SERMON – “Biology Lessons: May 28th by Rev. Ed Musson
Does anybody know what oysters do. Well – they make pearls; and that fascinating reality has been used to illustrate many a point. But – friends – here’s an old truth about that you may not know and when you do know I am sure you will be fascinated. It seems pearls aren’t automatic. When an oyster — who ordinarily has a calm life lying around eating soft, pleasant food – somehow gets a bit of sand inside its shell, then one of two things will happen. The oyster will create a pearl, or it will die. The pearl, a thing of beauty and value, is the oyster’s way of staying alive after something very irritating has gotten past its shell, into its heart.
I give you that little bit of marine biology as background for today’s Gospel. And not to suggest this is a pearl of a sermon; Or that it contains pearls of wisdom, or pearls of great price. Rather I give it to you because I’d like us to examine the grain of sand, that bit of irritation, something small and rough that can slip past our shells and give us all something to work on.
We — and indeed the church itself, in this and every generation need to work on this bit of sand very carefully. Because – It will not go away; and we will either make of it a pearl, or, in one way or another, we will die. Our grit — our grain of sand — like the oyster’s sand, is well hidden in pleasant, soft food.
The Gospel we just heard is a portion of what is called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus.
It is after supper “in the night in which He was betrayed.” He has given the 12 their final instructions and now Jesus is praying for his disciples, not just for the disciples present then but for each one of us as well.
He prays for our unity, “so that they may be one as we are one”
our joy, “so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them”
our safety and protection. “not that you take them out of the world but that
you protect them from the evil one
Jesus says that we are not of the world, but that we should none the less remain in the world for our ministry is to be in the world, and for the world. I have always stressed in my ministry over the years that ministry is not just the task of the minister we are all – as it were ministers “being equipped by the one we call “the minister.”
when I say that our ministry is to be in and for the world I mean each of us individually as well as the corporate church. And remember, when Jesus says “world” here, He is not talking about the created order: rocks and trees and rabbits and things like that. He is talking about human society organized as it sees best for its own purposes. business as usual; government, society, culture, various human institutions; He is talking about the world in that sense, the world doing what the world usually does. In His prayer Jesus tells his disciples that the world has hated them because they are not of the world. Well friends, this hatred is to be the fate, indeed it is to be a real, distinguishing mark, of all who follow Jesus. They (i.e. we) are supposed to stand out because we don’t really fit in. And therein is the rub – therein is our bit of grit – our grain of sand: Some questions for you to ponder this fine Sunday morning
When was the last time the world hated you because you belong to Jesus
and not to the world?
When was the last time your faith so set you apart from business as usual that you were met with anger, ridicule, or hatred?
Hard to recall – isn’t it – well then – How about a little bit of contempt? Or Mild dislike?
How about a tiny bit of irritation? Some Christians say that maybe Jesus was wrong; and that maybe, these days, we really are of the world, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Or maybe that the Kingdom of God has arrived, and we just missed everything about it except for how convenient it is for us. Interesting comments eh.
What we really need to ask is whether we have become so totally caught in our culture, totally of the world that we have to work hard to discover if we are different, and how we are different, and what it looks like for us to be different, and whether it is worth it to be different. It was in many ways easier for the early church. As an occasionally persecuted minority in a pagan culture, a lot of things were clear (black and white).
For example, Christians couldn’t attend the public games, hold several types of jobs, join the army, and so on.The world often ridiculed or hated them — and both sides pretty much knew why.
Well that’s not so easy these days – is it?. Modern attempts to come up with lists of popular things Christians can’t do have usually been rather silly. And we Presbyterians have been downright smug in pointing out that we aren’t like those people (you know, the Baptists, and others) who say you can’t dance or wear make-up or go to movies.
Let me suggest that instead of trying to establish God’s disapproval for the waltz or bingo, you could really hit home if you responded with another question. What if we said,
“OK, have your martini and go to the dance, but before you do, tell me how your faith does affect your life; show me how it makes a difference.”
You there – tell me how your faith does affect your life; show me how it makes a difference. And there it is friends – That is the grit for us oysters It is our potential for making pearls Or it has the potential to be our death. Well – how we keep from dying which as I said earlier is the alternative to making pearls
The Gospel lesson speaks of the need for God to protect us from evil; it also speaks of truth. Here’s the thing friends – these things go together. First, we need to recognize that
there are many things from which people need protection.
There are always places in the world where people
-suffer during war, endure disease, experience disasters of one kind or another.
It is a common methodology for preachers to open up a newspaper (as Karl Barth famously suggested) and rehearse the local and global problems that threaten us & helping us to know how to be in and for the world.
But, there is another kind and more serious threat we face; one that is quite near at hand and from which we need God’s protection and, for most of us it is that piece of sand that is troublesome. What’s that threat – Listen very carefully It is the threat of believing lies about who we are. These lies can occur when adults or teachers or work authorities or colleagues or any of us speak discouragement to each other. But, they also come in other familiar ways.
Advertisers bank on our believing that we cannot
be too thin, have too many possessions, be fulfilled without their product.
Television and movies tell us that we need plenty of excitement, sex, and violence to be fully aware. Our courts tell us that private acts by consenting adults have no public consequences. Friends – mark this – and mark it carefully God’s people should be suspicious of such messages. They do not give an accurate picture of who we are or what God made us to be – in and for the world. Such messages, and many like them, contain seeds of deceit. Fortunately, there is something greater than the lies the world tells us. There is something greater, even,
than the truth that we are sinful and unclean.
It is this fundamental fact: that God loves us and that God has given the Son to die for us that we might believe in God and have eternal life. And with this truth comes a full range
of related propositions.
We belong to the people of God. And our calling in the world is to love and care for creation, be charitable to all people, and to spread God’s word through our actions and how we live in and for the world.
Our greatest fulfillment comes not through what we achieve or acquire, but through what God enables us to do. Friends – your greatest joys in life will come from good and godly pursuits. Your greatest freedom comes not from doing as you please, but serving as God pleases.
And, in the face of that powerful lie that we may have heard as a child, or along the way from a teacher or boss or co-worker the one that says you are no good, you’ll never amount to anything, you are worthless or from the powerful lies of advertising leading us away from the Gospel. In the face of all that – know this – The great truth of God will protect you.
Friends – here’s the thing – You are – a child of God, – a person of priceless worth. God gave the Son to die for you. Do not measure yourself by the deceptive standards of the world. Measure your worth by the standard of the one who made you.
God says to each of us: “I want you to live with me forever.” If you want to know what your human value is, measure your worth against that.
We need to make our own pearls, or we will die. We need to look honestly at the world,
at the culture around us, and at who we are – and who the Lord would have us be. We must always make choices.
We may even discover that Jesus was right, and that, in one way or another, the world will hate us. But – know this – the Lord continues to pray for us, and we are promised all of the help we need.