Shine your love among us,
that we might be your people in this place
and in our neighbourhoods. AMEN
I wonder if Jesus knew he was being watched?
I imagine he did... do you think he ever got used to it?
I wonder if you... all of you – know you are being watched?
No, this is not some administrational spy network.
And even if you think it might be creepy to be watched,
I am quite sure you are, being watched.
And... I am glad that you are!
We are not supposed to be invisible,
we are not called to be invisible.
We are called... to be just like Jesus,
and often... we are being watched to see if we meet the mark.
One of my Sunday school Teachers
at St. Paul’s United Church, in Oakville,
used to make a game of doing good things in secret.
Doing good things, in secret, she said...
was a game that helped Jesus.
She would send us home
with ‘good deeds’ to do during the week,
and the instructions to ‘not let anyone know’.
Sometimes it was – set the table without being asked;
or make our own lunch; or make a sibling's bed.
... I never did want to make my sisters bed.
We were to try to do the deed without anyone knowing.
The following Sunday we reported to the class,
and we were applauded if no-one caught us doing the good deed.
As much fun as that was... and even now, still might be fun...
as we live our lives following the ways of the Christ,
we will get caught... because people are watching us.
“You’re the only Bible people read today.”
I know I have shared the words to that song before...
... “You’re the only Bible people read today.
Are you a good example,
Do they feel it when you pray?”
People are watching us.
Somehow they know what we do on Sunday mornings,
and they are watching to see if it makes any difference.
At the house of a prominent Pharisee...
Jesus was being carefully watched.
We don’t know why Jesus was there, other than,
he went there to eat.
But as he was carefully watched, Jesus was also carefully watching!
Jesus noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table.
Jesus noticed... and then Jesus told them a parable.
Often this parable is used only to encourage humility.
You know... take a back seat, so we are not seen as proud or self-righteous.
As followers of Jesus, we should be invisible,
so that we don’t offend, or make others uncomfortable.
We can then... if warranted, take a seat of honour if invited.
And we will do this with great humility.
I trust you can hear my sarcasm.
Now I am not saying that there is no strength or honour in being humble,
or meek or letting others go first...
and good works do not need to be centre-stage.
But if all followers of Jesus are invisible,
if everything is hidden...
then Love, compassion and justice might also
fade into the shadows.
And this points us to the second part of Jesus’ comments
on the supper he was invited to.
If we linger only with the message:
“... all those who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
I think we miss an important part of that supper-time conversation.
Jesus addressed the host.
I am assuming that would be the ‘prominent Pharisee’...
Jesus says to his host:
"When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends,
your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours;
if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled,
the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed ... “
Acts of love, define us as God’s people.
Being among those who cannot give back to us,
is our call to follow the Christ and the God of Love.
It must never be a sign of superiority,
but of service and hope.
A quick look at the Ministry and Mission part of the bulletin,
shows us where many of you... and others associated with this congregation
live out the call to serve and share God’s love.
Some of you may think that no one really notices what you do,
that you are invisible.
Truth is... someone is watching.
A child, a stranger, a peer, a family member.
Your kindness and ability to show care and compassion,
has not gone unnoticed.
- Your generous heart has been felt.
- How you lead with integrity and good-will has been appreciated.
- Someone ... has seen you in action,
and wondered... how you do it... why you do it!
I will always support humility and those who choose to act in the background,
as long as the Love of God is not compromised or manipulated.
However... when people see your acts of kindness, generosity,
compassion and goodness, and wonder why you do it...
why you live this way...
I think we need to figure out how to tell the story... your story... our story.
So, unless you are willing to let others believe that faith has nothing to do
with who you are... then let’s help people connect the dots.
It may be as simple as saying:
I learned to be kind and generous by going to a church that includes everyone.
OR... I learned about treating everyone with respect and honouring the person,
from my conversations after Church.
Or... At Bible study we talk about taking the Bible seriously,
but not literally.
Telling people that you do what you do,
because of your faith... and the fact that God loves you...
is true and honest and faithful.
It shows our true colours. Our rainbow of colours.
Now for some of you, I am asking that you step out of character,
and profess out loud, your faith in God.
Some of you will baulk at being out-there and Christian,
because ‘out-there’ Christians are often seen as
fundamentalist, Bible-thumping and judging.
We in the United Church are too often polite, quiet and subdued.
That seems safer.
But if we remain invisible, Christians may no longer be known ‘by their love’,
but by the hate-filled rhetoric that often passes for Christianity.
If we stay invisible, then we may be silent,
when someone needs us to speak up for them and with them.
If we do not speak out about a way of being Christian...
that includes everyone, tries not to be judgemental,
values good questions and hard topics,
and engages our minds in our faith;
then we may no longer be ‘known by our love’.
It is our job to make the Christ visible in the world.
Whether you like it or not, you are not invisible. People are watching.
The Christ that you reflect will make a difference to how the world sees God.
God... visible in your acts of kindness, you love for others, you insistence for justice.
Let’s move back to the idea of being humble.
Humble comes from the old English word humus,
which literally means ground, or earth.
To be humble is to be grounded,
as Christ was grounded in the earth.
To walk humbly is to remember who you are,
Children of God, a God who is the ground of our being.
As children of God, reflect the beauty of what it means
to be created in the image of God... who is love.
Don’t be invisible.
Keep love visible, and share your faith story.
You may be the only Bible people read.
Let the story they read... be about love,
inclusive love that honours each person.
Let your true colours shine through.
Aqua and sage and magenta...
Generosity, kindness and respect for differences.
Deep love, the honouring of personhood and patience.
Throw open doors...
and colour outside the lines, with love.
Connect yourself with the presence of God.
Make the love of God visible...
for someone . . . . is carefully watching.