Sunday, 30 October 2011

Was it worth it?

Pentecost 20 year A 2011 Sermon  
Matthew 23:1-12

You know it’s kind of strange… how God gets through to me sometimes… as I try to discern God’s will…God’s inspiration… in writing a sermon for example…

Knowing this week’s message was to follow last weeks about Jesus as Messiah…
 relentlessly confronting the religious powers

I was waiting for that ‘Thank you God’ moment…that aha! Moment of inspiration
when suddenly it came… in a surprise package…

Snedden slide
all dressed up as Martin Snedden…
head of the Rugby World Cup organising team.

It was Snedden’s interview on Breakfast Television last Tuesday. When… Petra asked him

Word slide
‘Was it worth it?’
And I knew…it was the question for this week’s sermon.

And what an exceptional question. Was it worth it?

What Petra was asking of course…was…
in light of all the blood and sweat and tears…
poured into the Rugby World Cup
in light of the huge investment of  energy and resources …would the benefit to New Zealand
outweigh the cost ?
And what do you think Martin’s answer was?

[Ask – get response]

Mckaw slide
Of course it was worth it! And the true benefits
will be measured in years to come. Here and overseas…

And so right there at the breakfast table…
I… started thinking about…

Crucifixion slide
how God might answer the same question
Was it worth it?.... All things considered…

Was the cost to our God…of seeing his beloved Messiah …his anointed Christ…suffer and die…
steadfastly preaching mercy…
and praying forgiveness instead of revenge

Was it worth it to Jesus to stay true to the Way
right to the end…was it worth it to Stephen and to Paul and to Peter…and the other martyrs of the early church

modern day slide
was it worth it… given the shape things today
after two thousand years of trying…and the Messianic Age …the age of peace with justice and mercy
and wellbeing for all…still isn’t completely realised
in all the earth?

Was it worth it?

Is it worth it?

What do you think God’s answer would be?
Tell your neighbour what you think.


Jesus slide
My guess is that…Jesus already answered the question himself…in his parables of grace…the one lost sheep …the one lost coin…the one prodigal son…
and the one jealous and angry son…
the worth of one…multiplied by millions

parables illustrating the…unrelenting effort of God… seeking us out… calling our name
inviting us to the banquet table…
the joy of the shepherd and the woman…and the father…

And there’s even hint of Jesus answer…in our reading this morning…we can see it…in Jesus
risky and ceaseless defiance of the religious authorities … who already want him dead.

We know from last week… Jesus has already tied
the two most powerful religious parties… in knots… politically and scripturally…to the point they turn their backs and end all dialogue with him…

And today while the religious authorities are still listening …Jesus turns to his friends and make’s it clear
he’s not urging them to disobey to God’s law…

it’s not the law that’s the problem…Jesus tells us…
it’s the hypocrisy…
of those who call themselves experts in the law.

The scribes and the Pharisees do sit on Moses' seat;
so, do whatever they teach you to do and follow it;
but for heaven sake…

Slide words
don’t do as they do… for they don’t practice
what they teach. They’re happy to burden everyone except themselves. What they’re after is
worldly acclaim…the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogue…
and particularly… respect in the marketplace

blank slide
…they like you to call them…rabbi…and teacher
But don’t model yourselves after them.

And the new thing…the revolutionary thing…Jesus says …is from now on… you’re to consider yourselves
their equalsthis my friends
is a courageous political risk

And back at the Pharisees Jesus says from now on

Slide words
you aren’t to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you’re all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors,
for you have one instructor, the Messiah.’

Blank slide
Get over yourselves. [pause]

In the Messianic Age there is no elevated place
for the citizens of God’s realm…all are equal in God’s sight…all created in God’s image…male and female, Pharisee and Sadducee and every humble peasant …arriving for the Passover…

In God’s kingdom…there’s no point in making a great public demonstration of your piety
no reason to show off … you can’t score points with God with your status

in fact… in the Kingdom of God

Slide words
the greatest among you will be your servant. Get your head around that…All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Crucifixion slide
Jesus risks his very life…to fulfil his calling as the Christ of God… Jesus invests all he has and everything he does… for the sake of announcing the good news that everyone is equal in God’s eyes.

And without fore-knowledge of the resurrection…
Jesus keeps to the Way and on Calvary speaks peace
and mercy to his last breath.

Slide words
Was it worth it?

You are the answer. [pause]

Every time you make a choice

Every time you open your mouth

Every time you pray or sing or share your faith

You are the answer to the question… was it worth it?

Every time you admit with humility your brokenness and your need for healing and forgiveness.

Every time you show mercy and make peace

And we are the answer too. Together in community

Every time we grasp with humility our relationship with all those made in the image of God.

And every time we turn that understanding into action

we are a sign of the new covenant sealed in Christ’s blood…we are a sign it was worth it…

Was it worth it…love answers yes…

 Let us pray.