Sermon – June 1, 2008

June 2, 2008 at 11:07 am Leave a comment

Traffic makes me really angry.

You know?

It just makes me really mad that I should be driving over here

on a nice sunny day

and there’s a line of cars ahead of me

trying to get to where I want to go

when I want to go there.

It makes me angry when there is road construction

and I need to wait and dodge orange cones and people in hard hats

who should be working.

Makes my face and neck tense up

and my mouth say things, you know “that you shouldn’t say in church”

and it makes me want to honk my horn.

You know where I’m coming from?


Actually, traffic doesn’t make me angry.

A good psychologist or a good preacher will remind me that there is very little

that can make me angry.

Of course, when they say that it may make me want to slap them.

But the truth is, for me, and perhaps for you,

that frustration does not so much make me do anything out of character

but it reveals what is already in my heart.

What is already there is that I’m angry,

what is already there is that I’m selfish and want my own way,

I want the world to part for me and move for me,

and I do not wish to wait for anyone or upon anyone.

When things are going well,

those parts of my life are hidden and do not show.

When things get a little bit frustrating,

then you see that come to the surface.


It’s like the foundation of a house.

A foundation is hidden.

You never know it’s there except during a storm.

When the storm comes,

the foundation is laid bare,

and it either stands the test or it fails it.


For our high school graduates, they will hear many speeches over the next few days

about the limitless horizons which are before them.

Much the same as we did when we were dressed in robes

and paraded into stadiums and auditoriums.

They may hear that this is their time,

that the future is now,

and that they are the leaders of tomorrow.

All very well and good, and perhaps true in many ways.

But in the midst of all of these accolades,

with us our high school graduates can hear from God

a word of challenge and a word of blessing.


The word of challenge for all of us

is to build our foundations well.

Not just the foundations of our health

or our financial picture

or our education

or our job skills

but the foundation of the trust of our heart.

Jesus in his metaphor speaks of the house built upon sand –

this is the life built upon pretense and appearances.

Note that this life of pretense and appearances can be quite a good-looking life.

It can really be a life that makes a difference in the world,

a life that makes sense according to the world’s standards.

In the case of the many that Jesus mentions in his gospel lesson,

it was a life of spiritual accomplishment as well,

prophecy – making predictions about the future,

mighty works and deeds of power – perhaps miraculous healings

or leading people to God.

Yet Jesus does not commend these lives.


You may have seen the episode of “Friends”

where Phoebe and Joey get into an argument

about whether it is possible to do a truly unselfish good deed.

It’s “The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS.”

The reason she doesn’t like PBS is that she once wrote to Sesame Street

and all they sent her back was a keychain.

So when Joey volunteers to take pledges for public television

because he thinks he’ll get on TV,

Phoebe says that it’s not a good deed because it’s done for selfish reasons.

Joey says that there are no unselfish good deeds,

and Phoebe sets out to prove him wrong.


She tries to secretly rake the neighbor’s front yard,

but then the neighbor catches her and gives her cider and cookies

and she feels really good about that.  Darn it!

Then she calls Joey and says that she let a bee sting her

so that the bee can look tough in front of all his bee friends.

Joey reminds her that the bee probably died from stinging her.

Finally, she calls Joey on the pledge drive

and donates $200, even though she hates PBS.

Is this a truly unselfish good deed?

Or does she do this just to win the argument with Joey?


Phoebe is having the same problem that all of us have,

which is that we do things for the return it will get us.

It’s difficult to tell, sometimes, if we are doing things for the right reasons or not.

The problem with these people that Jesus talks about,

the ones who are full of mighty works and prophecy and deeds of power,

is that they did them out of selfish ambition.

While they did them in the name of Jesus,

they were not done for the sake of Jesus.


It is because our lives are so full of ambiguity,

that all of us do things from a mixture of motives,

and none of us are free from self-interest,

that we need to seek a more solid foundation than this –

a better foundation than a good deed for the day

or a diploma or certificate or even accolades for service.

We who are selfish need the foundation of God’s selflessness –

we who are sinful need the foundation of God’s righteousness –

we whose good deeds may earn us a diploma or a scholarship or a certificate

need a gracious God to give us our relationship with him as a gift.


Jesus’ words are recorded for us at the end of Matthew chapter 7

“Those who hear these words of mine and do them are like the wise man

who built his house upon the rock.” 

Which words?

“Forgive others their sins,”

“Love your enemies,”

“Judge not, so that you may not be judged,”

“Do not worry about your life,”

“Do not do your good deeds to be seen by others.”

Unlike prophecy, mighty works, or deeds of power,

such things cannot be done for the sake of ambition.

We cannot do these things except from the foundation of trust in Jesus Christ.

If we are building upon another foundation,

we cannot forgive others, we must judge others,

and our good deeds must be praised by all.

But if we believe what Paul writes in Romans,

that we are justified by God’s grace as a gift,

that not because of who we are but because of who God is

God restores us into relationship with him,

then we are free to give glory to God

and begin to be anonymous ourselves.


You see, Joey was wrong and Phoebe was right.

An unselfish good deed is hard to find,

but we find such a deed when Jesus of Nazareth,

God made human,

knelt at the feet of his disciples and washed them,

taking the position of a slave,

and then went to the cross to demonstrate his Father’s love for all.

In a week of speeches, prayers, and praises,

my prayer for you graduates is that wherever you go,

you will continue to live together with us in this firm foundation

of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ our Lord.


Entry filed under: Sermons. Tags: , , , .

Sermon – 2nd Sunday after Pentecost “God is faithful” Sermon 6/8/08

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