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scripture, prayer, and creative response with communion

Worship each Sunday @ 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

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Our Many Gendered God

This week at Trinity Lutheran, we'll be thinking about issues of gender and the ways we still need to transform our society.  I've b...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sermon Draft for Sunday May 17th
John 15:9-17 May 17, 2009
9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.12This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Parents look at a newborn child looking for evidence that the child bears the features of one or the other. It can be quite a game:
“Oh look, he has your eyes.”
“Wait, look, she has your smile.”
“I can’t believe it! He makes the same face while passing gas as you do!”
Don’t laugh, you have in all likelihood played this game with your own children or someone else’s.

With that question in mind, let’s wonder a bit about God, today.
So, when God looks at us, what does God see?
We look at babies and try to see mom or dad lurking in each feature, each expression.
When God looks at us, what does God see?

We read:
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

When looking at us – when God considers us – the work of God’s own hand - Does God see the Joy of Christ within us?
Does God see the Joy of Christ in its completeness? In its fullness?
The very Joy of Christ?

And if God is looking for that joy in us, you and I better spend some time considering that notion, that idea, that joy. We need to spend the time because we are subject to the temptation to equating joy and happiness. And it is a temptation because it makes things a lot easier for us. And it is wrong.
Joy and happiness are not equivalent – are not the same thing.

One clue to this is found in the wedding service.
We vow to be together "in joy and sorrow."
Ever notice that?
Never "in happiness and unhappiness."
We jump to the conclusion that if we do not feel happy all the time that something in our marriage is profoundly broken.

Happiness and joy are not the same thing.

We read:
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete
A good cup of tea can make me happy.
Its warmth and smoky light but sweet liquid does wonders to evoke a smile on my face. A good cup of English breakfast tea make just right, with a splash of milk in first and two teaspoons of sugar and steeped for about one minute is my formula for happiness.
A good cup a tea makes me a happy man.
But one can only savor that cup so long. Eventually it will get cold.

As a displaced New Yorker and rabid Mets fan, when the Mets win I am a happy man.
When they lose, I am not.
It is rather simple. Right now I am happy, but around 11:30PM tonight, I may not be. We’ll see how the game goes.

The smell of warm bread makes me happy. Eating fresh home made bread even more so. Add some creamy butter and let it steam itself into the crust and happiness just seizes the palate and will not let it go.
That happiness is fleeting however.
After all, I don't bake every day. And every loaf is not perfect.
And sooner or later the last slice is gone.

Jesus says: I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
Joy and happiness are not the same thing. Joy is the far greater gift. Jesus does not grant us his happiness, but his joy.

And how do we know that it is there? How can we be sure?
How is Jesus’ gift of Joy completed in us so that we absolutely, positively know that it is there in its fullness?

We turn to a song for our answer.
A song that only gets it half right.
Perhaps you know it - it goes like this:

I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart
Where? Down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart!
I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.
Down in my heart to stay.
Great. Now do you see our problem?

Listen again to our gospel:
16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last

If we have that joy, joy, joy down in our hearts – then we are two dimensional Christians who are called to live a three dimensional faith.
That joy in our hearts - that joy of Jesus – isn’t there to make us feel all warm and fuzzy or even happy – it is there so that we can bear fruit in Jesus’ name. We’ve been appointed to that very purpose, for that very calling, to the vary life. To bear fruit in Jesus’ name. Fruit born of the joy of Jesus. The fruit in our lives points us to the holy and blessed joy that must be a part of us.

What are the signs of this fruit that reassure us that the Joy of Jesus runs through every fiber of our being? So how will we recognize it when we see it?
We can’t and we don’t.
The fruit that we bear in our own life can only be seen in and through the lives of others.
Let’s not make the mistake of dumbing down our Christian faith into a bunch of people who merely do some good things.
Bearing fruit isn’t about being a good person – it is about being ambassadors for Christ – embodying the love of Jesus in word and deed - bearing fruit in the name of Jesus. That’s why we cannot see our own fruit – because we do not do it for ourselves, we do it for Jesus. Our lives become one glorious moment after another, taking the joy of Jesus gifted to us, bearing fruit with it in the lives of others, and doing this over and over and over again, never bored with it, never complacent with it, but thrilled and humbled that God in and through Christ Jesus is willing to appoint us to the task.

So, you got that joy, joy, joy down in your heart? Or is it bearing fruit in someone’s life?
And the thing is – you can’t answer that question – the lives that are changed by God working through you by the power of the Holy Spirit will be your testimony.

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