Sermon September 20, 2015
“Give the World a Reason to Dance”
The gospel lesson today picks up on the same themes as last week. Once again, Jesus is talking to the disciples about his death. He knows the time is coming and he is trying to prepare for them for it. The disciples don’t understand and they are afraid to ask him. Isn’t that just like an adult? How many times have you not understood something and rather than ask for clarification, you have chosen to remain clueless? Just a few weeks ago, my trainer suggested that I take my pulse when I wake up. I thought to myself, “How do I do that? I know that I am supposed to find my heartbeat, but then what?” I didn’t ask the question out loud because I thought I should know how already. Want to guess how many times I have taken my pulse?
Jesus is saying to his followers “here is the thing that really matters.” They don’t get it so they just blow it off and argue about who is the greatest. I think we have our own version of that. We argue over the silliest things…how to fold towels, how strong to make the coffee, whose memory of a conversation is right, should we spend $50 on supplies or not, which team will win the world series, what color will we paint the walls…meanwhile people are dying and we are caught up in stuff that doesn’t really matter. I watched several videos this week of young people who have fled Syria. They are devastated at the loss of their homes and loved ones and the fact that they cannot return. They have lost everything. Many said they thought they would be going back soon, but instead they are in strange places with no clarity about their future. This situation has been called the tragedy of the century. Remember that Mary and Joseph knew it was unsafe to return to their home after Jesus’ birth. Herod wanted to kill him. Jesus began life as a refugee.
Cari Jackson calls the Syrian Refugee Crisis our chance to see God. How has the United States responded to this global crisis? [Thus far, the Obama has committed to allowing entry to 10,000 Syrian refugees.] “While U.S. politicians are discussing what the number of slots should be, the International Rescue Committee is urging the U.S. to set aside 65,000… Now, the opportunity is for us to see the faces of Syrians and other refugees as people who seek peace, people who long for home, and people who have endured the ravages of civil war. And in their faces to see God.” (http://www.odysseynetworks.org/on-scripture-the-bible/syrian-refugee-crisis-our-chance-to-see-god-mark-930-37/)
Jesus wanted us to understand that being great meant welcoming others. He specifically called us to welcome those who are considered the least in our society. Many have said some version of “The measure of a society is how it treats its weakest members.” Our children and youth are studying hospitality in Sunday School. They are talking about what it means to welcome others. I am eager to hear what they are learning and see how they are practicing extravagant welcome. Jesus calls his followers to not only welcome children, but to try and be like them. As you saw from Jacob and Nicholas this morning, our children have so much to teach us.
How many of you have heard of kid president? Brad Montague is an ordinary guy from Tennessee that began making videos in 2012 from the belief that kids have voices worth listening to. Brad’s young brother-in-law Robby plays the role of Kid President. I think of him as a recent version of Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”.
Here are some of the things Kid President has to say:
“Life is a game and we are all on the same team. It’s time to do something. This is our time. We can make every day better for each other. I don’t know everything because I’m just a kid. But I do know this: it’s everybody’s duty to give the world a reason to dance.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-gQLqv9f4o)
“Maybe our goal as people shouldn’t be to become a celebrity, but to live in a
way that makes everyone around us feel celebrated.” (Kid President’s Guide to
Here are some thoughts from his video 20 Things We Should Say More Often: “Thank you…not just on Thanksgiving. Every day. I’m sorry. I forgive you. You can do it! I have barbeque sauce on my shirt too. Before you say something about the barbeque sauce on someone else’s shirt, take a look at the barbeque sauce on your own shirt. Please. Everything is going to be ok. I don’t know. (I know a lot of people who need to say that.) Tell people they’re awesome and mean it! Nothing (sometimes that’s the best thing you can say). I disagree with you but I still like you as a person. Life is tough but so are you. Something nice. Anything. If you can’t think of anything nice to say, you’re not thinking hard enough.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5yCOSHeYn4&index=2&list=PLzvRx_johoA-YabI6FWcU-jL6nKA1Um-t)
I love this guy! Kid President has a lot of serious wisdom and he does a lot of laughing and dancing as well. Jesus calls us to welcome children. It is these little ones who can teach us about coming together to make a difference. Rather than competing like Olympic Athletes, we can collaborate like Special Olympic Athletes. Have any of you ever been to the Special Olympics? It is an amazing experience. At the Special Olympics, all the participants are honored. The participants celebrate and help one another. Several years ago at the Seattle Special Olympics, nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash. At the gun, they all started out eager to run the race. One little boy stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a few times and began to cry. The other eight heard him cry. They looked back and saw him, and then they all turned around and went back. One girl bent down and kissed him and said, “This will make it better.” Then all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line.
Do you want to be great? Welcome those who others have forgotten. Do you want to be noticed? Try reaching out to someone who is often discarded. Do you want to gain more? Try giving more away. It really works.
Barbara Brown Taylor offers this wisdom: “Do you want to spend some time with God? Get down on the floor with a child. Get finger paint on your clothes, laugh at their jokes and forget you have more important things to do like finishing the laundry or earning a living. A child is not filler, but the main event. Opening yourself to a child is better for your soul than finishing a project, getting a raise, or reading a whole book of the Bible. There will be no measurable payback. They won’t remember your birthday, be a job reference, or lend you money. They have no status or income, which makes them great in God’s eyes. That is what you need. You can work on being great by understanding that it is what you do when you think no one is looking, with someone who does not count, for no reward, that ushers you into the presence of God.” (Bread of Angels, p. 133)
Let us extend God’s extravagant welcome to all. Let us take our lessons from the children among us. Let us not focus on getting our own way, but finding a way that truly honors all people. When we honor the people in our path, we honor Christ.