Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sermon Notes Sunday November 23rd

The Black Sheep Ain't So Bad
Matthew 25:31-46

We need to remember that as familiar as we are with this passage of Scripture, with the tales of "when did we see you naked, hungry, sick, or in prison?" and the response of Jesus the King, that these responses while individual are about the NATIONS being judged, not individuals. This passage reminds us that it is about community.
This is great since we don't always do what is right, but as a community when someone else does this our legs are picked up and we are covered for that time. We need to be careful though, that we do not think of this as "well, someone else is doing it, so I don't have to". That way leads to an entire community being judged as "goats".
To this end, we need to re-examine the goats and the sheep.

Herding a goat is much more difficult than herding sheep as, unlike sheep, goats do not have a herd mentality (though they do have a dominant alpha - male or female) and each goat will tend to stray farther and farther from the others in search of better grass and food.

This too reminds us that we are meant for community. We need to stay together and we need to do things as one focused people. We are working on Visioning for this very reason. We want to have a common banner, as well as a common King - Christ Jesus in order to do things well.

I am reminded that 1 mule can pull two times its weight. But that two mules can carry 8 times their weight.
I am also mindful of the image of two matches. When lit individually they can only burn so bright, but when the two flames are touched together the brightness is even greater.

But, church is more than that. One of the statistics of the United Methodist Church is that the average age of the church is aging faster than the United States as a whole. In reading a recent study of almost 93,000 post-menopausal women that of those who attend church the death rate decreases by almost 20%. And those are just the women. There are benefits to being in church!

When we each go our own way we begin to send the whole group into chaos and are unable to adequately support and nurture one another. We need not be goats. We need the power of a common purpose and shared Vision.

As to what happens when we all run our own way I take note of the British Paper - Sunday Telegraph. British church are now so unused they are asking for bailout by the federal government. One British member of parliament says "I used to have people writing me asking if I could use my position in the European Parliament to get [Government] exemptions - my answers was to suggest that they go out and get a few more people to join their congregation." This comment is then added on:

"Failing to evangelise year after year eventually has a price - why expect the state to bail us out when we haven't been doing our job?"

When we all come together as sheep under a common leader we have greater power than when we are alone and trying each to do his own thing. So it doesn't matter if you are a black sheep, pure white sheep, or even one of those newfangled "colored sheep", you are still sheep.

At such a time as this we need to remember that visioning only works when we all come together. I am also mindful of Ray Bradbury's words to the world, which I take as a challenge to this church, this day.
"We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?"
There is nothing more real than reaching out to those who do not have this day - those we see naked, hungry, sick and in prison.



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