Sermon for Sunday, 09/08/2019
Texts: Jeremiah 18:1-11; Luke 14:25-33
Theme: “God is Not Done with You Yet”
Since the birth of the Christian church in the First century, the church has been the voice of God, calling sinful men and women, boys and girls to the gracious and redeeming love of God, our Creator. The church has also been God’s agent of transformation of human society, though not without its own errors at time.
But amid these, the church has had its fair share of challenges, mainly persecution that threatened its existence, yet God has kept it alive. But in our age, the church faces a new challenge that poses even greater threat to its survival. The most common fault that we Christians are quick to find is the secular culture. But in his writings, Martin Thielen disagrees.
This prolific author and UMC pastor writes, “The biggest threat to the Christian faith in America is not secularism. Rather, the biggest threat to vibrant faith is nominal Christianity. He writes, “Shallow and noncommittal faith does not breed vital congregations.” For him, this is what is killing the church.
Not only did I find some truth in Martin’s words, but as I studied this text, I discovered that this was exactly what Jesus tried to guide his early followers against.
In our gospel reading, Jesus had just left a wedding banquet that we preached about last week, and a great crowd followed him. But he was not impressed by the huge number. Jesus wanted something more out of his followers, even if it could be found in just a few people. Jesus wants not just followers but committed followers; he wants quality faith in him, not just quantity in number. A small congregation like us can be just as faithful as a large one or even more. Committed faith in Christ on the part of each of us, is all it takes.
In as much as Christ welcomes everyone, he wants to us to first sit and consider what it means to be his followers, because following him demands sacrifice. That is what he means to take up our cross. Christ calls us to prioritize his cause above our families and love ones at times. This is what it means to hate our family and love ones. It is not laterally hating but putting him above all other relationships and priorities we may have.
In the gospel today, Jesus makes it clear that we, his followers need to be “all in,” or it’s not worth the effort. He tells the crowd, just as the builder sits and calculates the cost of a building project before he starts, anyone who decides to follow him must consider what it means to his disciple before beginning the journey with him.
I think I have told this story about a seventh-grade girl in Texas, who ran on the junior-high track team at her school. Due to bad weather an important Saturday track meet got postponed to the next Saturday, a day on which this girl had already committed herself to be on a church mission trip. She went to her track coach and told him about the conflict. He told her, “Your teammates are counting on you, and you cannot let them down. You are either here for the meet, or you turn in your uniform.” After many tears and deliberation, she went to the coach and handed him her uniform and walked away. That evening she explained to her decision to her parents. She said, “This is about God. And God is more important than sports.” I am not sure how many of us would agree with this little girl, let alone follow her examples, but this is exactly what Jesus Christ calls us to do. Putting him above every other priority we have.
But quite frankly, not all of us are at this point. In fact, none of us is a finished product on our journey with God. We are all work in progress. But the good news is, God is not Done with us yet. God is still shaping, molding and refashioning us into the kinds of vessels he wants us to be. Just as the potter shapes the clay into a vessel, and if the vessel is ruined in the process, he would set to refashion it into a new vessel that seems right to him, God Almighty is the master potter, and you and I are the clay that God is molding, shaping and refashioning into the vessel he wants us to be. Our role is to yield to the master potter. The clay must be at the complete disposal of the potter.
That is why the first verse of our hymn of preparation reads:
Thou are the potter, I am the clay
Mold me and make me after thy will.
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
An unyielded clay is difficult or even impossible to mold and shape. This means that a believer who is unwilling to surrender to Christ is difficult and even impossible to grow into what God wants him or her to be. And what drives our willingness to yield is our desire and quest to become or do something for God.
The Psalmist David says, “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life (Psalm 27:4).
The Apostle Paul say, “I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3:10).
In the same manner, St. Francis prayed, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love….”
Transformation in our lives begins with our desire or quest to be something better, be it a better athlete, or a better student, or a better spouse, or a better employee, or a more committed follower of Christ. But this is not possible when you feel that we are just fine, or I am just okay. Such attitude shuts the door for growth and transformation not just in our spiritual life, but any other area of life.
As we leave from here this morning, remember, you are still a work in progress. God is not done with you yet. He wants to mold you into his vessel of peace, vessel of love, vessel of mercy, vessel of justice, vessel of service. He can do this thru his Word, through his worship, and even through some life experience, and sometimes a painful one too.
It is my prayer that you will yield to God, the master potter, so that He may mold and shape us into the kind of followers and congregation He wants us to be.
God bless you.