Do you know the story of state nicknames? What is Pennsylvania called? The Keystone State. Do you know why? Keystones are the crucial center stone in the arch that holds together the other rocks. Pennsylvania, in the middle colonies, held a key position geographically, economically, and politically in the original thirteen colonies.(1)
Another state nickname that has always fascinated me is Missouri. Do you recall its moniker? The Show me State. There are a number of legends as to how it came to that reputation. Here is one: Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, a member of the U.S. House Committee on Naval Affairs, Vandiver attended an 1899 naval banquet in Philadelphia. In a speech there, he declared, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.” (2)
You have got to show me. Frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. You have got to show me. Live your life as a way to show me who this God you talk about is. This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
In December, our Chancel Choir and our Mission team teamed up on a collaborative effort in our community. We offered carols and cocoa at the tree lighting in West Grove Borough. The Mission Team prepared gift bags with mugs, cocoa, and information about Christmas. There were gallons of hot cocoa transported from the church down to the circle in front of the Avon Grove library. The Chancel Choir prepared carols to sing and invited those gathered to join in. As we waited for the tree to light and Santa to arrive, we handed out piping hot chocolate and sang. Caliente! We said more than once to small children. Gratis! It is free. We indicated to our neighbors who were prepared to pay us.
As singing set the tone, light conversation and hot chocolate added to a festive atmosphere. Children danced and invitations to Christmas Eve and Sunday worship were extended. Kindness of simple sharing of free chocolate and kind words was surprising to some of our neighbors. Neighbors were just talking to neighbors. I want you to show me what a follow of Jesus looks like and sounds like. Preach the gospel, if necessary. Use words.
Fred Craddock, the well-known preacher, recounts his time as pastor saying, “We can chat about the weather and everything under the sun but bring up a sacred subject and most of us get quiet… If I say, ‘Let’s redo the building,’ everybody comes. But… when I ask for talkers, no one comes. [Church] volunteers- they cut down trees, they mow grass, wash the windows, serve, fix the table, decorate, bring flowers, but the one thing I hear most [as pastor] is… ‘I’ll do anything, but don’t ask me to say anything.’ [The] …most difficult and most effective and most profound thing you’ll ever do for Jesus Christ is to say something.(3)” Let is be your witness with your life and your words.
How could it ever be me? Paul finds wisdom is pointing to Christ and Christ alone. There may be plenty that you think should disqualify you, he writes to Corinth, but only in Christ can you show others who God is. God’s glory shine through you. Not the other way around. Your glory does not point to Christ. In Matthew, Jesus calls out “You have heard it said and I say.” Jesus calls us not to avoid these calls to righteousness, but to dig that much more into them, to align our lives that much more with the abiding divine values these commandments communicate, to commit ourselves to the transformative power of God’s law and commandments. This is not replacement or supersession, but intensification and focus.
Do you think that your previous track record as murderer or even someone who has held an angry thought (and let’s be honest now, who hasn’t had at least one – sometimes, multiple times day) keeps you away from God? Let me show you how to reconcile and find renewed life. Are you convinced that sexual disconnection, misconnection, malconnection separate you from God? Let us together see Christ who finds hope and healing in a future of hope. Shall only those who have only ever performed perfectly in keeping their word be the only witnesses for Christ? May we trust God and one another together. Not to a checklist of morality, but to a flourishing of life. Not to a baseline of decency, but to an embodied, relational, transformative encounter with all whom we meet. Jesus instead invites us to show one another how to follow and live lives of faith.
This is what you and I are called to do. This world is sorely in need of a demonstration of the difference the Holy Spirit makes in our lives each and every day. How are you living it? Dr. Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” Who are you and how is your witness of being? In other words, is your life an ‘amen’ to the proclamation on your lips (James Forbes)?
We are all looking for witnesses and faithful to urge us on, but we, too are called to join the throng and live our lives showing others what is looks like to a follower of Jesus. The kind that not only sees what happened, not only tells what happened, but who is so transformed by what happened that they can’t help but become a new person because of it. They can’t help but act like a person who has seen this risen Lord. And their lives and actions reflect it. Show me!
Dr. Maya Angelou, writer, civil rights activist, and faith-filled disciple was a member of a United Methodist Church when she was in California, and a Baptist church, when she was in North Carolina. Her faith has shaped her actions. She said, “I found that I knew not only that there was God but that I was a child of God, when I understood that, when I comprehended that, more than that, when I internalized that, ingested that, I became courageous. I dared to do anything that was a good thing. I dared to do things as distant from what seemed to be in my future. If God loves me, if God made everything from leaves to seals and oak trees, then what is it I can’t do?(4)”
That’s right! What can’t we do? We live our faith, so that others might come to know that Jesus the Christ is indeed Lord. It was a few women who were the first witnesses to the life-changing resurrection of Jesus. They could not keep quiet, even when they were not always fully believes and supported. Their words and their countenance spread the incredible news of the resurrection. From then, it was the lives of followers who changed exponentially and across generations and millennia until us today, who have the words and lives of those who have gone before to rely on. The witness of faith. You and I are called to be a part of showing that faith we have seen.
Tomorrow is random acts of kindness day. Our Sunday School children would share with us, that kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. This indicates that this is one of the ways through which the Holy Spirit is manifested in us, and Christ is known to others. On February 17th, random acts of kindness day come up each year. While it is not explicitly a faith-filled celebration, everything that faithful people do with intention is faith-filled. I invite you to use Monday, tomorrow, and the days following as an opportunity to show your faith in random acts of kindness.
What can you do? Here are 10 suggestions:
- Text a friend you have not spoken to in a while.
- Call a relative who might be alone. Share a pun or joke.
- Compliment a friend you have not yet met.
- Pay for the next person in line – the toll, Starbucks, or McDonalds
- Bake cookies for someone who has been homebound
- Wash someone else’s dishes!
- Donates paper towels or toilet paper to the food pantry
- Send a care package to military personnel
- Share Good feedback at a restaurant or store
- Hug a friend or pet a fur baby (5)
But most of all, let the light of Christ shine through you, that seeing your good works, people may come to know Christ.
This is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
(2) Rossiter, Phyllis. “I’m from Missouri–you’ll have to show me.” Rural Missouri, Volume 42, Number 3, March 1989, page 16
(3) Craddock, Fred As One Without Authority. Chalice Press: St. Louis, Missouri; 2001. 153
New Testament Lesson: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 5:21-37
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, February 16 ~ Saturday, February 22, 2020
Sunday: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1: 18. May the power of God imbue you with strength as you seek to usher in the reign and ways of God today.
Monday: “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1: 25. Where are you leaning on the wisdom of God? Do you need to give up some of your scheming and control in order to see God’s wisdom and know God’s strength?
Tuesday: “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” 1 Corinthians 1: 26. Pray for those who are expecting the birth of children. Pray for safety and health as well as blessings of resources and connection.
Wednesday: “God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1: 30-31. Experiment today with boasting in the Lord. Actively brag on what God is doing!
Thursday: “But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5: 22-24. Pause and open yourself in prayer to where God is calling you to reconciliation with another. Pray for wisdom in approaching your sister or brother in Christ.
Friday: “Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.” Matthew 5: 25. Where is God calling you to restorative and creative justice?
Saturday: “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one” Matthew 5: 37. Consider that God calls you to integrity. May your word be dependable. Pray for strength and courage to do so.