Proper 15 Pent 10C August 14, 2022, St. John, New Orleans
When you have kids in middle school and high school you find out how being different can be good or bad.
It's good when your uniqueness lets you stand out as something special.
But it's bad when it becomes an oddity that others can't seem to make any sense of.
While trying to, “fit in,” and be like the others, it's also important to not just be a copycat.
We do it as adults too.
While some may have work uniforms, most just have a dress code.
Sometimes neighborhoods have covenants, but every household tries to personalize within the rules.
Cities have codes and regulations, and some are more consistent or constricting than others.
By and largely, most societies allow a little individuality, but a certain amount of sameness keeps things neat and orderly.
But stray too far off the beaten path and you get trouble.
Coloring outside the lines is really frowned upon.
But in each of our lessons today we are confronted with the fact that God's way is completely different from the way of the world.
The way of the world is exciting, exotic, exhilarating, desirable, and easy.
But the way of the Lord is holy, righteous, noble, and difficult.
Moreover, the world hates God's way and will stop at nothing to disrupt it, or at least to malign it.
Even so, as we read these texts, we get the feeling that it is all worth it when we follow God's ways.
Jeremiah declares his all-knowing presence.
The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is the person at the finish line waiting for us after we have run the race of life.
And in the gospel Jesus himself tells us that he is the one who defines our future,
even when those around us would try to convince us otherwise.
In short, though a life of following Jesus may not be easy or pleasant, in the end, it's the only way to come out alive!
Having heard me explain the texts, let me now apply them to our present time.
Just as in Jeremiah’s time, there are false prophets among us saying just as they did in his day, “all is well with you.”
many well respected churches and pastors are preaching what the people want to hear instead of what God actually says.
They are saying adultery and murder of children are OK because our bodies belong to us.
They get involved in political arguments and causes which have nothing to do with Jesus or salvation of sinners or even helping the poor and helpless.
And, worst of all, they deny the need for forgiveness in Christ when they invite and condone prayer and worship to other gods and idols in their churches.
Yes, all these are happening in so-called, “Christian” churches. Making them the false prophets of our day.
And you and I have family members and loved ones who worship at such churches.
And it's difficult to talk about or remains or to remain silent,
as they brag about how their church has become so forward thinking and how they are reaching out to new people.
But they are not so much reaching out at all,
rather, they are letting the forces of evil, and the desires of this world infiltrate them,
so that they take their eyes off of the forgiveness of Jesus
all so that they might be seen as “acceptable” by the world around them.
Meanwhile Jesus says to, “look at the signs.”
Just as you can tell that a change in weather is coming, we can see that a change must come in regard to creation itself.
The world is, and has always been, on a steady March to its own destruction.
Not by global warming, overpopulation, or nuclear Holocaust,
though those are symptoms of the real problem.
Eventually, this world will end when sin has become so pervasive and normal that no one else can be saved.
And that's why judgment day hasn't happened yet.
Each generation thought that surely, “the end is near!”
Because sin and the effects of sin kept increasing, they thought, “surely, God would want to end it all soon!”
But God doesn't react to sin. He reacts to repentance and grants forgiveness.
So as long as the world is still turning hearts toward Jesus and his forgiveness,
this world is allowed to continue,
so that all who will believe will receive the opportunity to be saved and granted eternal life.
I guess you could call this a good-news, bad-news, scenario.
Bad news first. As time marches on it's going to be harder to remain faithful by avoiding sin.
Believers will be surrounded by those who want them to join them in their activities.
And when we don't, there may be relationship collateral.
And, because of these pressures, the weak in faith will, perhaps, lose faith. Including those we know and love.
But the good news is this! As long as there are those who are new to the faith, we still have time.
Time to strengthen our own faith for the coming battles and temptations.
Time to share the love and forgiveness of Jesus with those who don't know it.
Time to actively work for good to change our culture
so that fewer people are drawn away from Christ
and so that even more will be introduced to him.
This also means that, as a church, we don't insulate ourselves, hunkering down for the final judgment.
Rather, we place ourselves out in the middle of our world so that the world sees Jesus.
And so that his Holy Spirit would work to slow the pace of the worlds self-destruction.
And convert even more of it to becoming part of the communion of Saints and the priesthood of all believers.
Today we will declare our difference in that world and that culture by installing and blessing our teachers for the coming school year.
Despite its flaws, the voucher system here in Louisiana has given us access to a generation that is largely unchurched.
And while we have less than a dozen school aged children on our membership rolls, we have over 125 children enrolled in our school.
And, when asked if they are interested in learning more about the church, over a dozen families said yes!
And, regardless of their interest level in the church, each of those 125 plus kids gets to hear about Jesus five days a week for nine months of the year.
Now, I know most if not all of you don't think of yourselves as missionaries, much less preachers, in our community.
But through our school we are all participants in bringing the gospel into many dozens of homes.
But that type of mission takes resources.
Yes, we have wonderful, qualified, teachers. But they are woefully, even sinfully, underpaid.
We have a large campus, but the newest classrooms were built 40 years ago,
and our first grade classroom becomes a swimming hole and the 3rd and 8th grade ceilings leak when it rains.
Our school does not exist to provide a service to those who are willing to pay for it,
it exists to share the love of Jesus so that his forgiveness would save souls, and in the end, make the world a better place!
And you can help affect that change by your contributions to the school.
Yes, cash is wonderful and needed.
But your prayers and your time and service are needed as well.
And if your talents or trades are useful to our ministry, then we would certainly welcome your help in those areas as well.
Your gifts, offerings, donations, and help are always needed and gladly accepted at any time.
You can give in the offering plate or on our website,
and you can visit with Ms. Gonski or any school board member if you would like to offer other forms of help and aid.
I know in New Orleans that it's a good thing to stand out and be different. So, we should have no trouble with this.
It's time to be obvious about our difference of faith, and where we place our trust and our hope.
It's time to be bold and daring with our proclamation of Jesus as the savior of the world.
And it's time to be excessive in our generosity as we support the things that matter and which will last.
Namely, matters of faith that will deliver us to eternal life,
and things which will bring that good news of Jesus to others, like our Christian day school.
And as we do those things may the Lord bless our actions
by allowing us to see the results of his mighty work done through us and our congregation.
And I ask all of it in the name of Jesus.