United Presbyterian Church  2360 Longwood Ave., Reedsport, OR 97467  (541) 271-3214
Sunday Service: 10:30: Choir Warm-up 10:15 — Office Hours: 9:00-2:00 Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Pastor's Hours: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30-4:00Saturdays: 9:00-12:00
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 Disclaimer: The sermon below is what was prepared and sat on the pulpit; it may not be what was heard.  

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Pastor Buck during Joys and Concerns

GOSPEL: Matthew 13:31-33,

31. He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32. it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33. He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

 

44:53

44. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46. on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

 47. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48. when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50. and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 51. “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52. And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” 53. When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.

Sermon for Sunday, July 30, 2017

 

Spicy and Tangy

Our first two parables this morning teach the value of the seemingly insignificant—a tiny seed and a small amount of leaven—what can they do? Well, the tiny seed becomes a small tree or large shrub—but that’s not as important as that it provides a haven for the birds. The three measures of flour equate to about 80lbs. of flour, or many loaves of bread.  And what will it do?  It’ll feed dozens of people.

 This motif runs throughout the Bible—the most insignificant accomplish the greatest things—epitomized by the birth a tiny baby born in a manger. On a world-wide scope, how insignificant is one carpenter from Nazareth?  How insignificant is a small handful of not very promising disciples? What can they do?  But what they began two thousand years ago is still going strong. And the mighty Roman Empire?  Where is it?  It’s been gone for centuries.

Christianity has been that way from the beginning—tiny little churches producing great people, only because God was learned about and accepted there. 

Back in the early 1800s, the Methodists used to hold camp meetings at a place called Sugar Grove, Ohio.  They got discouraged because fewer and fewer conversions were happening each year.  Then one summer, only one boy, a boy named Mattie Simpson, came forward during the altar call.  Because they were so discouraged, they stopped sponsoring the camp.

But a few decades later, when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, the man who stood by Lincoln’s casket and spoke to the nation was one of Lincoln’s close personal friends—Bishop Matthew Simpson—the little boy who had dedicated his life to Jesus at that last camp meeting.  It’s what churches do.  From them come missionaries, regular, ordinary people who give of themselves in magnificent ways because they are empowered by God the Father, who they learned about on a Sunday morning somewhere.  Take Eleanor Chestnut, for example.

Dr. Eleanor Chestnut, was a physician who went to China as a medical missionary over a century ago.  The situation was so archaic, that she was performing surgeries in a bathroom until more appropriate facilities were finally built.  One day one of the other doctors noticed that she was limping and asked about it.  She dismissed it, saying, “Oh, it’s nothing.”  A nurse took the other doctor aside and explained that Dr. Chestnut had taken a skin graft from her own leg to help a man whose leg had been amputated. That’s the act of a loving heart. “Oh, it’s nothing!” she said.  “Nothing!”

She passed it off as seemingly insignificant—but, believe me, not to the man who received the graft, nor to her family, nor to our heavenly Father who sees all things.

What could be seemingly less significant than the average preacher preaching the average sermon to the average congregation?  What could be seemingly less significant that a loaf of bread and a cup of wine?  What could be seemingly less significant than a hymn sung by a dozen untrained voices accompanied by a slightly out-of-tune piano?  What could be seemingly less significant that a small nun walking down a street in Calcutta?

The real power of the kingdom is found in the humblest places among the least likely people—a cup of cold water given to a beggar—a soup kitchen in a church basement—church folks visiting shut-ins. To the world these things look like nothing, but Jesus promises that there is veiled power here—power to heal; power to mend.

The power of the gospel is not in gold, silver or political power, but in God’s love-filled acts taken to the world by people just like you and me.  That tiny seed, that small amount of leaven grew and is in women who volunteer to help in a thrift store or a food pantry; it’s in a man who volunteers to drive people where they need to go. God’s needs are varied and many because God’s needy children are many and varied.

God seems to always choose the unlikely.  Jesus used the tiny seed that produces a shrub as an example—I would have used the mighty cedars of Lebanon and thought more appropriate.

But it isn’t—not really.  When we look at those God chooses—like a small boy with a slingshot going up against—and slaying—a giant.  Or a man who stutters and stammers being sent to tell the Pharaoh to give up his slaves.  And Jesus makes no bones about it—listen to His prayer thanking His Father, “…you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants,” (11:25) meaning the least likely—like a tiny nun in Calcutta.

The parable of the yeast shouts, “Do not hide,” We’re supposed to get involved with the world.  Leaven can do its work only when mixed with a large quantity of dough. We are not to hide, but to be in the world, taking Jesus with us.

 

A basic Christian problem is that we don’t recognize the value of what we possess.  When Jesus tells us that, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field” or, “the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls…” He’s also telling us that the persons who found them KNEW what they had found and, because they knew, were willing to give everything to possess it. They were not only WILLING, it was their heart’s desire! 

(BUCKBOARD STORY) Had I known what was in that buckboard do you think I wouldn’t have stopped? 

Today people have no idea of what’s in their midst and readily available to them—the God-given power to change the world; the God given ability to make a difference.  Many just don’t care, but some think they’re not worthy and that God can’t possibly love them as they are. A few years back I ran into a person who had not been to church in a while.  I invited her back—told her we missed her.  She began to cry and said she couldn’t, that’s she’s in recovery.  I told her that didn’t matter—I know that God doesn’t care—He wants her.

The problem with us is that we’re people.  People are strange.  We’re irascible, brash, contrary, stubborn, ornery, compulsive, complex and addicted. And that’s the best of us.  Yet there’s not a single one of us who isn’t loved by God.  He accepts all who open up to Him—no matter how reluctantly we do so—and He accepts us as we are—He just wants us to want Him. Then He slowly molds us into better people—until we rebel.  Then He backs off and leaves us alone until we can’t stand it anymore and there He is again, like an old friend. 

We are far different than any of God’s other creatures.  When praying about the sermon and what to say, in my mind I heard, that to God, our personalities are ‘spicy and tangy,’ harkening back to what I just said, we’re irascible, brash, contrary, stubborn, ornery, compulsive, complex and addicted.  But, you know what that means? We’re not bland, we have personality; we have taste and God likes us.  Even as adults we behave like sassy children; we're more than willing—and up to the task—of telling God just exactly how things should be.

And He loves us anyway.

So, even though you may think that you’re seemingly insignificant, you’re not.  You are the light of the world because the Spirit of God is in you.  And this is at a time when the world has never needed Jesus more.

So, let us all go into the world and let the light that is in you shine forth for all to see.