Pastors have a frequent question when they begin to discover mimetic theory. “That’s great. But how does it preach?”
Reverend Tom Truby shows that mimetic theory is a powerful tool that enables pastors to preach the Gospel in a way that is meaningful and refreshing to the modern world. Each Wednesday, Teaching Nonviolent Atonement will highlight his sermons as an example of preaching the Gospel through mimetic theory.
In this sermon, Tom uses wonderful anecdotal stories to describes how God “is not in rivalry with any of us.” Rather, God delights in giving all of humanity the gift of the kingdom. It is the Father’s delight that teaches us how to be human.
Year C, Pentecost 12
August 7, 2016
By Thomas L. Truby
The Human One Is Coming!
“Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights in giving you the kingdom.” I find that very comforting. I do feel like I am part of a little flock, a boutique enterprise rather than a multinational business here. Not just because we are a small church but because I feel like a small minority in the world who, by the grace of God, has stumbled onto something that changes lives. The more I study Jesus and the scriptures the more precise my views become and the more I see how following Jesus makes us different. I also see how much we need a shepherd, someone who will show us what God is like and lead us toward God. We are unruly sheep who need a shepherd and because we are learning to trust the shepherd, our fears are subsiding.
“Your Father delights in giving you the kingdom.” “Delights” is one of the words I have discovered since encountering this new-to-me and earthier Jesus. God is not begrudgingly giving us something we have never known, not reluctantly sharing it with us, nor cautiously bestowing it on us. No, he delights in giving it. It’s something he wants us to have and his face beams as he presents it.
I have come to believe Jesus’ kingdom is outside human rivalry and from a place only God knows. It is that non-sticky place where each of us is known and loved no matter who we are. It’s just a given.
On Friday night some of us went to an art recital in Estacada. In the recital Sue D. exhibited her work and she presented it as examples of what she is making at this point in her life and her learning about art. We saw still life paintings of fruit and vegetables where we see her learning to paint with acrylics, copper bracelets with different patterns and made through different techniques, and experiments with art objects made from a discarded beehive. The exhibit did not want us to envy the artist, but rather to inspire us to think about what we might enjoy developing in our own life.
To quote Jesus as Luke presents him, I think she is making wallets that don’t wear out—a treasure in heaven that never runs out. She is nurturing her soul and ours, sharing in the delight of God, and storing up treasures in heaven. This is a place of grace where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Investing in this work steadies our hearts and establishes us in service to all.
When we seek God’s kingdom we let all that holds us in bondage go and we find ourselves liberated to be creative. This is not a dull, self-effacing, goalless kind of life. It’s just the opposite. It’s vivacious, engaged, goal-oriented and imaginative.
For me writing sermons and presenting them to you is my art form and I devote quite a lot of time to them. It’s the way I use myself and what God has given me to nurture you and me and us as a community. There are other forms that I could develop and maybe will in the years ahead. But this is the one I feel most called to now.
“Sell your possessions, and give alms,” Jesus said. Jesus seems to be asking us to sell those things that possess us so that we can be free. He suggests we use the proceeds from our sale to give to those in need. In that way both we and those to whom we give experience the kingdom. Everyone finds a measure of freedom in that. It is only by letting go of those things upon which we think we depend for self-esteem that we discover we don’t need them. We have already been given what we need by grace alone. Maybe what we most need is room for creativity and community.
This is a new world where even our smallness and vulnerability does not stimulate a sense of abandonment. God has found us at last and we are discovering our place. This master is not in rivalry with us in any way. We don’t need to be afraid that he will be threatened by our freedom and joy.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We usually think our hearts define our treasure. I want something because that’s what my heart desires. Desire comes from inside us we think. But Jesus would tell us we are mistaken. I want what I want because I know other people want it. My heart’s desire does not come from the center of my being; it comes from someone out there or maybe the collective culture.
So Jesus comes along and he knows our hearts will follow whoever we make our treasure. Make the kingdom our treasure and our hearts will follow. The kingdom is about loving God by serving people. It means delighting people through music and art that inspires us to seek our own expressions of beauty. It means working for the betterment of us all.
If we want to participate in the kingdom, all we have to do is decide to follow Jesus with as much of ourselves as we can muster. Gradually our desires will change because of who we are following. We don’t have to burn the candle at both ends to make it happen. This is the kingdom our Father delights in giving us.
“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps lit. Be like people waiting for their master to come home from a wedding celebration, who can immediately open the door for him when he arrives and knocks on the door.”
This image brings back some memories for me. As a child when we got home from a church picnic or a wedding, all dressed up in our best clothes, it would be chore time and we would quickly change and put on our chore clothes. For me that was blue jeans and a flannel shirt. For my father it was overalls, often torn and greasy, along with a heavy denim shirt. These were our service uniforms and we were serving humanity by producing milk and meat.
We were also serving the cows that were absolutely dependent on us. If we didn’t feed them and milk them quickly enough they would complain to us with impatient bellows and imploring looks. If it was after dark, we turned on the yard light and carried flashlights as we did our work. We were home from the wedding, alert and ready to serve. This is the recommended attitude for those waiting for the master’s return.
“Happy are those servants whom the master finds waiting up when he arrives.” The servants still alert and waiting when the master comes get a special reward. They get to see what God is like in the actions of their master. Jesus says, “I assure you that, when he arrives, he will dress himself to serve, seat them at the table as honored guests, and wait on them.” The master puts on his chore clothes and serves them! That always surprises me. What a contrast to the rich fool of last week who could only think of building bigger barns. The master serves the servants! You don’t suppose he is serving them his body and his blood? Could all of this giving be part of the Father’s good pleasure?
“But know this, if the homeowner had known what time the thief was coming, he wouldn’t have allowed his home to be broken into.” Now the returning master becomes a thief who breaks in in the night and we become home owner who could get caught unprepared.
Andrew Marr, in a sermon entitled “The Burglar Who Serves” concludes “God is both a burglar and a gracious master who serves. God only breaks in to take away all that draws our hearts away from God and from each other.”
In Luke, Jesus concludes, “You also must be ready, because the Human One is coming at a time when you don’t expect him.” The Human One is coming. He teaches us how to be Human. I want to be ready. Amen.
Image: Copyright: 1971yes / 123RF Stock Photo
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