Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost 14

"The Blessings of the Faith of a Child"

Matthew 18:1-6

Rally Sunday, September 10, 2017

We live in a very competitive society. Sports is king. People love to shout, "We're number one!" There are winners and losers but nobody wants to be a loser. So, we try all the harder to be on the winning side. That's life here in the United States and throughout the world.

Yet, this is nothing new. Since the beginning people have been in competition with one another. Although Abel was not trying to compete with Cain, it was that striving to one up his brother that led Cain to murder his brother. You might think that the disciples would be different. They were not. Even they were in competition with one another to be great in their version of the Messianic kingdom.

Matthew 18:1-6. At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

You would think that there would be no competition in the church. Wrong. Even today there is a competition going on among congregations and denominations. Congregations like to compare their numbers with others around them. Once mega-churches were all the fashion. "Bigger is better," was their mantra. Success was measured in numbers in the pews and dollars in the collection plates. Although it is not so much the case anymore, churches still compete for members, the biggest VBS or the largest building. Yet, this is not supposed to be the essence of the church.

When the disciples were competing for the best places in the kingdom, Jesus explained to them that entrance into the kingdom and work for the kingdom has nothing to do with competition or status or prestige. In order to help them with this understanding of what the church was supposed to be, Jesus had a child come into their midst.

Why a child? A child had no particular status or standing in the world of adults. This was just a kid. This child had nothing to offer the world of the adults. The guys had no need or desire to compete with a kid. Yet, Jesus explained that this was exactly what the disciples were to become.

The child was considered a nobody in the world of the adults. Yet, this is exactly what Jesus was telling the disciples they would need to become. You need to become a nobody in order to best serve.

What does that mean? If you were helping in some kind of volunteer setting, would get more done as a nobody or as a celebrity? In the recent flooding in Houston, a number of celebrities wanted to help. At one event, a popular football player helped organize distribution of bottled water and emergency supplies. I noticed he seemed to be spending more time signing autographs and posing with people taking selfies than actually passing out supplies. Although he was certainly a catalyst for organizing and drawing people to help, it was the nobodies who were doing most of the grunt work.

Although the celebrities may have wanted to serve, their status was keeping them from doing the heavy work. The disciples were caught up in the desire for status and prestige. They thought of themselves as the celebrities who were to the catalyst for the work to be done. Yet, Jesus said that they really wanted to do the work of the kingdom, they had to do the work of the nobodies. If they wanted to stay in the spotlight, the work of the Gospel would be greatly hindered. For the spread of the Gospel, Jesus told them they needed to remain a nobody to do the heavy lifting.

Luther has given us an understanding of how Christians are to live in the world with his understanding of Vocation. In the Roman church Luther grew up in, people who trained for religious vocations, like priests, monks or nuns, were thought to have a higher status than those who did not. Luther told the people that all vocations were equally pleasing in the eyes of God. He said whatever good and honorable job you do, you do it to the best of your ability. Your talents and abilities are a gift from God. You discover them, develop them and use them to support yourself and help others.

The trouble is, like the church in the middle ages, we tend to weigh some occupations as better than others. In our country the popular notion is that a four year college degree is the key to status and success. Why is that? Different jobs require different skills sets. There are all kinds of jobs and occupations that are necessary that don't require a college diploma. Each person should pursue what their talents, skills and abilities will help them do to support themselves. Luther reminds us that whatever you do in life, do it to the best of your ability.

Vocation isn't always glamorous in the eyes of the world. Consider who actually accomplishes the most good for their neighbor: is it the nurse in the hospital, the plumber, the volunteer who delivers meals to the elderly OR the TV talking heads and celebrities who talk a lot about their view of life but don't really DO anything? These B-team celebrities may be recognized by the public but they don't do much to truly serve the needs of others.

Jesus was teaching His disciples an important lesson. In order to become somebody in the eyes of God, they had to first become a nobody in the eyes of the world. How can this be? The disciples were told to being the Gospel to the world. Theirs was the grunt work. They didn't have satellite communications, You Tube or cable TV. They had to get out to where the people were. Although they were going to become kings or celebrities or billionaires, the Gospel they brought was worth more than all of these things put together.

Because they persevered as disciples of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, these nobody's became somebody's. If they had achieved the fame and fortune of their times, would we know who they were today? No.

Here's the encouraging word for today. Although you may be considered a nobody in the eyes of the world, to Jesus you will always be somebody. You are special in the eyes of the Lord. You have been baptized in His name. You have been taught the faith. You give witness to the Lord as you carry out your vocation. Blessed are you now and forever.


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06/28/2015
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May
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12/28/2014
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12/07/2014
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11/02/2014
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10/12/2014
10/05/2014
September
09/28/2014
09/21/2014
09/14/2014
09/07/2014
August
08/31/2014
08/24/2014
08/17/2014
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08/03/2014
July
07/27/2014
07/20/2014
07/13/2014
07/06/2014
June
06/29/2014
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06/08/2014
06/01/2014
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05/11/2014
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04/27/2014
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04/06/2014
March
03/30/2014
03/23/2014
03/16/2014
03/02/2014
February
02/02/2014
January
01/26/2014
01/19/2014
01/12/2014
01/05/2014