Sermon: "Counting Our Blessings: 
God Is God"

02 November 2008


Counting Our Blessings: God is God
November 2, 2008
Matthew 23:1-12
Rev. Jennifer Whipple

Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our minds and hearts gathered here this day be acceptable in Your sight, Oh Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.


            “No…No…I don’t think so.  I’m mad at God.  I’m MAD at God.”

            There are some conversations you remember no matter how long ago they took place.

            These were some of the only words I heard from a man in Griffin Hospital when I was a chaplain intern there as part of my training in my seminary days. He was a man in his early forties who was dying.  He knew it.  The nurses and doctors knew it.  And I knew it.  I was 23-years-old and had been blessed to be part of a family that has longevity and general good health, so I had no idea what this man was going through – to say the very least. Now mind you half of my family on my mom’s side either are nurses or are in training to be nurses, and I tense up as soon as I walk through the doors of a hospital.  So serving full time in one for a summer was no picnic, so it took me about three weeks to get up the courage to actually walk to the doorway of this man’s room – not even walk in.  He kept his curtains drawn tight so his room was always dark, and when he had a chance to get out of his room for a brief stint his face was full of pain, burden, and anger.  So when I finally mustered the courage to go to his door, our conversation went something like this. 

            “Hi, my name is Jennifer.  I am a chaplain intern here.  I was wondering if I could come in a talk for a bit.”

            “No…No…I don’t think so.  I’m mad at God.  I’m MAD at God.”

            “Oh…okay…”  At which point I promptly turned around and left.  Defeated…

             Well, part of this chaplaincy training process was sharing the detailed conversations that you had with patients (without identifying who they were) among the other chaplain interns and with the supervisor.  The purpose of this being to gain good and useful advice, especially for people like me who were like fish out of water in this setting.  I figured this was the perfect conversation to share – not only because it was short and not so hard to remember the details but also because I truly wanted to know if there was anything I could have done…any inroad I could have made in the hospital that afternoon.

             As I presented my case to the other interns and my supervisor they all looked at me as if I was supposed to have known exactly what to do.  And yet I didn’t know what the answer was.  Talk about humbling.  I shared the grand total of about 50 words, and a voice shouted, “I’m not God.” 

            “What?” I asked. 

            “I’m not God,” was the reply that came from my supervisor.

            “What do you mean?” I continued to pry.

            “He said that he was mad at God, Jennifer.  The last time I checked you are not God.  I am not God.  I am sure that he would not have expected that answer to come from the meek creature standing in his door.  He may even have talked with you.”   

            He was mad at God.  I’m not God.  Why didn’t I think of that?

            Among the blessings that we are able to count in our lives as Christian people on this journey together is that God is God, and we don’t have to be.  I think we are pressured to be more than we are at times.  We are challenged to know more and to do more.  Much like the Pharisees from our gospel lesson this morning, we get so caught up in the details of how things should be done to the letter that we fail to see the big picture that is before us.  We live in a world where we strive for promotions in order to prove ourselves in our work; where we ask questions of children like, “Who is your favorite?”  We often times strive to be all things to all people and tend to believe that showing off is the only way that we will ever get noticed.  We puff out our chests and put on the best show we know how in order to prove ourselves.  And yet God does not ask us to be everything.  Instead God has made us each unique, each an individual – called together to be a part of God’s plan of reconciliation and justice in the world.  God calls each of us by name to this place and this time.  Whether we are known and seen by others here on earth, God knows us and has a few of those rooms saved for us in heaven.

             Pastor Tony Robinson once wrote the following in an article entitled "Reforming the House of God" for the Christian Century.  He wrote, “It’s not a question of who gets the best seats or the worst, of titles treasured or denied.  The important thing is our awareness of powers not our own.  Do we intend to enhance ourselves in our own eyes as well as those of others?  Or do we know that though we are not all that we claim or even wish to be, God yet calls us and can use us? … [We are reminded] that ‘the world is divided between sinners who believe themselves to be saints, and saints who know themselves to be sinners.”  The Pharisees in the gospel lesson for today had forgotten what it meant to know and rely upon the power of God.  Instead they relied on sharing all that they knew about the law with others and showing off what it was that they had studied.  But really they missed the mark.  In focusing on things like the details of the hundreds of laws that were on the books – of how many times to wash their hands or of what to and what not to touch, they failed to realize the power of God and the importance of a new law that was working in the world as Jesus Christ came on the scene.  This law was, and continues to be, one of radical acceptance – of love and of peace – no matter who and what we are.  We need to ask ourselves, as we gather on Sundays and as we go out into the world – do we get caught up in the minutiae so much that we fail to do what God asks of us and to live into who we are truly called to be as a community of God’s faithful people?

             I remember from my chaplain intern days this intense feeling of needing to fix things – to make things right again for the people I visited in the hospital, even though it was not in my power.  As I think back now, perhaps the one thing that would have helped more than anything else would have been the opportunity to share communion with the people I had the privilege and opportunity to visit.  There is a unifying, even-ing and a humbling quality about coming to the table together – about partaking in the bread of new life and the cup of blessing and forgiveness.

             As we come to the table to share in the Lord’s Supper today we are reminded of the things that even the playing field for us -- our humanity and our faith. Part of our humanity is realizing the things we do not know and humbly being willing to turn to and turn back to God – to repent for the things we have done and to look to God for guidance in the way God would have us go to bring about the best there is for all people.  We are reminded that we do not get to decide who comes to the table.  Rather God is the one who decides who it is that comes to the table – a table that is open for all who wish to know the presence of Jesus Christ.  Just as we do not get to pick and choose the members of our families, we do not get to pick and choose the members of our church family or who walks through the doors of this meetinghouse.  God does, however, and God has chosen each and every one of us.  God has gifted us in unique and individual ways, calling us together to be the Body of Christ here in Brookfield.  And God offers us the invitation to come to this table of plenty – to this table that is full of God’s grace and forgiveness.  And in that offer we hear the powerful words ringing throughout this place, “Come to me all you who are burdened and heavy laden.  I am God, the God of Abraham and Sarah, the God of your ancestors – and your God.  You are not God, and you don’t need to be.  I am God.  You are loved, and you are forgiven.”  Thanks be to God for this wonderful blessing.  Amen.

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