July 17, 2016

Pastor Nick’s Sermon: VBS Sunday
July 17, 2016
“Then, Feed ‘Em”

This week has been a blast at VBS. Our primary verse comes from Nehemiah 4:14, “Remember that the LORD is great and awesome.” For three evenings, I felt the buzz and excitement that reminded me of being a kid in church. I long for the day when churches are constantly buzzing with people – even through the week – coming to pray, serve, spend time together, worship, plan…whatever.

This week, we have learned a few key lessons about God: We learned that God Creates, God Loves, and God Calms.

In the beginning, God made the world. From chaos and darkness came light, then form, then being. All the living things came together in a wonderful symphony of the divine process. We were made so that God would have companions. Remember a few Sundays ago when I said the basis of who we know God to be is in relationship? God created so that we would be in relationship with God.

And from that relationship, God develops a love for us. A love even deeper than the ones we know. It is an all-encompassing love – one that surrounds us completely, sweeps through us like flowing water. We see evidence of that love in the person of Jesus – God made into a person. That love connected with us in the act of baptism in the river Jordan. If you have ever seen the Holy Moly video we show our youngest Sunday School students, what is once a black and white world comes alive in color at the moment of baptism. Jesus beginning his ministry greatly remade the world. It made the world closer to God’s kingdom of love for our neighbor and ourselves.

And finally, we learned that God calms us. We talk about love so often in church, and yet, we see a world that does not seem to be touched by that love. Bad things happen daily. People hurt other people. We are scared of people who band together to do bad things and hurt those like us.

I was having lunch with Katie from Austin Peay, who preached here a few months ago, and she told me about something one of her students said about the rapid culture wave of Pokemon Go. The student said, “In a world where bad things happen, we aren’t equipped to know what to do, and we feel overwhelmed, so we go outside and play Pokemon instead.”

That is quite the gut punch to me. We have done very little in offering hope to our kids. All they know is pain and mourning and more pain. We never seem to give real airtime in our homes or in our churches on how to deal with all of it. When the disciples were fearful of an oncoming storm, Jesus simply spoke the words of quiet, and the stop subsided. Do we believe that the name and presence of Jesus can still do that?

The only one who can bring peace and calm in our lives is our God. I, for one, believe in a Prince of Peace, who could easily let us whether the storm ourselves, or who could have said “you aren’t worthy of my love,” or could have simply taken us out at the first sign of sin. But didn’t. And won’t.

So in a world that has been created, taught to love, and shown our protection is in our God, what is left to say? That is where the Bible passage for today comes in. Jesus, having overcome death itself, is ready to ascend back to God. But first, he goes to his disciples on last time. They are scared, too. They do not know what to do next since their master is gone. They do the thing that makes sense: they go back to old lives and old habits. They act as if their walk with Jesus didn’t matter. They do what makes sense. Old lives. Old habits.

Jesus comes up and they rush to him. The first thing they do? Eat breakfast. (Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?) They ask their master, “Jesus, what do we do now?” And his response? “Feed my sheep.” What?!

Couldn’t he give a better answer than that? Couldn’t he say something like, “oh, don’t worry, I gave you invincibility so spears and arrows can’t hurt you, now go get ‘em.” They were so scared by what had happened at the crucifixion they went home. The journey was over. They couldn’t rid the world of evil – the crushing power of the enemy – themselves. Sound familiar?

We the church have gotten scared. We want to stay in our walls, be with our people, and live like that. We want our old lives and our old habits. Jesus calls us to a greater existence. We are to find his lost flock: people who live in agony, people who live even less than paycheck to paycheck. His sheep are those who have so little to look forward to and who live wondering if life is even worth it. He says we should feed them. Not save the world. Not conquer evil. Feed his sheep.

We talk a lot about mission and outreach. We talk about programs and worship. All of those require a flock of people who need it. So what do we do? We need to feed them.

You’ve heard the phrase: “Church is a hospital for the sin-sick.” But that doesn’t mean we come here, someone cares for us, and we just sit until we feel better and go home. Somewhere along the way, we started seeing Christianity as being about making us feel better and then the world when we feel like it. Again, we want the comfort of our old lives and old habits, including church in them rather than Christ in us.

God tells us to go out and live our faith. We live it by sharing it. We live it by praying over it. We live it by feeding his sheep. If you are here, God is sending you out. The healing you seek comes from loving God and neighbor, feeding his sheep.

We need a visitation team to call and visit our shut-ins and help them with basic needs. We need people to host Bible studies or prayer meetings in their homes. We need people to volunteer to go on trips with youth. We need people to serve at the non-profits.

Feed my sheep, he said. Then, feed ‘em.