Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sermon Notes: November 20

These are my sermon notes from the 8 AM service on Nov. 20, 2011 – Proper 29 (A)

Just finished a book – Sue Cappucci told me to read – The Hole in Our Gospel.
“This is a story of how a CEO faced his own struggle to obey God, whatever the cost, and his passionate call for Christians to change the world by actively living out their faith. Believing that the “good news” is more than a private transaction between God and us, the author Richard Stearns challenges readers with this question: What does God expect of us?” (from the website)
His book goes into great detail about our belief in Jesus and how too often our Bible has a big whole in it, where we have missed his message. He uses the parable we heard this morning to get us to think about how we need to reach out. What does God expect of us? The sheep have a job to do…
(1) Witnessed on a New York City street: A homeless man is sitting on the curb near St. Bart’s Church. He has set his hat out in front of him. A shabbily dressed homeless woman dragging a cart filled with garbage bags walks by. She pauses in front of the man. Deciding that he was worse off than she was, she takes out of her worn, ripped coat pocket two crumpled dollar bills and places them in his hat. It is a random act of charity that goes almost unnoticed by the world, a snapshot of compassion that both inspires the spirit and breaks the heart. That was reported in The New York Times, December 29, 2003.
The homeless woman in front of St. Bart’s manages to see beyond her own hardships to embrace Christ’s compassion in the homeless man she meets on the street…she saw a fellow human being…she saw Christ… Sometimes we don’t see Christ…

“Let me take some liberties and paraphrase these verses for today’s reader: ‘For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved.’” Rich Stearns
(2) 9 year old Austin Gutwein learned about children in Africa who had become orphaned because of AIDS. Austin believed he could do something—that he had a “talent” that God could use. “After watching the video, I realized these kids weren’t any different from me except they were suffering. I felt God calling me to do something to help them. I decided to shoot free throws and on World AIDS Day, 2004, I shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during my day at school. People sponsored me and we were able to raise almost $3,000 that year. From that year forward, thousands of people have joined me in a basketball shoot-a-thon called Hoops of Hope. By doing something as simple as shooting free throws, Hoops of Hope participants have raised over $500,000. (pp. 265-266)
When we recognize the opportunities we have been given, when we know our talents, we can explore ways that we can pay it forward. For example, if you think of “access to clean water,” then “Paying It Forward” might be something like “contribute toward building a deep well in a developing country” or “give up buying soda, coffee and other drinks and donate the money toward water and sanitation projects in the developing world.” The list of ways to pay it forward is endless. This is not about giving a hand-out to someone, but about giving others the same opportunities you have been given.

Truly, I tell you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, members of my family, you have done it for me. (Jesus)

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