Precious to God (Mt 10:24-33 June 22, 2014)

Sunday June 22 2014 “Do not fear—you are of great worth… If you acknowledge me before others, I will acknowledge you” Mt 10:24-33 1. There are startling statements that we have from Jesus in our reading today.  He says, first, “Do not be so anxious—you are precious to God”.  Why are we so anxious? Secondly, Jesus says, “If you acknowledge me before others, I will acknowledge you before my father”, and vice versa.  We would not like Jesus to ignore us in heaven, would we?  Can you imagine Jesus ignoring you or me in heaven? So what does it mean, to firstly realize that we are “precious to God”, and, secondly to “acknowledge” Jesus before others? 2. Firstly, how are we precious to God?  God in Jesus loves us and accepts us as we are, and takes us from there.  Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Miriam, Aaron, the Judges, Saul, David, Second Isaiah, Peter, and Paul were all great leaders of faith.  The scriptures tell us that they had flaws, however.  One was a heavy drinker, another, a betrayer, hot-tempered, proud and ambitious, scheming, adulterer, liar, or murderer.  Jesus’ mother, Mary, seems a notable exception! Truly, even the greatest of us has serious flaws.  If we feel that we are failures, there is great precedent!  If there is any greatness, it is because even as a parent accepts a flawed child, God in Christ accepts us as we are.  We can appropriate God’s erasure of our failures—past, present, and future—through Jesus death (Ro 5).  Every day, we can celebrate our acquittal, celebrate this moment, and celebrate the future! Even in poverty struck areas, empirical evidence shows that faith talk builds, faith community builds.  Moreover, faith and love talk can begin from church whether or not young people or any person experiences faith and love at home or at school. So as we respond to the love of God, God and the People of God take us one day at a time, step by step, from where we are.  They take us through our shadow side, through opposition and difficulty, and into light.  If we can accept each other as we are, we can all experience the opening of the doors of healing.  It is this experience of the love of God that we have to share with others. 3. Secondly, how are we to acknowledge Jesus?  How did individuals “acknowledge” Jesus Christ in the first years of the Christian Church? They acknowledged Jesus Christ through hospitality; care of the widows and the poor; blessings over meals; personal and corporate prayers; friendship evangelism, and gossiping the gospel. For some, for quite a few, it was through martyrdom. In our Gospel reading today Jesus says the disciples, in their mission, are like sheep among wolves.  Even Peter fell into the trap of fear of the “wolves”.  He denied Jesus and so denied the love of God which Jesus was. Our congregation has many people that have discovered God’s love and liberation of their own hearts.  They deepen their experience of that liberation as they push aside the fear, and reach out with God’s love and acceptance of others.  They heal and strengthen those who need help irrespective of who they are.  Our Sunday school teachers show the children in the Sunday school that they are an accepted part of Christ’s church. Others in the congregation care for young people, or care for the destitute; they visit the sick or bereaved at home or in the hospital; prisoners and refugees.  All those who work in education devote their lives to revealing God’s hidden potential in the lives of students.  We see people of faith recover from disease or accidents so severe as to break the spirit of others.  Through faith and through the loving support of those around they can be a shining light.  Hate talk breaks, fear paralyses.  Love talk, and love action opens us up; it heals the individual and the community. “What is secret will be proclaimed on the rooftops.”  Individuals, families, or nations can have sound, strong, and positive values… or the opposite.  The fruit emerges in history at times, especially times of difficulty. In our calendar, as the memory of Bernard Mizeki and John the Baptist show, even one about to be executed, if they know God’s love, they can be peaceful, joyful and even hopeful. 4. “Do not be so anxious—you are precious to God.”  To the degree that we accept and experience God’s love, it is natural or inevitable that we then share it.  “If you acknowledge me before others, I will acknowledge you before my father”.  If we are not sharing the love of God, perhaps we have neither accepted it nor are we experiencing it either. In this moment, and during this week, in what new way could you be both accepting firstly that “you are precious to God”, and secondly be “acknowledging before others” the love of God shown to you, known by you, in Jesus Christ?  Amen.

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