel so terrible.”

What did Jesus say? “Mom, Dad, I’m sorry. I’ll never do something like that again.” Is that what he said? No! What he said was, “Why did you seek for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (v. 49 NKJV). Jesus earthly father, Joseph, was a carpenter. Jesus wasn’t sitting there with a saw and hammer. He wasn’t talking about his earthly father’s business but that of his heavenly Father, God. Jesus had left his parents and caused them a lot of worry by going to the temple to get involved in divine business.

There are several lessons that this story about Jesus suggests. First, there is something more important than parents and families. Now, I recognize this is the last thing many of you parents want me to say, but it is the God-given truth. Families are important. Children are important. Parents are important. But the living, loving knowledge of God is more important.

Second, kids need to be patient with their parents. Maybe like Jesus, a child feels that she is ready to be a lot more independent than her parents think she is. But sometimes parents hold her back because they know the world is more dangerous than she thinks it is, and she really might not be as prepared for it as she believes.

Third, children should listen to their parents. Even though Jesus did fine in Jerusalem all on his own, when his parents told him how upset they were, he paid attention. The scripture tells us that when he went back home with his folks, “he was obedient to them.”

Despite the occasional fight and disappointments, no one else is likely to love us as long or as much as our family. A wonderful African church leader, Desmond Tutu, reminds us: “You can’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” (Craig M. Watts)

Season After Epiphany

May God go with you as you depart into the desert, there to meet the temptations of the soul. May the Spirit lead you to an oasis where waters run deep and clouds rise high, and where the voice of heaven whispers in the cool of the trees.

O God, make us vessels worthy of the wine of the new covenant. Let us carry it across an earth drenched with blood, anointing the wounds of God’s peoples and raising the cup to their feverish lips. For long has the covenant been promised to the world, and long shall its wine be poured out for many.

Lent

Dear Lord, who calls not the well but the sick to repentance, anoint us to be agents of your healing ministry. Send us forth as heralds of the fasting to which your prophet Isaiah calls us—the fast that loosens the bonds of wickedness, frees the oppressed, feeds the hungry, houses the homeless and clothes the naked—so that, when people ask, “Where are you, Lord?” you can answer, “Here I am.”

O God, you send us forth not into the world in which Jesus was born but into the world in which we were born. You will not save us from our world, because you have saved us for our world. And you have promised to go with us into that world, enabling us to do even greater works than those of Jesus. Go with us, dear Lord, and we shall become the keepers of your promise.

Easter

O God, who in Jesus Christ turned the defeat of Good Friday into the victory of Easter, bringing dawn out of darkness and life out of death, make us faithful witnesses to the life-giving power of your crossbearing love. Keep us ever mindful of the Risen One’s promise that we would do even greater works than he. And send us forth, with hope renewed and zeal aflame, to labor in the vineyard of the Lord.

O Lord, as you have made disciples of us, now you send us into the world to make disciples of others. Go with us and be our guide, that the witness of our lives may confirm the testimony of our lips.

Season After Pentecost

Return now to the world, and go gladly, despite your fears. Though afflicted, you will not be crushed; though perplexed, you will not be driven to despair; though lonely, you will not be forsaken. The Lord of life dwells in you and among you, now and forever.

Do not lose heart, for there is the abode of God. If your heart be troubled, God will share your agony; if your heart be triumphant, God will share your gladness. Do not lose heart, for there is the shelter for your neighbors. May you share their agony and gladness, as you trek, arm-in-arm, to the mountaintop.

Special Occasions

Almighty God, as you have drawn us together in honor of your prophets, send us forth to settle the Promised Land that they saw from the mountaintop but were not allowed to enter. Give us, as you gave them, tough minds and tender hearts, that we too might become apostles of nonviolence in a land of violence, champions of justice in a society of injustice, and heralds of peace in a world of conflict.

O God, as here we have expressed gratitude for our nation’s ideals, let us go forth to praise them in speech, codify them in law, and translate them into deed. As they turn our eyes from the successful to the struggling, give us the grace to remember that these ideals did not come to us without price, and will not survive without sacrifice.

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