Isaiah 55:1-9 “judging?” 3-20-22
[Prayer] “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
The new mission statement for Central United Methodist Church is “Providing opportunities for families and children of our community to grow and develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.” (pause) My sisters and brothers; what do you think it is going to take to bring this mission statement into reality? (pause) If we are really really serious about fulfilling this statement what is it going to take? (pause) I think accomplishing this mission statement is going to require taking a long hard look at ourselves and trying to figure out what this looks like through God’s eyes instead of just through our eyes. Proverbs 21:2 says, “Every way of man is right in his own eyes. The Lord ponders the heart.”
There is a story about the prophet Samuel. Samuel was both the last great military Judge of Israel as well as the first great prophet of the monarchy. Through Samuel God set the stage for the way Israel would structure the kingdom differently from their neighbors. In Israel the prophet is the top person; then the king; and then the priests. Samuel was sent to anoint the next king of Israel. God sent Samuel to Jesse; the grandson of Ruth. I understand we have a Sunday school class studying the book of Ruth. There in Ruth chapter 4 verses 22-23; “Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.” Samuel was sent to Jesse to look upon Jesse’s sons, and to anoint one of them the next king of Israel. Samuel went to Jesse, and had Jesse call his sons.
“6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord's anointed is before him.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
My brothers and sisters, if we are going to meet and fulfill our mission statement we need to examine our hearts.
Some of you may have noticed we have been having some guests for worship who are a bit more colorful than our regular attendees. Some of them have been homeless people looking for food and a warm place to sit. Some of them live in the trailer parks in town. In talking to some of those people they have felt judged when they came to our church. On the flip side I recognize that some of you are uncomfortable around people who are colorful in ways you are not. (pause) I get it. Everyone likes to be around people who are like them. However, service to the Gospel requires that we accept that we are also colorful - we are sinners. We are just as much sinners as anyone else. We just might hide it better. How many times have y’all heard me say, “Better to be an honest sinner than a lying saint”? (pause) As such we have no right to judge others for being colorful in a way that makes us uncomfortable. Hear again the words of the Prophet Isaiah.
Read Isaiah 55:1-9 aloud.
According to the Prophet Isaiah it does not matter how colorful a person may be. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). According to Isaiah, God is far from picky when it comes to who may come to God’s table. Like the Communion Table, all are welcome. And yet there are plenty who are thirsty and hungry and chasing after the things of this world who do not feel comfortable in God’s church - even in this church. They have not yet found the one who satisfies. God is reaching out to all of us. I believe God is reaching out through us to people in the community. Through SGA and our community dinners God is working through us to begin by meeting the needs of people in our community. As the people of our community come we meet some people who are colorful in very different ways from the way we are colorful. Isaiah says, “Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you” (Isaiah 55:5). With God’s help these are families with children who are both looking for a return to normal and looking for new ways to bring God’s grace into their lives. How will we find these people? (pause) How will we find the people God is sending us to? (pause) The truth is the people we need to be reaching to fulfill our mission statement are all around us. I believe this is why the Prophet Isaiah says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon Him while he is near.” God is moving. People are coming out of Covid desperate for a way to become involved again. There are record numbers of kids signed up for flag football and soccer this spring. I’ve had people come and ask me about our new youth program because they say there is nothing like that in our area. God is on the move. While the numbers for Shrove Tuesday are a little disappointing. The numbers for the Sunday evening youth group are not. We had 8 eight Confirmands. Seven of them joined the church and one of those was Baptized. Fast forward to a month later and the start of our youth program. Eight Confirmands became 13 kids who showed up for youth. The next week those 13 kids turned into 19 kids for youth, AND I’ve been approached by the coach of one of the flag football teams who wants to bring his fifth grader and a fifth grader from another school. Plus he is thinking about bringing his 8 kid flag football squad. There are kids coming here to church for youth on Sunday nights. Do you know what the flag football coach told me? He told me he is a little worried about bringing these kids to church because he is afraid they might cause trouble. (pause) You know what? They might cause trouble. (pause) I’ve been thinking about those words for a week. “They might cause trouble.” It suddenly hit me as I was putting the finishing touches on this sermon, those are EXACTLY the kids we need at church. (pause) Why? (pause) Because of what God says through Isaiah in verses 8 and 9.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Would it be easier to only call up the kids from the wealthy, well mannered, middle class homes? Yes. Yes it would, but those are not the only kids we are called to reach out to for the Gospel. So today I say, bring on all of the kids who need a safe place to play some games and learn about God for an hour on Sunday night. Bring all of the kids to hang out on the Ropes Course at Mt. Shepherd. Bring all of the kids to come and flower the cross on Easter Sunday. Bring all of the kids to come help bus tables and hand out bags of food on May the 5th at our next SGA community dinner. Why am I saying this? I am saying this because if we are going to obey God - if we are going to do what God is asking of us, then we cannot stop at what is uncomfortable. The cross was not comfortable for Jesus. To fulfill our mission statement we are going to have to go to places we don’t normally visit and make new friends. If we are going to achieve a goal we haven’t met for a while then we are going to do things we have not done in a while - and we may have to do them in new ways. What are you willing to do to help meet the goal of “Providing opportunities for families and children of our community to grow and develop a relationship with Jesus Christ”?
In the name of Jesus Christ,