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Sunday, July 21, 2013

07212013 8th Sunday After Trinity

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray!  “Lord, Lord”, though I say it does not make me nor anyone here a Christian, nor gain us entrance into the Kingdom of God.  For clearly, Lord Jesus Christ only by our bearing ‘good fruit’ will we gain heaven, but it is not because of the works themselves, but because of You working through us to accomplish Your will.  For Your will is simple for Your Glory to be revealed in our telling the truth of Your death on Calvary for all mankind, including all of us sinners who have become saints because of our baptism into Your life, death and resurrection.  May we truly understand You accomplish this once and for all mankind including all of us gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

One of the great Christian Orators of the 20th Century is Charles Stanley.  He is best known on radio, television and now the internet and not only has enabled the Christian church to grow, but helped launch other churches, including his own sons church which has as their motto, “Creating Church the Unchurched Love to Attend”.  One of the gifts that Charles Stanley gave to the church-at-large and still uses to this day is the “30 Life Principles”.  They are personal applications for individuals that range from intimacy with God, obeying God as well as listening to and serving God.  For us this morning his 12th Principle seems to apply perfectly, “Peace with God is the fruit of oneness with God.”

In the turmoil of our lives where we during the summer months are beaten down by the blast furnace heat of the wind and hot temperatures that stop the growth of the corn.  To our mourning the lack of a wheat harvest which is usually a standard of our collective culture here in Northwestern Kansas in early July.  As well as the decrease in attendance and giving here at church, because everyone goes on vacation whether at the lake, the mountains, the Springs or just to stay home and relax during the heat of the summer.  Charles Stanley’s principle is the thorn that sticks in our collective side from our Gospel this morning.

Jesus Christ in the Gospel confronts all of us with the reality that even though we may make personal claim that we are ‘Christians’ with our calling out “Lord, Lord” this does not guarantee our entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  As Charles Stanley said, “Peace with God is the fruit of oneness with God.”  This oneness is not law driven, but is a direct result of the Gospel in our lives and being lived out for one another, not because we have to do it, but because we want to do it.

Our individual nature sometimes is to run with and remember the mantra, “I’ve done my time.”  When my kids were young, I was active and now it is someone else’s time to teach Sunday School, help with Vacation Bible School or do the work of the church.  But notice the intent that Jesus has with the Gospel, we may call out “Lord, Lord”, but it does not guarantee us entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

This is a very difficult reality for anyone to clearly understand and even respond to because we believe we deserve entrance into heaven.  But the reality is, if we sit in the pew, don’t continue to do the work of the kingdom of God, and expect our activity of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 40 or even 50 years ago to be enough fruit for our entrance into the Kingdom of God, then we clearly do not understand Jesus call to ministry, mission and meaningful relationship with Him and all of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

Living in an agricultural community the reality is clear, there are times where we purposefully allow land to go fallow.  But it is only for a season, for a short time, one growing season in order for the land to regain some vigor.  So to our own faith lives need some rest, but the expectation still remains that it is not for more than a season.  God constantly and clearly calls us to bear fruit in the Kingdom of God.

Fruit is not like we buy in the grocery store or what we harvest in a combine, whether wheat or corn.  Fruit in the Kingdom of God is relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Fruit is the fullness of Jesus Christ living out in our lives whether with our family, friends or even here in the church.  This last week in a pre-marriage counseling, I asked the question, when having fun and relaxing, did the couple only ‘relax’ with family or with friends.  From my own experience, I see my brothers relaxing more with friends, because they were able to choose them.  So to all of us ‘choose’ who we let our hair down in front of or trust with who we really are as individuals.  But the reality is that we do this more with family and friends and not with fellow members of the Body of Christ.  Because if we were to ‘be who we really are’ the church members may judge us.

The reality is, we should not judge each other.  We are all part of the same Body of Christ and continuously manifest sinners in need of a savior.  Jesus Christ did not come to save only certain people, but came to save ALL of mankind, without any prejudice for anyone, whether sinner or saint, whether murderer, child molester, pastor or even farmer or housewife.  Jesus Christ came to save all of us from our sins and enable us to be the Kingdom of God where we live, breath and make our livelihood.

And today we enter again into a great opportunity to bear fruit in and with our community of faith.  This afternoon, our congregation will welcome Counselors from Sky Ranch.  These young adults are coming here to partner, let me say that again, partner with all of us that sit in the pews every week to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is where we connect with ‘bearing fruit’ for the Kingdom of God.  The counselors come with the message of salvation that we hear clearly of Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection.  The emphasis this year is a “Year of Jubilee” where we celebrate the 50th Year of Sky Ranch.  As they arrive, as they teach as they minister to us and to the children not only of our church but also the children of our community we plant the seeds that will bear fruit.  We cannot make them grow, but God will in His time.  We are just action figures for God’s Glory to be revealed and made manifest for the world, but especially for Goodland through our support of the ministry of our congregation.
In a recent article by Greg Braezeale, he poised one question that for me as your pastor, I believe is appropriate for us today.  He asked, ‘Who is the Hero of Your Sermon?’  Clearly, Jesus Christ should be the right and correct answer.  But in the article there is also another hero that is important and impactful for us today.  That hero is you that sit in the pew.  You are my hero, because it is with your hands, your feet, your mouth, your lives that I see Jesus Christ active here in the Kingdom of God we call Goodland, KS.  Through our ministry that we undertake this evening and this week, we have the opportunity to bear great fruit with and for the Kingdom of God.  So when we call out, ‘Lord, Lord’, we are not denied entrance into the Kingdom of God, but welcomed as God’s Children who have continuously served to minister to the counselors needs, the childrens needs, but also and more importantly as the fruit of God’s ministry in and among us during our Vacation Bible School with Sky Ranch.

May we join together this week as a community of faith, support with our hands, heads and hearts the counselors who come to partner with us, spread the Gospel message of Jubilee that we celebrate and bear the fruit of God through our lives that only God can make grow.  For all of this only occurs because of the fruit manifest in each of our lives of our being baptized into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for all of us saints that are gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.
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