Login / Signup

Free Access

Prophet Or Profit?

Sermon
Sermons on the Gospel Readings
Series II, Cycle C
I shall never forget the night that Mae June came to church. Mae June was a workingwoman who, in our little community, was often seen in the late hours of the night in some of the darker places of our little town.

The rumor circulating over breakfast every morning at the city cafe, was that Mae June had a male companion. Mae June had a boyfriend. They were seen quite often, not only at night, but in the daytime and on the streets of the little city. Then came the night that Mae June came to the church where I served as pastor. She and her male companion came and sat down near the front. The church had what was known as a prayer rail with cushions all across the front of the sanctuary. When we offered the invitation at the conclusion of the service, Mae June came and knelt at the prayer rail and prayed. When she finished her prayer she turned and began talking to the congregation. She asked the congregation if they would pray for her friend. We prayed with Mae June.

I was interested in seeing how the church would respond at the end of the service. It was a good crowd for a Sunday night. If I remember correctly, I think the mayor, the district judge, and a county commissioner were there along with a lot of mothers and fathers. Out of all of those people no one -- no one -- shunned Mae June. They talked with her. They prayed with her. They accepted her. It was like the church was acting like a church.

Jesus went to church one time and they tried to kill him. His home church in his hometown accepted him at first. He became popular in other areas, but when he came to his hometown church, they accepted him quickly. He is Joe Carpenter's son. Isn't that Mary's son over there? Everything was fine until Jesus said something that made them all mad. It made them so mad that they literally tried to kill him. In his hometown! What could he have said that could have been so provoking? It might have been that Jesus was a prophet.

In the New Testament, a prophet is not someone who forecasts hundreds of thousands of years in the future, but someone who looks at today and says, "This is the way things are." Then the prophet says, "Unless things change this is the way things are going to be." The prophet goes beyond that. The prophet not only says this is the way things are, a prophet will say if you do change; these are the way things could be. A prophet! If you change. There are some in Jesus' day who did not want to change. They were out for profit, the status quo. The status quo! You remember, Ronald Reagan said, "It's the mess we are in." The status quo. The ones who were living their lives for profit were content with the way things were and they did not want this prophet upsetting the applecart so they tried to kill him.

I think the real reason they tried to kill Jesus was that he said, "Today the scripture is fulfilled in your ears." I am it! Me! The Lord has appointed me, sent me, anointed me; and they couldn't stand that Jesus was one who was willing to stand in the gap between the way things are and the way things can be. Jesus was willing to stand in the Great Divide and to be the bridge over which people could travel from the way things are and the way things could be. How was he able to do that? How are we?

First of all, Jesus just felt a definite calling from God. It is very simple and plain in the scripture. The Bible says that Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had been on a forty-day spiritual retreat struggling with the temptation of his life and how to go about his ministry. He was spiritually disciplined and ready to carry out his ministry, equipped to do what God would have him to do. He was ready to fulfill his calling. If we are to fulfill our calling to do what God would have us to do and to stand in the gap between the way things are and the way things can be, then we must be as spiritually disciplined as Jesus. We do this by doing the things that Jesus did: going on spiritual retreats, prayer, solitude, in communion with the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, immersed, absorbed in the Word.

It is not by accident that he went into the synagogue and began in a worship service and read from God's Word. He did it quite often. It was not accidental that he chose this passage of scripture, the great reading from the Old Testament prophet about a time similar to the one in which Jesus found himself. Jesus was careful to show them by scripture that the tension that existed between them was not between the people of Nazareth and Jesus, himself. The tension that existed was between the people of Nazareth and their very own Bible. Their very own Bible told them that they were called of God to be missionaries to the entire world, and that they were to embody servanthood. You know we are never so angry as when we are shown by the Bible that we are wrong.

How do you argue with the Bible? You cannot argue with the Bible. You either have to accept the Bible and live by the Bible or reject the Bible, deny the Bible, and respond in anger and violence and that is what they did. Knowing they were wrong, condemned by their own scriptures, they responded in violence and literally attempted to kill Jesus.

It was Jesus immersing himself in scriptures that allowed him to be able to project a vision of hope. A vision! Jesus came and said, "God has sent me. He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor." There will be a time when the poor hear the gospel, when the prisoners are released, when the captives are set free, when they who are spiritually and physically blind, are able to see and God's grace and God is proclaimed. This was the great vision that he posited before them and called them to hear what their lives could be. Jesus was no Pollyanna. He was not filled with naiveté. He was not just idealistically dreaming. Jesus knew in a harsh and ruthless way the way things were. He could look around himself. He knew that they were in an occupied territory. He knew that there were poor people, homeless people, and sick people everywhere. He knew that taxes were sky high. He could see the Roman soldiers and he could see that the very worst of the lot were the poor people. They were on the bottom rung of the ladder. They were the ones who were paying the price and Jesus said the most wonderful thing, "The poor people will be able to hear the gospel and will be able to respond." Jesus knew the way things were and so do we when we open our eyes.

A woman in Nicaragua gets eleven cents for sewing together a pair of blue jeans that are sold by an American company for $14.95. That company made 566 million dollars in profits on those jeans in one year. One out of every five Ugandan children will not live to age five because they do not have simple, primary health care. That is not just in Nicaragua. This is not just in Uganda. There are hurts to heal in our cities. There are poor people here. There are homeless people here. There are addicted people here. There are lonely people here. There are oppressed and captive people here. There are hurts that need to be healed! And you ask, "What can I do? Is there anything I can do? Can I be one who stands in the gap between the way things are and the way things can be? Can I be a bridge over which other people can travel in that journey from the way things are and the way things can be?"

We can expect controversy. Not everyone is going to understand. They did not understand in Nazareth. They knew and loved Jesus, but did not understand him. Change is a difficult thing and very often elicits hostility. But we can be that kind of individual who embodies the promise as did Jesus. First of all, simply find something that we like to do and do it. Find something we do well and do it for the glory of God. One single person, one individual, one congregation, one group of people can make a difference.

One average-sized church in Brooklyn, New York, decided that it would fight a popular clothing company and, in doing so, ended the sweatshops in El Salvador. It was just an average-sized church that stood up and said we are against the exploitation of children. The Faith Network of Children decided that it would conduct a campaign and close the sweat shop in El Camino, California, where 72 people from Thailand, behind barbed wire, were being paid $1.60 an hour and working eighteen hours a day. Somebody stood up and said, "Wait a minute! We are against the exploitation of women."

In 1977, both Jews and Christians marched in a silent march during Holy Week. Christians and Jews marched silently during Holy Week in an effort to protest against the most luxurious hotels of California, and particularly Los Angeles, because they were paying slave labor wages to the people who were making their guests feel luxurious. Some of them had been working there over twenty years and still had no benefits or any health care. Because they got some peoples' attention, fourteen of the most luxurious hotels in Los Angeles banded together and signed a commitment that they would pay their employees a livable wage and try to provide for them benefits that would be an example for hotels all over the world to follow. This happened because Christians and Jews marched silently during Holy Week.

James Wallace said that he is now seeing those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice coming together in an effort to see what they have in common and somehow stem the tide of 1.5 million abortions performed in the United States every year by concentrating on positive things: combating teen pregnancy, giving other alternatives for women, and reforming adoption laws. People can make a difference!

People make a difference at First Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, every day of the week. This church is involved in over twenty ministries in downtown Chattanooga. People build houses for Habitat for Humanity. People teach English as a second language. People fight racism through the Westside Development Project. People fight drug addiction and alcohol addiction through Teen Challenge and it goes on and on. People can, and do, make a difference right here in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Will you make a difference? It only takes one! It only takes one person to start. One person can influence a church to make a difference!

Bill was 37 years old. He awoke one morning, drunk as usual. His doctor had told him, "Bill, you are either going to go crazy or you are going to die of alcoholism." In his despair, he cried out in a prayer and said, "Oh, God, if you are there, let me know it!" And God did! Bill never took another drink. Bill then wrote twelve steps by which others could combat their disease and, as a result, over two million people now live productive, happy lives combating their disease of alcoholism. One person!

In 1835, Elijah saw a man lynched. It changed his life. He cut back on his career as a Presbyterian pastor and as a schoolteacher. He went back to his earlier training as a newspaper editor and began to write anti-slavery tracts. He delivered speeches and aroused hostility. People persecuted him, beat him, and finally burned him out of his home. He was injured in combating the fire, and after only two years, he was killed. Elijah P. Lovejoy, a life cut short. A young attorney in Elijah's home state of Illinois read Elijah P. Lovejoy's materials and was deeply influenced, and 26 years later, that young attorney signed the Emancipation Proclamation. One person! One! Will you be one?

Where are you in the text today? Are you up reading the scriptures like Jesus? Or, are you just bystanders listening? Are you one of those who are protesting -- "We don't want change" -- or are you one of the others saying, "I want to be one of his disciples. I want what he has. I am willing to do whatever it takes. I want to be like him"? They were all there and we are all here. Where are you today? Will you be one to stand in the gap?

By accident, a fellow wandered into a Quaker meeting. No one was saying anything. It was quiet. Everyone was sitting there listening. Silence. He sat a while. He did not know what was happening. Finally, he gathered up the courage and he nudged the guy sitting near him and said, "Pardon me. When does the service begin?" And the man responded, "When we leave."
UPCOMING WEEKS
In addition to the lectionary resources there are thousands of non-lectionary, scripture based resources...
Signup for FREE!
(No credit card needed.)
Easter 3
30 – Sermons
160+ – Illustrations / Stories
27 – Children's Sermons / Resources
25 – Worship Resources
27 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Easter 4
29 – Sermons
140+ – Illustrations / Stories
27 – Children's Sermons / Resources
28 – Worship Resources
32 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Easter 5
27 – Sermons
140+ – Illustrations / Stories
29 – Children's Sermons / Resources
29 – Worship Resources
30 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Easter 6
30 – Sermons
110+ – Illustrations / Stories
26 – Children's Sermons / Resources
20 – Worship Resources
25 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
and more...
Plus thousands of non-lectionary, scripture based resources...
Signup for FREE!
(No credit card needed.)

New & Featured This Week

CSSPlus

John Jamison

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (vv. 14-16)


The Immediate Word

Christopher Keating
Bethany Peerbolte
Thomas Willadsen
Katy Stenta
Mary Austin
George Reed
Dean Feldmeyer
For April 25, 2021:

Emphasis Preaching Journal

David Coffin
Easter is a season of new life and that which guides the church into new life. All three texts point in this direction. What congregation or church leader is not in need of new ideas and directions for life in the history or their ministry?
Mark Ellingsen
Frank Ramirez
Bonnie Bates
Bill Thomas
Acts 4:5-12
I ran across, what sounds to me, like an old legend. It’s a good story, though, and I think it is worth looking at.

Back in the days when the Old West was being settled, a lot of people made their way over the Oregon Trail. When they got to the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, they found a stream that was too wide to cross by just stepping over it. To get across, they "two-stepped" across by using an ugly lump sticking up out of the water in the middle of the stream as a step.

StoryShare

Peter Andrew Smith
David O. Bales
Contents
“Trusting in God” by Peter Andrew Smith
“The Power of a Name” by David O. Bales
“Through A Dark Valley Toward the Table Of An Enemy” by David O. Bales


Trusting in God
by Peter Andrew Smith
1 John 3:16-24

Jane handed Mary a cup of coffee. “Is anyone else around?”

Mary shook her head. “No, Ken and Pastor Mark headed off to their meeting so it’s just the two of us at the church until they get back.”

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
Call to Worship:
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. If you want to know him, listen to his voice today.

Invitation to Confession:

Jesus, sometimes we fail to hear your voice.
Lord, have mercy.


Jesus, sometimes we wilfully ignore your voice.
Christ, have mercy.


Jesus, sometimes we wander far from the fold.
Lord, have mercy.


Reading:
John 10:11-18

SermonStudio

Donna E. Schaper
What does this shepherd possibly mean? He says he has the power to put his life down and to pick it up again! It is almost like he is saying we can stop breathing whenever we want -- and then begin breathing again. How dare we believe this promise?
Paul W. Kummer
Sometimes it just takes boldness!

"Tell me what my dreams mean," bellowed the king. "And I want to know what the dream was, too! It was so terrifying that I can't remember it! Tell me now! If you don't, O wise men of Babylon, I will have all of you killed."

That's the report Daniel heard in his prison cell as henchmen came to fulfill the king's earnest decree. "Wait, there's a God in heaven who reveals mysteries," delays Daniel, and with boldness in God and with confidence that God gives dreams meanings, Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar about the future.
Paul E. Robinson
Not long ago I heard about one more study done with rats. This particular study seemed to indicate that the amount of stress experienced by baby rats in their first ten days set their bodies for the rest of their lives as to how the rats would react to stressful situations. As I recall, there are at least two factors at work. First of all, in a stressful situation a chemical is produced that triggers the stress response throughout the body.

Special Occasion