Join the fun this summer as we experience the ride of a lifetime with God!

Rafters will explore how to serve God and God’s mission for their lives. Rolling River Rampage VBS is for children who will be 4 years old by October 1, 2018 with the oldest completing Grade 5 in June.

Monday through Thursday, July 16-19, 9:30 am – 12:15 pm

Click here for registration form:

VBS – Registration Form _18

 

Sermon series: week 1 – “SUNDAY” Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16      Continuous reading from 1 John: 1:1-2:2

Link to Scripture online:  http://bible.oremus.org

How many people here have gotten tripped up by the auto-complete function on your computer or phone? Auto-complete is a pretty standard feature in today’s electronics that tries to predict what a person is typing after only a few letters or words. On my computer, I typed in “auto” and it actually predicted “autocomplete” so I didn’t have to type the whole word. But autocomplete is not always so well-done. I was preparing this sermon today and was typing in the question “why do we gather” just to see what is “out there” in response to those words. The computer suggested an alternate way of asking the same question might be: “why do people get roundworm?”

I’m going to ask you to autocomplete a sentence for me – hopefully in a less absurd way than the internet – so here we go: Coming to Church is _______.
Write it down & I’m going to ask you to hold on to those ideas for awhile.

The computer’s autocomplete – roundworm – didn’t work the way I expected it to. Similarly, today’s parable didn’t end the way people expected it to. It seemed simple enough: there were workers who worked different numbers of hours. The people who worked 10 hours should have gotten the day’s wage they had contracted for – 10 hours, say, 10 denarii -easy math. So the people who worked 8 hours should have gotten – can you autocomplete this? – 8 denarii. 6 hours – 6 denarii. 1 hour – 1 denarii. But the landowner surprised the people who only worked 1 hour, giving them 10 denarii. Those people said, “this doesn’t make sense, but hey! Hooray!” And the others all re-did their autocomplete formula, so that when the people who had worked a full day were paid, they expected a far greater reward for their labors. Yet again, autocomplete surprised them when they were paid exactly what they had been promised.

Yet in this parable, each person got what they needed. The ones who came earliest to the vineyard had a day of meaningful work, and spent that day assured that they would have their daily bread. They got what they needed – and that is no small thing. The ones who came later seemed to cash in – they worked little yet earned a full day’s wage. Yet in truth, they got only their daily bread, the same as all laborers needed, and they endured a day of idleness at its worst – hours of wondering what purpose they had, whether they would eat at all, and why they couldn’t find a place in their community to labor. When the landowner asks the workers why they are idle, they reply (v. 7), “because no one has hired us.” They were waiting – likely yearning – for a place to go do their best, to go be their best. You could say that they were waiting to be completed – for their skills to be put to use, for their strength to be used in the harvest, for the promise from the landowner to be for them, too. This story is not about rewards being unfair – rather, the story is about the landowner recognizing that work is its own reward, and how the landowner calls each person to use their gifts side-by-side in the vineyard. Who in this story had the worst day – the people who threw a tantrum at the end, or the people who spent all day in lonely wondering?
Today we begin a 7-week sermon series focusing on the 7 days of the week, and where our faith brings us each day. Each week will have an action and a theme verse from the book of 1st John – and in the 7 weeks we will read through the book of 1st John in order. If you miss a Sunday, you’ll find a link to the sermon and readings in the Weekly Word e-mail.

We’re starting this series by focusing on Sunday, the day of the week when we gather for worship. Today’s action you’ve already done – “go to Church.” I asked earlier for you to complete the sentence, “Coming to Church is…” Worship does complete us in ways that are healing and stretching and sometimes spiritually challenging. There are ways in which worship, and Church, do exactly what we expect: we confess our sins, we hear and receive words of forgiveness. We hold out our hands, and they are filled with a bulletin, a handshake, a communion wafer. We show up, and we are welcomed. Autocomplete happens just as we expect, and it does complete us as we live through the liturgy, praising God and receiving nourishment for the week ahead.

There are also ways in which worship completes us in ways that are surprising. Like the laborers waiting in the marketplace, we have needs – needs of all kinds. The need for human contact, the need to be in a place that slows down for an hour, the need for words of affirmation and hope; it could also be the need for structure, for a place to use our gifts, for a place to let down our guard for awhile. We may come here needing sabbath – rest – or we may come here needing to be put to work. But either way, God meets the needs we bring, and God fills us with joy. Joy isn’t happiness, or cheeriness; when Christians speak of joy, we mean a deep hopefulness, a meaningfulness that is hard to describe. Joy is an abiding outlook, and when we see God meeting real needs, then we are indeed filled with joy.

Our theme verse this week is one in which the actions of worship lead to joy. Actions of proclaiming that God is good, and of responding to God’s goodness with our offerings; actions of committing ourselves to God’s purpose for us, and of creating something together that none of us could have created without one another and God’s spirit. These actions are work – hopefully not the kind of work that wears down or drains, but the kind of work that completes us by giving our lives meaning and sustenance. If you can, look in your bulletin and underline 1st John 1:4: “We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” In days past, churches were writing down their faith – today we share our faith in any variety of ways, but the end result is that God’s vineyard is served and we are moved to joy at how God completes each of us and all of us.

In the parable, we heard that work is its own reward – that our lives find purpose and meaning when we are participating in something larger than ourselves. Church happens not when a building goes up, but when people are participating – connecting with each other, engaging in the community, receiving God’s abundant love. Church takes work. You didn’t arrive here this morning by osmosis, right? There was labor involved – and today being the first day of Sunday School, we can acknowledge that for folks with kids and teens, that labor can be pretty intense. For those serving today as acolyte, reader, choir members, ushers, or other roles, that took commitment. Church takes work. Coming to Church is… a choice; a labor of love; not easy. We are so glad that you are here. I believe that God is so glad that you are part of the gathered people of God. And we pray and do everything in our power – and we trust that God’s power is involved, too – so that worship completes your joy. So that God, through worship, can meet you right where you are, with your needs, your skills, your passions.

Coming to Church is … {anyone willing to share?} Here is a word that encompasses all of these answers: Coming to Church is grace. Grace is when God opens doors that we never even noticed; it’s when God gives gifts that were too wonderful to even ask for; grace is when God completes us, so that the joy we carry from Sunday can sustain us through Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Coming to Church is the beginning of our week – the place where we can work, or rest, or both, before we go to a world full of needs and calls and priorities. Coming to Church is grace – is God autocompleting us in just the way we are needing.

In the real world, autocomplete can be absurd, annoying, or comical. In God’s kingdom, the ways that God completes our joy can be surprising, insightful, soothing, or just plain graceful. So we encourage you (we = congregation, leaders, God’s Spirit): on Sundays, come to Church. Come with your needs. Come with your neighbors. Come with high expectations that you will be met by God, nourished and equipped for a whole week. Coming to Church is grace, given for you.

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