Monday, April 23, 2018

Faith5: Talk with your children -- talk with one another

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
John 10:10b-18
            The first theologians I ever knew – were my parents.
            They didn’t use big words like “justification” or “hermeneutics” but they said things to me that even they probably don’t know – influenced me – and what I believe. 
            I don’t know if that makes you hopeful – or nervous.

            Take my mom, for example. 
            When we were in junior high, our congregation built a new sanctuary!  It was larger and impressive.  And it had a balcony! 
            Not like our choir loft here, but a balcony that went almost all the way around the church. 
            We were excited!  But, our mom wouldn’t let us sit up there. 
            She said (and I apologize to the choir here) that “the balcony was for spectators, not participants.”

            Hmmmm.  You mean worship is something I am supposed to PARTICIPATE in?  You mean I am supposed to engage in worship? 
            You mean worshipping God is ACTIVE?  Theology.

            Or my dad. 
            I don’t remember the occasion now, but sometime after a local tragedy, when people were talking about those who didn’t die and saying that “God was with them,” my dad said,
            “what about the people who died?  Wasn’t God with them, too?  What about people who get sick and DON’T recover?  Isn’t God with them too?  Is God only with us with things are going well?”

            Theology.  God-Talk.  That’s the third step of the faith 5. 
            Two weeks ago we learned the first step.
            Sharing with each other our highs and our lows, our joys and our sorrows, being vulnerable and creating deeper relationships of trust:  in our families, with our friends, in our congregation. 
            Last week we learned the second step:  READ. 
            Read scripture together.  A verse a day, a story a week, whatever, whatever works for you, for your family. 
            And we even shared some scripture. 

            I think that today’s step, TALK, is the hardest--  at least for a sermon – I mean, to TALK about TALKING.
             That just sounds boring! 
            I don’t want to talking about talking. 
            But what the third step is about is how we learn to connect God to our lives, to  share how God is in our lives, and to learn to do that – it’s spiritual dynamite. 
            And we do that by sharing a particular scripture, and how it connects to our lives.

            In Rich Melheim’s instructions about the Faith 5, he asks families in particular to try to tie their own highs and lows of the day to the verse or story that they read. 
            And I’ll be honest:  That’s hard.  You might not be able to do it all of the time, or even most of the time, at first. 
            But even though you can’t tie the verse to your daily highs and lows, you can still “talk about it.”, using the words from Deuteronomy 6.    “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.  Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home.              Talk about them when you are away.  Talk about them when you lie down.  Talk about them when you rise.   Talk about them.”
            Sometimes you will be able to connect them with your day. 
            Other times you may not.  But talk about them. 
            Tell your children and your grandchildren what you think, what you feel, what you believe.  Ask them the same. 

            I was so inspired by the people who shared their favorite verses and stories last week that I asked the same thing at our council meeting on Monday night. 
            What’s your favorite Bible verse and what does it mean to you?  And you know what, a few of us shared as well. 
            One woman shared the verse from the Book of Esther, “who knows but that you have come to your position for such a time as this?”         She wondered the same thing about herself, and about our congregation. 
            One man shared about learning just how blessed he was in comparison with most of the world, and it changed how he read the scriptures about giving, and about money, and about what true wealth really was.
            It changed how he saw himself and the world. 
            And as I listened, I thought that I would like more of us to be able to do this:  do know and be able to share with one another scripture and God-talk.  Theology. 

            So it’s for families, for our children, but not just for them. 
            It’s for the strength of our congregation, as well. 
            The people of Israel needed those instructions from God because they lived in a world where their neighbors did not know the Lord, know Yahweh, where they lived by different, more brutal values,
            and where it would be a challenge for them to remain faithful to the way of their God, who called them to remember the poor, and to protect the vulnerable, to feed the hungry. 
            So he called on them to know the Word, to recite it, and to talk about it…..
            so, that, again, we will know who and whose we are… so that we will know and recognize God’s presence ... And what is our purpose in life      

            Bringing Scripture and our lives together:  That’s theology. 
            And it’s powerful when we can talk TOGETHER, and strengthen and encourage one another.  It’s not an easy world we live in. 
            It wasn’t an easy world for the first Christians, either. 
            And so Jesus called himself, the Good Shepherd, the one who laid down his life for the sheep, and also – in the verse just before it, the one who gives us abundant life.   
            But here’s a theological question:  What does abundant life look like? 

            You know, we usually separate these two verses.  We hear one of them, about abundant life, on one Sunday, and one of them, about the Good Shepherd, on another Sunday. 
            But what if we heard them together.
             I came that they may have life, and that they may have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd. 
            The Good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  What does abundant life look like? 
            What will you tell your children?  What will your children tell you?

            Our culture is willing to tell us a lot about what abundant life looks like
            It looks like being rich.  It looks like being successful. 
            It looks like being popular.  It looks like being thin.  It looks like having a lot of “stuff
            And our culture tells us that we are not “enough.”   (good enough – young enough – old enough – we need to be and have MORE)
            Because – you know – it wants to sell us stuff.  But what does God say?  What does abundant life look like?  (Ask for responses.)

            We have abundant life simply because the good shepherd laid down his life for us
            And he laid down his life for us because he loves us – just as we are. 
            He didn’t lay down his life so that he could love us, but because he already does. 
            We are already beloved, and that measure – that’s the only one that matters – not anything else the world tells us. 
            Just the shepherd’s voice.   

            TALK.  Talk to your children.  Listen to them. 
            Listen to the word, and the voice of the shepherd. 
            It’s a matter of life and death. 
            It’s a matter of love..  For all of us, young and old and everyone in between, God’s people.


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