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Genesis 21:8-14; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:28-39
BIGFORK COMMUNITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
June 21, 2020 – Third Sunday after Pentecost
Paul calls us to task today. We are the luckiest people in the world. Our lives have been opened to the life abundant…the life eternal.
Through no merit of our own, God loves us so much that the Promised One is sent to us at the right time… at the right place. It has happened. It is finished. Our free gift from God has arrived.
We are made alive in a new way by our understanding of the story. There was one who was so good that no matter what happened, it all turned better than we could have hoped.
He came to save us, even while we sinned. All we have to do is to follow him. Then whatever happens to us, it will turn out all right in the end because of the Messiah’s grace.
So we are home free. No more worries. No more troubles. We can do whatever we want because we belong to him.
And if we want to have even more grace than that, all we have to do is repent, truly, and run back to him. It will be all right, because the more trouble we get into, the more grace we will receive.
Do we see a problem with this thinking? Are there no consequences for our mistakes? Can the rich man really think what he wants to think and be on his merry way? Do we think we are rich when we believe what we want to believe?
But we are only rich because of him. Why would we be so ungrateful as to claim him and then act badly? Why would the world want to follow anyone whose followers are dishonest, unkind, self-serving, and full of themselves.
That is exactly Paul’s point. We are baptized to change our old way of thinking… our old way of seeing…our old way of being in the world.
That’s when life becomes abundant…when it becomes real…when we act with compassion and his grace shines through…us That’s when life becomes everlasting…when we learn to see God’s love for us…and share it… all…with others.
That’s when those who don’t know Christ begin to think we have something worth having. That’s when they want what we have. That’s when we can make the world a better place with what we have… learned from our Great Friend, Jesus.
Abraham and Sarah come to know that when Isaac is born to an old couple well on in years. An heir is the one thing they do not have… and they realize this is worth more than all the flocks, herds, tents and servants they can gather unto them.
But life is complicated. It is not a matter of getting what you want so much as wanting what you have. We saw last week that they had a promise of a child from the three visitors that came to them in the wilderness. They had that promise.
But in a portion of the story that we have not read, they become impatient, uncertain, and they assumed that God meant that Sarah’s maid servant should serve as the surrogate and bear the son God promised them.
Hagar becomes the mother of Abraham’s son. Now she has become rich and thinks that God wants her to be the special one. She taunts Sarah, her mistress, that she is the mother and not her.
Sarah may be his wife…but not a mother…of his children. So there…
Then the promised child comes to Sarah to fulfill their hopes…and give new and eternal meaning to the promise they received. Then… Sarah turns to Abraham…and turns on Hagar…and points out that she is both his wife and the mother of his son. She is the rich one now.
She does not want to life with all this strife or raise their son in the midst of uncertainty. There is only one way to resolve this forever: Hagar and Ishmael simply have to go. That will solve the problem… once and for all.
But will it? Has it? When we divide the world into us and them we attempt to divide God’s love… and Jesus showed us that divine love… God’s mortal and immortal gift… cannot be divided.
You take it all or leave it all. You accept it all or refuse to accept any of it.
I’ve told you before about my grandmother’s friend who told me one day that you have to love everybody or you can’t love anybody.. That…is what…we are talking about here.
Loving everybody isn’t easy. Just ask God. Just ask Jesus. Just ask yourself how that has worked out for you in the past…if it has ever worked out for you that way in the past…or if that is the way you are still asking it will work out for you now.
There is no us and them. There is only us…whether you are siblings or strangers…from the same town or from different towns…see things the same way or in opposite ways.
You are alive at the same moment in history. Everyone’s problem is your problem, and your problem is everyone’s problem…or ‘us’ and ‘them’ is the problem.
As Rodney King said back in 1992 when the video of the beating the police gave him sparked riots in Los Angeles for day after night after day: “Why can’t we all just get along?”
Is it because we all want the same thing? Is it because we want different things? Is it because we don’t want people to what we have? Will it mean less to us if everyone has it…or will it mean more?
What is the problem? I collect Dempsey-Gibbons memorabilia. I grew up in the little windswept town that held a world’s heavyweight championship fight.
What were they thinking? Their reach exceeded their grasp and instead of becoming rich, both banks in town and one bank in Great Falls failed.
It was a fiasco, but a very famous one, and it was the first time anyone went 15 rounds with Jack Dempsey …July 4, 1923….Shelby, Montana.
So I am surfing on eBay and I see an original ticket to the fight for sale for about 1/10th of what they should be asking for it and I buy it.
The seller thanks me for the purchase so I tell him I grew up in Shelby…3rd generation in fact…it is part of my heritage and thank you.
The seller messages me back and says he grew up in Cut Bank and he was always raised to hate anyone from Shelby…but he will sell his ticket to me anyway.
Let’s just say that it occurred to me that this guy was not a natural salesman. Offending people who are paying you money is never a good idea, and offending them because of something that is beside the point is even sillier.
You are unlikely to inspire any repeat business…and without repeat business you are already going out of business. Somebody should have told Hagar that, too, by the way.
Givin someone what they want …really want…without lording it over them…giving freely…as God gives…can heal the world in ways that will ripple out through all time.
When I was 12 or 13 years old I bought a shirt for my father for Father’s Day. I can still remember what it looked like, and when I saw in on sale at the Lucky 13 Menswear in Shelby.
I remember where it was in the store. I went in looking for something for $5.00. It as on sale and it was better than anything I had thought of…or had seen.
Steve Doyle wrapped it up for me and took my $7.00 and nodded wisely at me. It was a Saturday as I remember and I took it home and couldn’t wait until Sunday. I gave it to Vearle as soon as I walked in the door.
He looked skeptically at the box, but when he opened it I could see that he liked it even more than I did. He went into the bedroom and put it on and came out and showed it to me and my mom.
Then he invited me to go golfing at the Shelby Country Club with him. Right now. It was a mowed prairie fairway and oiled sand green golf course, but it was what we had where there was no water.
Everyone we saw told him ‘nice shirt.’ He just said, “Kelly gave it to me.”
We got out on the course and he started to slow down and let everyone play through. He idled away raking footprints out of the sand traps and smoothing the greens. Everyone that played through said, “Nice shirt.” He just told them, “Kelly gave it to me.”
By the time we got back to the clubhouse, half the men in Shelby had played through us and a bunch of them were sitting at the bar and got quiet when we came in.
They had already told him it was a nice shirt. They already knew where he got it. George Black was the course manager and George was tight with money. But he bought me an orange pop and told me, “Nice shirt you got your dad. Made him proud. A wonderful thing to see.”
When we got back in the car, my dad finally asked me where I got the money to buy the shirt. I told him it was on sale for more than I meant to spend, but I had that much on me and it looked so good I bought it anyway.
He laughed and told me not to tell anyone. He said, “These guys think I’m the best father in town right now and I don’t want to let them think anything else.”
That is probably the best $7.00 I ever spent. I’m sure it is, but it overwhelmed me at the time. I couldn’t figure it out. It was all backwards.
People didn’t think that either one of us was lucky because of what we got…a shirt and a round of golf where we let everyone play through.
They thought we were both lucky because of what we gave…a special shirt…and praise. Vearle didn’t get it either though…because that day he really was the best dad in town.
That’s the sweet spot I’m trying to get you…and Hagar…and Jesus’ enemies in our reading today…to see. It’s not what you get or having your own way that changes the world.
It is seeing a chance to do something that makes someone you love…or someone you know…or someone you just met…more grateful for the day the Lord has given you both…you all…this day.
It is finding a way to show them that you can see what they see and feel what they must be feeling and then just coming up alongside each other…and being with them in the middle of all that is going right… and wrong with the world…just being friends…companions.
Or as Paul puts it for us today, “As surely as we died with Christ, we will also live with him.”
When we give what is precious we receive something even more precious. What we get can be taken away from us, but what we give… good or bad…is ours forever.
All Jesus wants is for us to tell others that we belong to him…that we are listening to his voice… following in his footsteps as best we can.
We all want to quit sinning, don’t we? Then fill your hours with acts of mercy and kindness and compassion…and faith and hope and love.
A beige and baby blue striped shirt will wear out and one day it will have to be thrown it away. But the gift…the memory of the gift… is yours forever…especially if you are lucky enough to have given it one day…even if it was long, long ago.
O Lord, what is it that you want to give the world…through us… through me…this day? Amen.