Sunday, July 7, 2013

"You know about Jesus? That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!" - a sermon for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost

OK, I want you to do something for me. I want you to repeat after me.

I want you to just say the name “Jesus.”  


Say it again: Jesus  


One more time: Jesus.


OK ... did you notice something? The building didn’t collapse. The sky didn’t fall. And you didn’t clutch your heart and die.

Episcopalians can say the name of Jesus.

Now here’s the thing … we Episcopalians don’t like to do this much. Now, full disclosure, we’re probably OK doing it in here … but when we get outside the immediate orbit of our churches, saying the name of Jesus is something we tend to shy away from.

In fact if you ask most Episcopalians what our favorite quote is from a saint, most of us will go right to St. Francis. “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary.”

 And we tend to stretch that “if necessary” to mean “only as an absolutely last resort!”

There’s something about us when it comes to talking about Jesus. Why do we have a problem with it?

Well, I think it’s two things.

The first is we Episcopalians are worried about offending people. We’re very conscious of decorum. You ever hear the list of things you’re not supposed to talk about at parties – money, sex, politics … and religion. The reason you’re not supposed to talk about those things is that they’re all about identity. They’re about who we are and what matters most to us. And when we start walking on that ground, things get real and people can get offended and hurt … so it’s better just to steer clear and keep the conversation safe.

The second thing we worry about is guilt by association. We’ve had enough experience of people using the name of Jesus to condemn and to beat people over the head that we’re afraid if we use it people will think we’re doing the same thing. And we don’t want people to think that about us.

So we end up being a people who can say Jesus in here … but not out there. We end up being really comfortable being a people gathered. But not as comfortable being a people sent.

And yet we can’t get away from this morning’s Gospel. We are a people sent. We are sent out into this world. And actually that’s part of not only our Christian DNA but our Anglican DNA. It was an Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, who said “the church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not members.”

We are a people sent. But we are sent in a very specific way. And it’s got five steps.

*Take nothing with you.
*Hang with the people
*Break some bread
*Give some love
*Say “You know about Jesus? That’s what I’m talking about.”

Let’s take each of those one by one.

 First, take nothing with you. Jesus sends the 70 out and says I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. This is not going to be easy stuff. But you don’t need to worry about a thing. Every little thing’s gonna be all right.

And it’s not going to be all right because we’ve got all the right stuff. It’s gonna be all right because we’ve got the power of God. And all we need to do is to trust in that power. Trust in the power of God to guide us to the right places, to give us the right words to say, even to make sure we get enough to eat. We don’t need to take anything with us because we’ve got all we need. We’ve got God. Trust in the Lord.

Second, hang with the people. Don’t wait for people to come to us. Go where they are. Enter their lives. Bust out of our comfort zones and go to places we might not normally go. Meet different kinds of people in new places. Go where the people are. And when we get there, break bread with them.

And that means build relationship. When we break bread with people, when we share a meal, there is a bond that forms. Breaking bread with the people means learning their names and learning their stories… and letting them know our names and letting them know our stories.

Breaking bread with the people means sharing life with one another, learning about where one anothers' joys and pains are. It means doing for one another what Jesus did for us … entered our lives and walked our walk with us.

Breaking bread with people means getting out there and being a part of the life of this city. Not just as tourists. It means being part of the life of this city the way Jesus was a part of life. It means diving into the city and sharing people’s lives and learning about them from the inside out. It means becoming a part of the community. Becoming a part of the us that is our neighborhood. Becoming a part of the us that is the world out there. But doing it with the eyes and ears of Jesus.

When we do that, when we become part of the us out there, when we do it with the eyes and ears of Jesus, we learn where the brokenness is. We learn where the love is needed. We learn where we’ve been in the ditch and need help finding a way out. We learn where the systems are that need transforming. And it is then that we bring the greatest gift we have. We bring the gift of love. And not just any love, but Jesus’ love.

We hang with the people. We break bread with the people. And then we give some love. Not some Hallmark kind of love that is about when you care just enough to scribble your name on a card. But some Jesus kind of love. Love that is about investing ourselves, giving of ourselves where that brokenness, where that poverty is.

This kind of love isn’t about having all the answers. It’s not about magically being able to fix every problem. But it is about going into the places where there is despair and bringing hope. It is about going into the places where there is darkness and bringing light. It is about going into the places where there is conflict and hatred and bringing reconciliation and love.

 It is about living the Gospel in the lives of the people. Not just in here, but out there. It’s about getting in the game.

Now all this stuff – trust in God, hang with the people, break the bread, give some love. All this is the stuff that St. Francis was talking about when he said “Preach the Gospel at all times” … but now comes the part where words become necessary. But because we’ve done all this stuff, the words are not empty.

Now that’s important, because that’s another thing we’re afraid of. We all know how empty words can be. We know it because we live in a world where people are trying to sell us things 24 hours a day. Talk is cheap. Anyone can say words. Whether it’s the words that try to sell us moisturizer or the sacred name of Jesus. Anyone can say words. And the words don’t mean anything unless they’re backed up with the real deal. But our words will be. They won’t be just words.

This is show and tell, with show coming first. But then we’ve got to tell. And we can. And we must.

We’ve already preached the Gospel at all times, but now comes the part where words really become necessary. We have to say the name of Jesus.

But because we’ve trusted in God, hung with the people, broken some bread and given some love, we’ve already shown people with our actions who Jesus is. And so all that’s left to do is to point it out.  To say the Kingdom of God has come near you.

So after doing all these things, we have to say the words. We have to say:

“You know about Jesus? Well, that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.”

“You know about Jesus? Well, that’s what I’m talkin’ 'bout.”

If we trust God, hang with the people, break some bread and give some love, we won’t have to have eloquent words preaching the Gospel. We won’t have to stand on a street corner asking people are they saved. People will know us already. They will know us by their relationships with us and they will know us by our love. And so all we’ll have to say is:

“You know about Jesus? Well, that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!”

You see, what “That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout” means is that you’re really just naming the self evident. You’ve already shown them what it is. Now you’re just pointing it out.

We will have already preached the Gospel with our lives, so all that will be left is for us to say -- “You know about Jesus? That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.”

We are not just a people gathered. We are a people sent. To meet people where they are. To share lives with each other. To be real with each other. To love healing into each other’s lives. And to say you know about Jesus? That’s what I’m talkin' 'bout!

We don’t need to be brilliant to do it. We don’t need to be wealthy to do it. We don’t need an official program or ministry of Christ Church Cathedral to do it. Jesus says “take nothing with you” so all we need to do it is to trust God.

So we’re going to get on with this service now. And we’re going to share our meal. And were’ going to lay our lives on that table with Jesus’ life and we’re going to get a new life in return that is a piece of each of us and a piece of Christ. And then Mark is going to say some words that I want us to take to heart as never before.

“Let us go forth in the name of Christ.”

And when we say, "Thanks be to God." That is like the starting gun at the beginning of a race. That is like the coach saying “go get ‘em” as her team takes the field. That means we are outta here. Not just to go back and go about our business until next Sunday at 10 am. We are outta here trusting God and taking nothing with us to

Hang with the people – enter their lives.

Break some bread – really get to know one another. Build relationship.

Find out where the brokenness is and give some of Jesus' love.

And finally, when we have preached the Gospel without words we will tell what we have shown.

We will not be afraid to say “The kingdom of God has come near you.”

We will not be afraid to say the word “Jesus.”

We will not be afraid, in fact we will say with great confidence and great joy:

“You know about Jesus? That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!”

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