Monday, July 8, 2013

Sermon Cliff Note: As For Me and My House

Thinking about this, the 35th year anniversary of the McDowell Volunteer Fire Department, I’ve conducted an informal survey, asking ‘why do you do this?’  Most have gone silent and thought about it for awhile . . . many have mentioned family ties . . . but perhaps Gary summed it up best for them all – “somebody’s got to do it.”

It’s true, isn’t it?  Somebody does have to do it.  But not everybody does do it.  What we call to mind today is that more than 35 years ago, a bunch of somebodies got together and dreamed it.  And in their dreaming, they made it so.  Many of you will remember the helping hands – many of those hands were your very own . . .

There’s a Greek word – oikos – from the New Testament.  It literally means ‘house’.  In its various forms, it is also used to refer to the contents of the house, the human body, a household or family, a whole clan or tribe of people, a nation, a Christian community of believers, and indeed, to the whole inhabited earth.

In coming together to rededicate this house, it is appropriate to think on its many meanings – house as place of shelter, as a repository for our treasures, as our own bodies, as family, community, tribe, nation, church, and as the whole of creation – it is appropriate because in very real ways, to be a member of the MVFD is to be a house in its broadest sense.

The house we have here is a chosen thing – chosen by you, but even more importantly, chosen by God.  Speaking of Abraham, God says in the book of Genesis, “. . . I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Like God’s own observation about Abraham, you rededicate yourselves to the future generations, to those who will come after, with every step you take.  Just as it was shown to you by the generations that came before, you show the next generation the way of righteousness and justice whenever you answer the call and throw on the gear and head out to who knows what, leaving your own family behind to take care of the family of a stranger.

Throughout scripture, we are reminded that we humans will be known by God by our fruits – by the results of our lives.  In Genesis, we see God’s sense of partnership with we human beings and right here in McDowell, we see that partnership being acted out day by day – we see it by the fruits of lives saved, friendships forged, dreams brought into reality.

But it’s one thing to do an act of kindness for a friend or family member and quite another to do it even at the possible cost of one’s own life for a stranger or an enemy.

In the gospel of Matthew in chapter 25, we read, “. . . the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’  And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ . . .”

Like those standing before God’s throne, you visit the feeble, you rescue the vulnerable, you give food and drink to those in need, you provide for the sick, you answer the call whether the person calling is worthy of your sacrifice or not.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is House – capital H house – a family, a church – a community of faith providing for those in need simply because somebody has to do it.  You were who Jesus was talking about.  What you might not have known is that the complaining old lady . . . the drug-addicted couple . . . the obnoxious and demanding, the careless, the angry, the ungrateful, the disdainful rich and the filthy poor, the one who started the fire himself as much as the one merely a victim – that all of them – each and every one – are Jesus himself.  Whenever you answer the call, it is Jesus himself you serve.

When you gather together to raise money for Relay for Life, you are doing God’s work.  When you slip a fellow fire fighter a little something to tide him over during his cancer battle, you are doing God’s work.  When you run into a burning house that any sane person would run out of, you are doing God’s work.  When you hold the hand of a car wreck victim waiting for the ambulance, you are doing God’s work.  When you sweep the floors and wash the vehicles, you are doing God’s work. When you attend one more training session when you’d rather do anything but, you are doing God’s work.

Your house has been well and truly built – on the founding stone of a community that believed it was possible . . . and necessary . . . and the cornerstone of a God who answered your prayers . . . with the walls of your own serving answer to God’s call . . . and the roof of God’s own protecting . . .

And so it is that you can proclaim with Joshua as he met the people Israel one last time before his own death . . .  “. . . choose this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Amen.

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