September 20, 2019

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This months Website is 

sponsored by

Darin, Mary & Greg Kessler

in

Memory of 

Jack Kessler

 

If you would like to sponsor a month

contact the office.

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Women of the Church Fall Rummage Sale

Women of the Church will be holding a Fall Rummage Sale from 8 am to 4 pm. The rummage sale will be held on Friday, September 20 & Saturday, September 21.

Last week's Sermon

September 15, 2019

  

Jeremiah 4:111-12, 22-28 & Luke 15:1-10

“Two images”

So, we are going to begin with a little “what do you see?”  I’m guessing that many of you have probably seen this image before as I know that it has been around for several years.  When you look at this image what is the first thing you see?  Do you see a young lady or an old woman?  How many of you see a young lady?  How many of you see and old lady?  How many of you see both?  How many of you see both the old lady and the young lady at the same time?  I am not sure it is possible.  Even if you can see both images, our brains want to focus on either one image or the other.  This is an example of an optical illusion …one picture two images. 


Today we receive an image of God painted in words by the prophet Jeremiah.  The prophet Jeremiah writes at a time when the tiny country of Judah stood alone.  Its northern brother Israel had already fallen into the hands of the Assyrian Empire.  Judah now faced another threat in the form of the strengthening Babylonian empire to the east.  Jeremiah also witnessed that there was a lot of corruption in the Judean government.  The country as a whole seemed to have turned its back on God and were choosing to go their own way.  Injustices were rampant.  The poor and vulnerable were taken advantaged of or completely forgotten. 


Responding to these acts of corruption and injustices, the prophet Jeremiah speaks a Word of the Lord.  In metaphor he paints a picture and the picture he paints is not a pleasant one.  Jeremiah begins by painting a picture of the people of Judah.  It is not a flattering picture.  He begins by saying the people are foolish.  Foolish people are those who do not believe in God.  They are stupid children.  They do dumb things like children playing with fire.  They do not understand the full consequences of their actions.  They are skilled at doing evil.  They have no concept of right from wrong. 


Into this unbelief, ignorance, and evil God breathes judgment.  It is a scorching destructive wind straight from the nostrils of God.  God is breathing fire as a result of built up anger.  The earth is left in a barren waste.  There is no light in the sky.  The mountains are quaking and the hills are shaking.  The air and the land are void of life.  Cities lay in ruin because of God’s anger.  The earth shall mourn its loss and the heavens will go dark.  It is not a pretty picture of the earth.  It also does not paint a very comforting picture of God.  It is the image of an angry judging God …justifiably so, but still an angry judging God. 


In our gospel reading to day we receive another image of God painted in the words of a parable by Jesus.  Again, the parable begins with painting a “not so flattering picture of people.”  One has foolishly wandered off from the safety and care of the shepherd.  But in this parable, the sheep is not the only foolish one.  The shepherd also comes across as not too bright and pretty foolish.  Jesus asks the question, “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” 


It is a rhetorical question.  The correct answer is, “none of you.”  These sheep are in the wilderness.  There is danger in the wilderness.  No shepherd in his right mind would foolishly leave ninety-nine sheep vulnerable to all of the risk that lay lurking in the wilderness to find one foolish lost sheep that chose to wander off.  That would be a great financial risk.  It would be foolish to take that kind of risk. 


And yet, we learn through this parable that that is the image of God that Jesu is painting.  It is a God of foolishness.  But the foolishness of God is founded in a radical love …a radical love for each and everyone one of us, but especially for the lost and the vulnerable.  It is the image of a God with great compassion.  It is an image of a God where there is great joy when anyone re-establishes a relationship with God.  Now there is a picture I like.  There is a picture I can find great comfort and reassurance in.  It is the picture of an image of God of great love and compassion. 


So, this morning we have a picture of God that contains two very different images of God.  One is an image of a God of judgment, power, destruction, and anger.  The other is an image of a God of great love and compassion …an image of a God who desperately seeks us out and finds great joy when a relationship is restored.  They are two very different images of the same God.  As tempting as it is to choose the one image we like over the other, we cannot …we should not …we must not.  They are two images of the same God.  We must hold the two images together.  We must hold the two images in tension with one another. 


As Christians, we see the image of God in Jesus Christ.  We see it in his death and resurrection.  But more than that we see the image of God in Jesus’ life …in ministry and in the way he interacted and treated others.  Although we tend to focus more on the loving compassionate image of God that Jesus lived out, there was also that fiery judgment that Jesus breathed as well.  You could witness it in his disgust and frustration in the way that he argued with religious leaders when they put Law over the well-being of people.  You could see it in Jesus’ anger when he over turned the money tables and drove out the animals when the religious leaders were taking advantage of the poor and the vulnerable.  You could hear it in his words of warning of the upcoming judgment. 


While the parable of the lost sheep might be an image of love and compassion for the lost and the vulnerable, it also served as a word of judgment to others.  The parable serves as word of judgment for those who exclude the lost and vulnerable from the table of God’s grace.  God works to include all, especially the lost and the vulnerable, to experience the grace God.  Those who work to exclude are working against God.  It is on those that judgment will fall. 


We think of God’s judgment falling on those who are immoral …which is truth.  The problem is we like to think of God’s judgment falling on those who are immoral as we define immorality.  We like to narrowly define immorality as murder, theft, adultery, sexual deviation, drunkenness, lying, cheating, or basically any of the sins that we do not participate in.  The greater immorality that Jesus was concerned about was the righteous hypocrisy.  He was concerned about those who said that they loved God and yet drew lines between who was in and who was out …lived out injustice and hatred towards others …ignored the plight of the poor and the vulnerable. 


How can we share a post on Facebook that says, “I love God, share if you agree,” and in the next breath spew words of suspicion and hatred towards those who are culturally, racially, religiously, nationally different than we are or even those who think differently than we do?  It is righteous hypocrisy.  It is impossible to love God and live and speak hate towards other people.  We forget Jesus’ greatest commandment to love God.  We would like to stop there, but Jesus does not.  Jesus goes on to say that the second commandment to love neighbor is the same as the first.  It is impossible to love God and not love neighbor.  Or put another way, it is impossible to hate neighbor and to love God.  God is people.  People are a part of God.  After all, God created all people.  God is in all people. 


God’s anger burns against the immorality of people and there will be judgment.  If we expand our definition of immorality, as we must, we might find that our immorality is included.  The immorality we live out against the people God loves will be included in that judgment.  But the image of God’s anger and judgment must be held together with the image of God’s love and compassion.  The prophet Jeremiah even states that God will not completely destroy the earth.  We are doing a good enough job with that ourselves in our hatred, suspicion, and lack of respect for others and our world. 


Against the image of God’s judgment and anger we must hold the image of God’s love and compassion.  We have a God who continually seeks us out …who is continually calling us back into relationship with God and with others.  God judges in love …love for us and love for others.  Grace is always offered.  Time and time again throughout the Old Testament God pronounces judgment on God’s people.  Many times, God relents and changes God’s mind on the destruction.  Other times, God follows through as a way to bring people back into relationship. 


The Good News is that in the two images of judgment and anger, and love and compassion, grace is the last word.  We read it throughout our scriptures.  We see it in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  We witness it on the cross and in the resurrection.  We experience it in the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives.  It is grace that holds the two images of God together.  In that there is no optical illusion.  It is truth.  Amen.