Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sermon for June 15, 2008

The World Needs our Feet
Romans 10:9-15

Here are some of my favorite bumper stickers . . .
· I’m not gaining weight, I’m retaining food!.
· I brake for no apparent reason.
· Forget about World Peace. Visualize using your turn signal.
· He who laughs last, thinks slowest.
· Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.
· Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
· I love cats...they taste just like chicken.
· The more people I meet, the more I like my dog.
· Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let him sleep.
· Work is for people who don’t know how to fish.
· Hard work pays off in the future. But laziness pays off right now.
· It’s lonely at the top, but you eat better.
· Always remember you’re unique, just like everyone else.
· There are 3 kinds of people: those who can count & those who can’t.
· Why is “abbreviation” such a long word?
· Bumper Stickers Solve Nothing

Some bumper stickers are funny, some are informative, some make you think, others make you mad. In any case, they’re usually a reflection of direction the person in life is traveling. When it comes to bumper stickers, the words on the outside of a car are often an indicator of the kind of person on the inside of the car. In the same way, the words that come out of our mouths are often an indicator of what kind of person we are in the inside.

From the Bible’s point of view, our feet are the indicators of what we believe. I know it sounds weird, but listen to how the Apostle Paul puts it in the book of Romans.

The world needs our feet. Now I need to tell you, I’m surprised I’m even saying this to you, because I think feet are disgusting. I definitely have a foot hang up–a piece of information, which, is probably more than you wanted to know about me. I can think of several words to describe these appendages on the ends of my legs. The words ugly, hairy, smelly and grungy are a few that I would choose. But despite their flaws, the world needs our feet.

Paul is quite clear on this in Romans.
“ . . . how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?”

Our feet to carry us to the grieving and hurting, the needy and lonely, the friendless, the blind and the prisoners, the poor and oppressed, and those who do not know Jesus Christ. Our feet bring us into contact with those who need to know how God’s grace and our faith can make a difference in life. So, the world needs our feet. There are, however, some problems with this. First and foremost, I don’t want to my feet to bring me into contact with friendless-the blind the prisoners, the poor and oppressed and those who do not know Jesus Christ. I would rather my feet bring me to my comfy chair while I relax and read a good book. I would rather have my feet bring me somewhere where I don’t have to think about the pain and suffering in the world. Life is easier if I let my feet lead me to places where I can deny the reality the world is filled with pain.

And anyway, if I were to go to the suffering and poor in spirit, I wouldn’t know what to do. I wouldn’t know what to say. How is little ol’ me going to make a difference?

And there’s another problem --The term “congregational evangelist” sounds like an contradiction. Maybe we should let the Baptists, Nazarenes and Pentacostals put the gospel shoes on their feet. Anyway, if God has already predestined everything, as our Puritan ancestors taught, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

There is one more problem -- people are not going to automatically call on God. Someone needs to go and someone needs to talk. In fact, not just anyone–WE need to go. As Paul says, quoting Isaiah:
That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Isaiah actually writes this:
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isa. 52:7, NIV)
Did you get that. God can take these obscene feet of mine and make them beautiful.
How, exactly, is God going to make my feet . . . beautiful?

It’s important to understand that in Biblical times they didn’t have email or fax machines or phones. So in order for leaders to relay messages to their hearers they sent messengers. Often times the messenger would travel by foot for miles to get the message to his hearer. The ancient Greek myth of Phidippides is an example. In 490 B.C. Persia’s fleet of 600 ships loomed off the Greek Shores not far from Athens. According to legend, the general of the Athenian troops sent his fastest runner, Phidippides to ask for help from Sparta. Phidippides ran for two days and two nights to reach Sparta, about 140 miles away. He gave the message to the Spartans. The Spartans agreed to send troops, but not until after their religious festival was completed in nine days. Phidippides ran back to Athens, but the general couldn’t wait that long, so he ordered his troops to advance on the Persians. The Persian army was no match for the Athenians and 6,400 Persians were slain. The general then ordered Phidippides back to Marathon to spread the good news. The distance between marathon and Athens was approximately 25 miles. Phidippides made the distance, managed to gasp “Rejoice!” before he collapsed and died. That reminds me of another bumper sticker: “Walk, don’t run.”

You can imagine what people and communities would be thinking when word got out a messenger was bringing word to them? Their hearts would pound not knowing if the news was going to be tragic or good. When the news was good, the messenger became the most popular person around. People would say the messenger’s feet were beautiful. Now the word beautiful here does not mean lovely in appearance—thank goodness. It means “in time” or “timely”. It was as if the people were saying, “your feet brought you just when I needed to hear something good.”

There are people all around us in desperate need of some Good News. They are going through a trying time. They don’t need to hear “suck it up” or “hang in there” or “our church has great music.” They need to hear Good News. Jesus loves us and cares for us. Sin and death are defeated, and we can be right with God. As much as I resist going to those tough places, I love it when I hear someone say, “Your feet brought you just when I needed to hear something good.” Where our feet bring us shows the condition of our heart. How you walk and where you walk to is an indication of the health of your relationship with God.

Remember those words from Proverbs 6 that we just heard? Listen again for talks of feet and words. “Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion:
eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, a troublemaker in the family.” In fact, your walk a sign of your faith. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The apostle Paul reminds to walk by faith instead of sight (2 Cor. 5:7). In other words, the desires of our hearts, the words of our mouths, and out feet are all connected. Our heart gives us the will to go. Our feet respond and bring us. And our mouths speak the Good News. An active heart leads to an active mouth, which also shows itself in active feet. And active feet are beautiful to God. Or, to quote another bumper sticker:
Dance With Your Heart and Your Feet Will Follow!
When is the last time someone said to you, “Your feet are Beautiful”? What are you doing to bring Good News to the people around you in your daily life?

I find that there is a prayer that God always answers. I will say, “God, lead me to someone who needs to know your love today.” I have prayed that prayer, and then promptly forgotten what I said. At some point in the day, usually my most hectic day, someone will call – someone who us hurting and needs help. At that point I have a decision, be patient with the interruption and take time to listen, or brush the person off. Even before I became a minister, I would pray, “God, lead me to someone who needs to know your love today,” and people would bare their souls to me in the strangest of places. Once I was in a restaurant, ready to order my dinner. The server came and said, “Hi, I’m Ashley. How are you all?” “Fine, how are you?” I asked. I didn’t really mean it. It’s just what you say, right? Before I knew what was happening, Ashley was sitting in our booth, telling my family and me about all her problems at work. I’m thinking to myself, “Can I just order my pizza now?” But I prayed that God would help me walk to the places and people who need to know God’s love. I have had the same thing happen at the grocery store check out line and school events. It even happened on my honeymoon. Chris and I became acquainted with an older couple who were vacationing in Bermuda at the same place we were staying. From our perspective, it was a superficial relationship – small talk and shallow chat. Somehow, weeks after we went our separate ways, the wife of the other couple tracked us down and called us to tell us how bad her life had become. I was not a minister. I was not even in seminary. Chris and I were just out of college. We just showed some compassion – the ability to listen, and the willingness to stay put so that we could listen and respond with love.

I must admit, I am not always proud of where my feet take me. At times, my feet and I have chosen the path not lit by the Word of God. I also suspect I have not always been in the position of passionately listening at the Savior's feet. Nor have I always humbled myself to others, failing to wash their feet with love and service. However, my prayer is that I can be described as follows:
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.”’
I would be thrilled people thought of me and said, “Matt is a man with beautiful feet.”

How beautiful are your feet?

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