Traditional Sermon, Pentecost 7
It’s a beautiful day in God’s neighborhood, A beautiful day to serve others , Would you join me, Could you join me?
It’s a beautiful day to spread God’s Good news…A day to share the Gospel.
Would you join me?
Could you join me?
I’ve always wanted to serve with someone just like you.
I’ve always wanted to spread the love of God do you?
So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we’re together we might as well say:
Would you join me?
Could you join me?
Won’t you spread the Gospel?
Won’t you please?
Won’t you please?
Please won’t you spread the Gospel?
How many of you remember watching Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. At the beginning of his show, he entered his house, took off his coat and shoes and put on his cardigan and sneakers.
Fred Rogers was an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church. He believed that God was calling him to spread the Gospel on public television, focusing on Young families with children. He evangelizes not in the traditional “church sense”, but by teaching children that they are loved unconditionally and he planted the seeds to grow in children to love and accept others for who they are.
While Mr. Rogers seemed to live the very essence of the Gospel, he had many critics. Some accused him of being too wimpy – with his less than rugged manliness. There were rumors that his arms were covered in tattoos that represented all of the men he killed while in the military.
Fred Rogers faced a lot of rejection and criticism in his call to go out into television land to spread the Gospel. A middle aged man who wears a cardigan and sneakers, who is soft spoken and accepted others for who they were was not society’s idea of what fame, fortune and power was.
Did you ever wonder why Rogers chose to change his shoes at the beginning of every show?– he said they made less noise than normal dress shoes when moving behind the sets. So in other words, he wore shoes that were appropriate for his work or should I say “Calling”.
Fred Rogers had different shoes for different “callings”.
He had shoes to travel in when he came to work, changing into shoes that allowed him to do his job more effectively. There are many careers that demand certain footwear in order to carry out their responsibilities. For example, our music director changes into different shoes when he plays the organ.
Construction workers wear steel toed boots, nurses wear comfortable clogs or sneakers.
How many different types of shoes do you have in your closet? Raise your hand if you have more than 2 different pairs? 5? 10? More than 20? Tell me about some of your shoes and why you have them and if they are for a certain activity……
In our gospel reading for today – Jesus tells the disciples to go out and spread the good news…but only take the shoes on your feet; No change of footwear and no money to purchase more if they wore them out – they had to wear those same shoes whether they were climbing the hillsides of Judea, fishing off the shores of galilee, or entering the synagogues. And what made matters worse; Jesus basically told them he was sending them out like lambs to the slaughter! I am surprised that none of them ran the other way!
Do you know what is even worse about this particular story? It is meant for us today as well! Jesus is sending us out to spread the good news as well in that same manner – sending us out knowing that we will be rejected at times. We are sent at the moment of our baptism…The moment the Holy Spirit entered our lives to empower us to answer God’s call, to answer that call in spite of rejections.
I don’t believe that Jesus is telling us to ditch all of our shoes and possessions in order to spread the Gospel, but rather Jesus was telling his disciples and He continues to tell us today is that we shouldn’t rely on earthly possessions, but put our faith and trust in God and the Holy Spirit to carry out our callings. And what I really like about this passage is that Jesus names the rejection! He doesn’t sugar coat it – because being a Jesus follower is hard! We will be rejected – over and over again. But he tells us not to dwell on the rejection – to move forward. Even when we are rejected, we were still able to plant a seed – what happens to that seed is not our worry- we answer the call to the best of our ability.
We are called to be a prophetic voice in our communities; even when that voice goes against popular opinion.
We pray and put our trust in God to help us do and say the right things. Standing up for the Gospel may cause you to be rejected in your own communities.
This past week at our Confirmation Camp, our theme was Faith in Action. We talked about Christians who lived out the Gospel even in the face of rejection and in some cases – in the face of death. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s shoes carried him to march against racism and inequality as carried him to prison. He also called out the church as an “ineffectual voice, an arch supporter of the status quo.” His message was rejected over and over again, but he never gave up the fight – the only thing that silenced his voice was James Earl Ray who on April 4, 1968, shot and Killed King in Memphis. But others continued this fight and put on the shoes of Dr. King and kept marching and protesting and fighting for civil rights.
Mother Teresa believed she was called to serve the poorest of the poor. When she began her work in India, she had no place to stay, no food and only the equivalent of $2.00. She wore the sandals worn by those she served. With those shoes, she begged for food and supplies to help the poor. She faced rejection but persisted and became a beacon of the Christian church as a woman who answered the call to love God and love her neighbor. Her shoes are being filled by missionaries all over the world who put their faith in action to answer their calls spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
During the 16th century, Martin Luther’s shoes carried him to Rome where he saw the abuses of the church – they carried him to the diet of worms, where he stood his ground and refused to recant his writings and view of God and the scriptures –A view that only God alone can grant forgiveness and grant us grace – a view that almost cost him his life. Luther stated “You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say”. How many times do we remain silent in the face of persecution? Fear of being persecuted for our beliefs from our families and our friends? Luther also wrote “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor polite, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right”. And our conscience should be commanded by the Gospel.
Jesus through the Holy Spirit gives us the metaphorical shoes that we need to be his disciples; Shoes that enable us to worship God, serve our neighbor and to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Shoes that will help us face rejection and walk away to continue our journey of discipleship. And let’s be honest, sometimes these are the shoes that we don’t want to wear. Sometimes I would rather wear slippers – stay home and curl up on the sofa – it’s safe and it’s comfortable. I am tired and I don’t want to follow Jesus – because it is hard work and makes me go where I don’t want to go. It is less risky to stand back and look at the cross than to actually bear it ourselves. Let someone else do it –I do enough already.
But with the shoes of discipleship, comes responsibility; The responsibility to go out and share the good news of the gospel with others, even those who reject you. To go just as you are – as a child of God – to go out as the hands and feet of Jesus. God gives us all the supplies that we need; All that we need; not necessarily all that we want.
I am going to take a quick detour before I wrap up.
Dare I say that we too often focus on the “wrong shoes?” or focus more on the shoes than the task there were created for? There is a long standing debate on whether acolytes should be able to wear sneakers. Now, many of you know that for me personally, I don’t think it really matters what type of footwear our worship assistant wear as long as they are safe. Do we care more about the shoe itself than the person who is serving the church? Do we base our value on those who enter our doors merely by their dress, having an unspoken dress code in our minds that enables one to be welcomed into our community of faith?
Raise your hand if it bothers you that I took off my alb and stole to preach. How about the way I am dressed under my stole? I am really just trying to make a point. We put so much emphasis on materials things rather than focusing on the person that God created in His image – The person who wears sneakers to serve in church; the person who is homeless and carries his or her belongings on their back, the person with piercings and tattoos and the person who speaks or worships differently.
God gave us all shoes to wear – shoes that help us carry out our calls. Some shoes are more comfortable than others, some have extra support, and some shoes are so worn out that they may need repaired.
With these shoes we are not called to travel the road of discipleship alone. We are created to be in community – to work together on this journey –with all of our different gifts and abilities.
Some of us wear the shoes of service – serving others through our community meals, our clothing bank, supporting Busoka Lutheran Church, habitat for humanity, offering hospitality to a stranger, helping to eradicate malaria and world hunger.
Some of us wear the shoes of evangelism – we are gifted with the ability to tell others bout God’s unconditional love and acceptance and to tell others that God loves us so much that he sent his only son to be crucified on the cross for our transgressions.
Others wear prophetic shoes (not prosthetic!) shoes – shoes that enable us to stand up for those being oppressed. Shoes that carry us to our state capitals to help give voice to bills that give all an equal education, affordable housing and a fair wage.
Just think for a moment all of the different types of shoes in this congregation and all of the different ways these shoes help us help us live as Disciples of Christ.
So my question to all of you is “What types of shoes do you have in your closet?”