Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sharing my Sermon....

I'm a Local Lay Speaker in the United Methodist Church.....this allows me to do lots of different leadership kinds of things within the Church, one of which is being able to lead worship. Generally a Local Lay Speaker is only certified to speak in their home church....if you want to speak in other United Methodist Churches then you need to take another class to become certified to do that. BUT, since we are part of a cooperative parish, apparently we are allowed to speak at any of the churches within our parish. So, today I had the privilege to lead service for the Pastors who are on vacation! Here is my sermon....I spoke from an outline so this is "mostly" what was said. :)

Advent is the season of waiting. With each candle we light on the Advent wreath we are reminded of what is to come. Christmas: The time of year in which we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We all know the story of birth of Jesus. There were no rooms for Joseph and Mary. They were grateful for the space that was given to them. Jesus was born in a manager among animals. A very humble beginning for The One sent to be our King, don’t you think? Somewhere along the way we have transitioned from the humble beginnings of Christ to this…

(WWJB movie Intro)

***NOTE: I don't have a clip of this movie to share....sorry, it was REALLY AWESOME!!!****

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. My husband jokes that Christmas is the only time I decorate the house. But the reasons for my love of Christmas has changed over the years, especially since I’ve become a Christian. The Reverend Billy said, “You don’t have to buy a gift to give a gift.” I don’t think we need to get the latest greatest gadget to show our love to someone. I think the most valuable gift we can give is our time. Maybe it’s time spent making someone a batch of their favorite cookies, maybe it’s time spent out to lunch talking, maybe it’s time spent doing something fun with a child. When I think of the way we spend Advent and Christmas in our home, I hope my boys will remember the time we spent together decorating cookies, doing Advent devotions and spending time together more than any one gift they ever receive.

The point behind the movie, “What Would Jesus Buy” wasn’t to look closer at our spending just during Christmas, but to look closer at our spending all year round so that we can live a more simple life. Not only was Jesus born in humble surroundings but he teaches over and over again how we are to live or lives focused on God and not possessions. In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us not to store up treasures here on earth but rather in heaven. He said that, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Jesus tells us that we cannot serve both God and money. In Matthew 19 a young rich man wants to know what he needs to do to have eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor and then he will have treasure in heaven. The young rich man turned and walked away very sad because he had many possessions that he was not willing to part with. Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” In Luke 12 Jesus tells the parable of the rich man who had so many crops that he didn’t have enough barns to store it all. So he decided to tear them down and build bigger ones so that he’d have enough room to store away food for years to come. The man died before he could use what he had stored up. Jesus ended this parable by saying, “A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God

It is easy to be tempted by all of the “things” we can buy and spend our money on. I’m sure all of us have our areas of weakness which could use some re-analyzing. I have a weakness for $5 fancy coffees from Starbucks. I don’t have them all the time, but if I could, I probably would! It doesn’t take too long to realize that’s A LOT of money to spend on coffee! For years now my husband and I have been dreaming of a new home. In years past we just couldn’t afford what was out there but now that we have become a little more stable financially, we have felt like we could afford something bigger and better. This past summer we found a house that we were interested in purchasing. It was a restored turn of the century farm house. It had 3000 square feet, 3 acres and several out buildings. It was our idea of a “dream home”. We said we would continue to pursue this house as long as God didn’t shut any doors. As the process continued to move forward and the dream began to seem like a reality. We put together our offer contract with the realtor and I began to mentally place my furniture and other belongings in that house, making a mental list of items to purchase and things to do, and I was envisioning our children’s graduation parties in the big, beautiful yard. We went to bed one night knowing that the owners were ready to sign the contract bright and early the next morning and feeling confident that the house was ours. Bright and early the next morning, a phone call came. But instead of hearing, the words, “it’s yours” the words were that of a counter offer that we just couldn’t agree to. God had closed the door. I cried and I was bitter because I felt that we had been so patient for so long and worked really hard in our lives to get to this point. I truly felt that THIS was going to be our time for the new house we’d been wanting for so long.

But do you know what I realized? I realized how much work would have come into our lives with that house. The maintenance of all the space both inside the house and out would have drained our time and our wallets. We probably wouldn’t have had the money to take our children on the vacations that we always look forward to, it would have been harder to keep up with the bills, the little bit of extra money we enjoy using to serve and give to others just wouldn’t have been available anymore. I slowly began to realize that it’s not the extravagance of a new house that creates a home. I realized that although the house we live in now is lacking space, it is the house that each of our children took their first steps in and celebrated their first birthdays in; it’s the house where we’ve laughed and made memories together as a family; it’s not the house that makes a home but rather the memories and the love that fill the walls in between.

The extravagance isn’t just limited to our houses but to the cars we drive, the clothes, shoes and purses that may fill our closets, the electronic devices we use for entertainment, the latest gadgets that are suppose to make life easier and the countless other “things and stuff” that clutter our shelves, attics, and garages. We live in a culture where bigger, faster and newer equal better; where the things we have and the things we spend money on is an outward display of our “success” Our consumption of stuff and desire for things has gotten out of control. The economy is suffering because people have gotten in over their heads. And what a sad thought it is that there is a family who will be missing their loved one this Christmas because he was trampled to death by people rushing get their “stuff” as he opened the doors in a New York Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Things have gotten out of control.

In our New Testament reading, Jesus tells us if we want to live our lives trying to get all the “stuff” that there is to get then it’s going to cost us our soul. Jesus wasn’t the first to warn about this. In our Old Testament reading today we heard the words of Moses telling the Israelites not to forget God especially when after their lives become full and prosperous. There are stories after stories in Old Testament of the Israelites forgetting what God did for them. I think it is safe to assume that these stories are continuing in our world today. It isn’t the house we live in, the car we drive the clothes we wear that matter here or in eternity. The ONLY thing that matters is where we are in our relationship with God. God created each one of us….God has blessed each one of us…..God has an awesome plan for each one of us…. He has given us so much….but we are still guilty people who have forgoten God when we fail to see His blessings and to hear His voice. How can we do what God is calling each of us to do when our lives and our time are consumed with things that please us rather than what pleases God?

Now please don’t think that I’m trying to tell you to sell all of your things and possessions and give up on your collections and hobbies and activities and live your lives as monks. That’s not what I’m saying. I think life is short and we do need to enjoy some of the perks that our hard work has earned us. But when we are spending more than we are giving and serving, we aren’t doing what God has called us to do. We all need to find that balance between our needs for our survival and make wiser choices about our wants. In my middle school Sunday School class I asked the kids to make a list of wants and needs and you know what??? They were pretty much right on! With the exception of one student saying they “needed” a new charger for the hand held video game. But I was so proud of them for having the understanding between what we really need and the things that we want, especially at their age in a culture that is very want centered.

One thing I enjoy, which may seem extravagant, besides my expensive coffee habit, is I LOVE vacations with my family. I choose to spend money, going somewhere, learning something new and having fun, with my husband and children then go out and buy a new clothes or a new car. I also have made the choice to spend a little more money on cleaning supplies that are better for our environment and health and food that is healthier for our bodies.

We all need to find our own balance in life between what our priorities are and how God is calling each of us to live. That is something that needs to be between each of you and God. But here are a few things to keep in mind: Before you throw something away, ask yourself if there is a way you can either recycle or reuse that item. If not, decide if it is in decent enough shape to donate rather than throwing it into the garbage. Before you purchase something, ask yourself these three questions: Do I really need this? Do I have something like it? and, Where am I going to store it? When we consume less, we will be using the things that we already have and that’s called active recycling!! The money and time we save in the long run will be priceless. Especially if we take that money and time we’ve saved and use it to serve and give to others who are in need.

As this season of Advent continues and we move ever closer to lighting the candle in the middle of the wreath, let us remember what that candle represents: Christ as the center of our lives sent to deliver us from the sin that consumes us so that we may have eternal life. THAT is the BEST gift you have ever and will ever receive. Celebrate that gift all year through your actions not your purchases. Remember the way in which Jesus was born: In simple, humble surroundings. Remember His beginnings, remember His teachings, remember His life and use it as a reference point as to how to live your life…..if you make the choice to live life more simply, then you will be making it possible for others to simply live. Amen.

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