Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost — August 31, 2014
Text – Matthew 15:21-28
Pastor Craig Schultz

This morning is part three of a series on four acts of love that were central to Jesus’ person and life practice and are to be manifest in those He calls to follow Him and gather as His church. As I stated for 3 weeks many who study church activity believe strongly that if the present trends continue, by 2020 less than 15% of Americans will be attending worship services. Again the top reasons given for not going to church are:

  • “I feel judged”
  • “I don’t want to be lectured at”/”they don’t care what I think”
  • “Church people are hypocrites”
  • “Your God is irrelevant to my life”

If we are to reverse this trend and correct these four attitudes, the authors of the book Why People don’t Go to Church Anymore suggest four Acts of Love that Jesus left with the church causing growth and a spirit in those early years rarely seen since. They are:

  • Radical Hospitality
  • Fearless Conversation
  • Genuine Humility
  • Divine Anticipation

So far I have discussed Hospitality which is about making members and guests alike feel welcome, respected and accepted; Fearless Conversation which seeks to provide an environment where people might speak freely and not fear that they might do something wrong and receive a glare or rebuke for their beliefs and opinions; and Genuine Humility which is an attitude that works toward healing and solutions that bring good to the whole. The last topic is Divine Anticipation which is expecting God to show up in your life in order to bring the grace of heaven to you and through you.

Let’s begin this topic by sharing a time you experienced God intervening in your life. (Allow for some personal stories) God showing up doesn’t have to be dramatic stories of rescue or miraculous cures of disease. It can be an “aha” moment, or a needed encouragement from the unexpected word or a beautiful sunset, or being touched by a song that plays at just the right moment. You can call these coincidences, luck or fate, or you can call them acts of God’s grace and love or as some say, God sightings.

As people who live by faith we claim to believe in and serve a God of great mystery. Paul wrote: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out” (Romans 11:33)! This goes counter to the type of culture we have become, a society that wants answers and explanations for everything. We have to know who, what, when, where, why and how. We want the facts, figures, the analysis, the proof and the statistics. We have mostly lost our sense of awe and wonder. The maker and preserver of heaven and earth cannot be put into a box. He has revealed much about Himself but there is far more we will not know until we stand in His presence. What matters now is that He is for us and not against us and that He desires to call us His beloved children and bless us.

The Apostle John wrote “We have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son” (1:14). The church exists to share the glory of the Father’s one and only Son and what Jesus accomplished for all mankind and continues to bring all mankind. The same power that sustained Jesus through the trials and temptations in His life, enabled Him to endure the horrors of the cross, brought Him back from the dead and raised Him to glory at the right hand of the heavenly Father is at work in, around and through us.

Jesus anticipated that God would act. His pattern was to look to heaven and to the ever available Father. His mission among us was predicated on God not abandoning Him but providing for Him according to His good and gracious will. We who hare baptized into the Christ possess that same spirit or Divine anticipation that God is always available to us, will provide for us and desires to accomplish His work in us. Like Jesus we look to heaven, trust His goodness and then watch and wait for Him to work.

We get a glimpse of this in today’s Gospel Lesson. Jesus in very clear terms tells His disciples what His mission is: “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” The disciples led by Peter respond with, “No way is that ever going to happen!” Jesus gets in Peter’s face and gives him a serious dressing down, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Certainly the disciples have a good thing going and don’t want to lose Jesus but the bigger issue here is that they are not willing to let God work. That has several results: 1) It unites them with Satan in opposing God’s good working, 2) It keeps them from seeing God working His good and 3) It keeps them from participating in accomplishing God’s good working. The same is true when we want to be in control of what goes on in our life and not look for His grace touching our lives or seeking His will and purpose for our lives. God doesn’t bless carelessness, stubbornness, laziness, folly or inactivity. He does bless any effort no matter how poor or weak that grows out of love, humility and a desire to be in His will. Today’s Epistle speaks of His will for us and the clearest path to seeing God intervening and impacting our lives.

[Romans 12:9] Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. [10] Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. [11] Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. [12] Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. [13] Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. [14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. [15] Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. [16] Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. [17] Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. [18] As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. [20] “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. [21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

With those words I conclude this series on the Four Acts of Love. They do a great job summarizing the life of love.  What remains is to continue to put these into practice and action as individuals and a church. People today don’t lack knowledge of how to live–these words of Paul are common sense and universally accepted. People struggle and society is a mess because we lack a relationship with God. That is our biggest task, introducing people to the One who brings goodness and mercy to life. We communicate a God who is real and relevant by practicing Radical Hospitality, fostering Fearless Conversation, living with Genuine Humility, and walking in Divine Anticipation. Join me and help me communicate this kind of love and we will see Jesus not just someday in heaven, but we’ll see Him everyday touching our lives.