Being Liked or Being Respected? First St Johns Church August 17, 2014

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of the Holy Spirit and all those who know that it really isn’t about the risks we take for the Kingdom of Christ, it’s about faith in Him said AMEN!
Risk Management has become one of those compelling corporate buzz words of the last generation. There is all sorts of “risk analysis” that goes into a decision of any consequence, this determines the risk versus the reward. The higher the risk, the higher the reward, but the higher the risk also means the higher chance of failure, more chance of loss.
Corporate America today is very much aware of the risks, part of risk management is the realization that all risk cannot be avoided. The old saying, “if it’s easy anyone can do it”. Corporate America is very much aware that it’s primary mission is about shareholder satisfaction, that is making money so that it can pay dividends to those people who own stock in that corporation. If shareholders/stockholders are not making money, they will sell their shares, possibly for less than they paid for them, and at some point the company will run out of money because no one wants to invest and it will go out of business. Risk aversion cuts both ways, if you don’t take risks you will eventually fade out of existence, if you do take silly risks you are likely to explode out of existence, neither is a desirable outcome.
The church, for the last century, has become very risk averse. I have a degree in Business Management I worked in corporations for twenty years, I’ve interacted with businesses across the spectrum, so I think I say the following with some authority. The church has become much too concerned about pleasing man and not so much about pleasing God. The church is very different from any other kind of organization. Why do you think that is? Do I have “stakeholders” that I’m responsible to? You betchum, many of you here today put so much of your lives to make this church what it is and I do have to respect that. But who is another “stakeholder”? Yeah, the big one, in the end we all answer to Him. He is the ultimate Chairman of the Board, He is the One we are all responsible to. Remember the Judgment Day, you think your boss asks you tough questions. I try to remember that on Judgment Day, as a pastor I’m going to get some really tough questions. Take a moment and think, is God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit what we would think of as “risk averse”? No! Read the Bible! The Bible is a history of crazy stuff. People in the world look at the Bible and they say “this stuff is crazy, I could never buy into this”! But God says “my ways are not your ways” and He demonstrated that all through the Bible. Look at all the craziness, it starts with Genesis and goes right to the end. Who asks an 80 year old man, Abraham, to pick up and leave to go to a place hundreds of miles away that he’s never heard of. And then tells him, you are going to have a son and your descendants will be like the stars in the sky. Then waits another twenty years to make it happen. That’s just crazy talk!
Soren Kierkegaard was a Christian philosopher, in the 1800s, he began a movement called existentialism. Even in his time and up to now, he was considered to be a little crazy, but, in seminary we still study Kierkegaard. Listen to what he says about risk:
“Marry and you will regret it. Do not marry, and you will also regret it. Marry or do not marry, you will regret it either way. Laugh at the stupidities of the world and you will regret it; weep over them and you will also regret it… Whether you trust a girl or do not trust her, you will regret it either way. Hang yourself and you will regret it. Do not hang yourself and you will also regret it… This gentlemen is the quintessence of all the wisdom of life … My wisdom is easy to grasp, for I have only one maxim and even that is not a point of departure for me … My maxim is not a point of departure for me, because if I made it a point of departure, I would … regret it and if I did not make it a point of departure, I would also … regret it … The point is that I do not stop now, but I stopped when I began. My philosophy, therefore, has the advantageous characteristic of being brief and irrefutable.”1 The story of the Bible is a history of crazy stuff, of being “counter-cultural” in the time it was happening and now. In other words, God acting contrary to the expectations of man.
God sends His only begotten Son, the Son leaves the glories of heaven and chooses the humiliation of life in a gritty, nasty, time with equally gritty, nasty people. He has come not to scold them or chastise them, punish them, which He would have been perfectly justified and capable of doing. He doesn’t measure the risk, have extensive council meetings pouring over spread sheets, checking out the current conditions. He puts all of the “risk management” aside and in His sovereign plan decides: “I have compassion for these people, they have no other way to cope, they have put themselves outside of God’s sovereignty and have left themselves with no way to ever be saved. I have to take the risk of rejection, of ridicule, of being marginalized and I have to live the perfect life for them. That in itself would have been enough, but contrary to any rational plan He also decides: “I will be a sacrifice for My people, I will be the bridge to the Father, the answer to the question, ‘how does the sinful and unrighteous be reconciled to the completely, holy, righteous and sovereign Lord of all? I will endure suffering, torture and death to make the payment for their sins and be their Lord and their righteousness. Do I do that by telling them and demanding of them and making them pay their sin debt to me? No! I come to serve them and be their Savior.” Nuts right? Taking the risk that these people would be led to come to God, these people who reject God day after day to satisfy their own petty wants and jealousies.
It was strongly suggested by our Congregation President that I do a sermon on prayer. Well first, I want to make one of my principal bosses happy, right? Second, you don’t have to hit me over the head with no tire tool to get me to preach on prayer. I would like to think, by the grace of God, that I am all about prayer. Why would Mrs Hollinger think that preaching on prayer is necessary? Because her perception may be that not enough prayer is going on around here. We have a prayer room downstairs that, well I could throw a handgrenade in their anytime, and no one would get hurt. We have a prayer group attended by a mere handful. We have a prayer breakfast that, well, ditto. Most people don’t pray. Why? We are taking a risk. We are coming before the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of everything and hoping that we can lay before Him all of our wants and desires and He’s going to jump right on that and give us all that we want, like some genii in a bottle. Well maybe God won’t hear me. I can’t take that risk, I have to jump right in and take control, what I want has to happen, the way I want it to happen. Really? Maybe we haven’t checked lately and forgotten whose church this really is. But there’s another risk and oh I’m not sure I want this. Maybe God’s going to get all counter-cultural on me. Like He did with Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, Jeremiah, Paul on and on. This might be uncomfortable for me. People might ask you “what are you crazy people doing at that church?” Elijah’s an interesting guy, he was called the Prince of the Prophets, but if there’s a winner for craziest he would be it. When we pray, we have to pray in a way that is God pleasing, not man pleasing.
Do we want to be respected or loved? Machiavelli says respected. Why? Sebastian Marshall opines that to be loved is fickle, a feeling that we can turn off and on. Respected however, is more predictable and is externally based. In terms of the world we need to be respected in our faith in Christ, that is what matters now and forever. But our Savior says it is about love, for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for a Savior who would die for us. Paul was respected by the world, although he would have seemed a little crazy, but he was loved by his brothers and sisters. He took risks that led to a life that by our standards was hard, as did the Roman brothers that he wrote to in today’s lesson. He risked all for his Lord and it ended by him losing his head. But because of his faithful service, the Holy Spirit used him to bring millions to faith, to plant the church of Christ all across the empire. God risks all for His people, He did so through our Lord Jesus Christ. We, however, risk very little and in the end, we realize that it’s not really about the ‘risk’ we took. Why? Because it was the Father who was taking the risk on a people who are fickle, are more concerned about being loved and not about loving. It is about the faith that God gives us. Yes, there is risk, but in faith in God? No not really.
So let’s cut all the “risk management” blah-blah. We aren’t a corporation, we are the priests of the all mighty God. Priests who have been empowered for two thousand years to have only the faith of a mustard seed in order to move mountains, but spend way too much time worried to death that we might be crushed under that mountain. We aren’t called to be stupid, maybe, in the eyes of the world, we are called to be a little crazy and to be more concerned with what the Father’s plan is, then what our risk analysis tells us.
Take some time and really think about what Kierkegaard says, we may have regrets, but we don’t want those regrets to be that we were unfaithful to the Father when we could have been a little crazy to the world, a good and faithful servant to Him who saves us. Journal about it, do you have regrets? Maybe, but did you in the end do what was necessary to glorify God? Then the other regrets, they don’t matter.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

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