Sermons

"Gospel of Infinite Worth": Sermon for St. Andrew's Sunday, Year C

"Gospel of Infinite Worth": Sermon for St. Andrew's Sunday, Year C

Nov 24, 2019

Passage:Romans 10:8-18

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Feast Day

Category: Discipleship, Salvation, Healing

Keywords: love, discipleship, shame, faithfulness

Summary:

On the Feast of St. Andrew, we hear the story of Andrew and others who followed Jesus without delay. Do we do the same? What is our response to the call to follow Jesus? What holds us back makes us feel "less than" worthy in being part of the Good News? This sermon explores these issues.

Detail:

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

We celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew today.

I love hearing the call story of Andrew and Simon and James and John.

It kinda blows me away!

Just think about it.

Here are these four men, going about their lives… doing their day-to-day… chatting… maybe complaining… maybe laughing… maybe gossiping…. Who knows?

But they are casting nets into the sea trying to catch fish for their daily living…

And Jesus walks up and simply says: “Follow me.”

AND THEY DID!

That’s the kind of faithfulness we celebrate today with St. Andrew’s Day.

That’s the kind of faithfulness we see all the time here at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.

Now, as soon as I say that, I imagine that some of us… including myself… might say: “well, I’m not sure I have the level of faithfulness to just leave EVERYTHING and go like Andrew and the crew did…”

But let’s take a little perspective here.

At St. Andrew’s, we have proclaimed that our identity in Christ is based on “Worship, Teach, Serve, and Pray.”  And we further say that we specifically value the Christian attributes of Hospitality, Inclusivity, Loving, and Beauty. But what does this mean for us, individually? How are we “following Jesus”?

The Apostle Paul tells us today: "if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

How are we to hear that? Is this statement hospitable? … inclusive? … Loving?... beautiful?...

Perhaps it depends on how you hear it…

In many Christian traditions, there is the “altar call” where they say: "Do you know in your heart if you are really, truly saved? If you cannot answer that question, then all you have to do is pray this simple prayer with me. 'Jesus, I believe that you are Lord. That you died for my sins. And that God raised you from the dead."

Then they say, "We believe if you prayed that prayer, you are saved."

Millions of Christians have participated in these altar calls… They have said these words…

And for many, this has, indeed been the beginning of a new life of hope and healing and wholeness in Christ. If this is an invitation into abundance, then it tends to be joyful.

But for others, this experience has also fallen short. Usually, this is the case when the call to salvation is done in a context where there is no hospitality, or inclusivity, or love, or beauty…. More specifically, this experience often feels inauthentic if the invitation… the call…starts off by saying we are worthless… or we are less than… or we are unlovable…  unless we say these words and accept Jesus….

Remember, Jesus does not tell Simon and Andrew and James and John: “You are worthless, so you need to follow me!”

Jesus simply says: “Follow me.”

Nevertheless, for many in modern Christianity, there’s still a question about who we are at our core being. One of the reasons that this approach to the gospel is so prevalent is that all of us are walking around with some level of shame in our lives.[1] We worry about this aspect or that of our being that just does not measure up in society. Shame is a destructive force in our lives. But it is very real. Shame is that sneaking suspicion that who we are is just not good enough.

Shame can motivate us into a variety of actions. When we live with shame, we often have a sense of despair about whether or not we will ever have the true joy of freedom from shame.  

So, as the people of St. Andrew’s… the people who live out “hospitality, inclusivity, loving, and beauty” in our Christian lives… how do we follow Christ like Andrew? How do we understand Paul’s words: "confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord" and "believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead"; if you do these things, "you will be saved"?

Perhaps what Paul was getting at here is that when we confess that Jesus is Lord, we're taking time to admit that WE are NOT Lord. In other words, when we take the time to admit to ourselves that we need a savior and that we cannot save ourselves, THAT is when healing begins.

Of course, what often gets in the way of this is our own baggage.

We all live in a reality where we constantly struggle with that inner voice that says we have to achieve certain levels of success to be "good enough." For each of us that voice is a little different, but we all have it. The voice gives us a constant list of questions and statements that nag us. Brené Brown calls it our "shame tape" that plays over and over:

"What will people think?" 

"I can't love myself yet."

"I'm not (pretty, or skinny, or successful, or rich, or talented, or happy, or smart, or productive, or nice, or strong, or tough, or caring, or popular, or creative, or well-liked, or admired) enough."

"I can change to fit in if I have to."

"Who do I think I am to put my thoughts/my art/my ideas/my beliefs/my writing out into the world?"

"Taking care of them is more important than taking care of me."[2]

This "shame tape" is all part of this "inner voice."

You see the thing about this inner voice--this shame--is that we all have it. And shame is different than simply feeling guilty for having done something wrong. Guilt is that sense that you have done something HURTFUL. Shame is the feeling that you are BAD. With guilt we can make amends. We can ask for forgiveness. We can correct our course. It's about our behavior. But with shame, it's about WHO we are and WHO we perceive ourselves to be.[3]

By choosing to live authentically--to be that which God created us to be--however imperfect that may be—is how we heal from our shame… THAT is salvation.

Paul is telling us that salvation--healing--is not something that is to come at some point in the future when we die. Salvation is something for us now.

God created us to be who we are. The society around us tells us we should be someone else.

We need to take the steps toward freedom that God is offering.

Those steps toward freedom start with acknowledging that Jesus is Lord--and the he loves us without conditions, without strings attached, throughout time, forever and forever. Period. To Jesus we are of infinite worth. We have the highest value. And as Paul says: "No one who believes in him will be put to shame."

We can all be who God created us to be.

And what's more, we can also share that good news with others. Paul also wants others to know that this freedom exists for them. He says that it’s available to everyone! But how can they know about it if they have never heard?

Paul quotes Isaiah: "How beautiful are the feet of those that bring the good news!"

WE are supposed to share THIS good news. We are supposed to let others know that the God of creation believes that they are of infinite worth. That is the point of our baptism.

In a few minutes [At the 10:30 service], we will baptize four beautiful children of God—Charlotte, Dayanara, Noah, and Joshua.  It will be a wonderful reminder for us on this St. Andrew's Sunday, that the God who called Simon and Andrew and James and John on the shores of the Sea of Galilee is also calling us. We are being called to "believe in our hearts, and confess with our mouths" the love of God for ALL of God's creation.

That’s a Gospel that that doesn’t bring shame. That’s a Gospel that brings freedom and life for all people!

Amen.   

 

               [1] I am grateful for much of this argument coming from Alan Brehm, "No More Shame, Rom. 10:8-13; Lk. 4:1-13," The Waking Dreamer Blog, February 27, 2010, available at http://thewakingdreamer.blogspot.com/2010/02/no-more-shame-rom.html.

 

               [2] Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be And Embrace Who You Are (Center City, MN: Hazeldon, 2010), 38.

               [3]Ibid., 40-41.