What Will It Take?

 I Kings 17:17-24 

The title of my sermon is "What will it take?" That's a familiar phrase used in many different ways. For instance one might hear, "What will it take to make you change your mind?" or "What will it take to get you to clean up your room?" or "What will it take to make you improve your grades in school?" or "What will it take to make you believe me?"

And that's the phrase, that last one, that I'm talking about. Jesus tells a parable in the 16th Gospel of Luke about a poor man, Lazarus. It's a powerful story. Lazarus is a beggar, covered with sores and sits at the gate of a rich man hoping to even eat the scraps from the man's table. Lazarus dies and goes to heaven and this other fellow goes to hell. He sees father Abraham in heaven along with Lazarus and he begs that Abraham send Lazarus to wet the tip of his finger and cool his tongue since he was in torment. But he's denied that. Then he asks if at least Abraham will send Lazarus to warn his brothers that they need to straighten up or else they will bear the same fate as he has. But the reply is, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them." The man continues to plead, "But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent." And this is the line that I love: Abraham says to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even is someone rises from the dead."

What will it take for us, or our community or country or world to truly trust and believe in Jesus' teachings enough to obey them? Jesus rose from the dead-not just temporarily, but for ever, for good. If somebody can do THAT then you would think that folks would believe what he taught and what he said and what he promised. Yet, there are still lots of folks who don't believe what he taught the people of this world-and it was for our own good! And that includes lots of us in this country, well, even right here in this church or other churches. We still haven't learned that what he taught us WORKS if we trust him, if we really follow what he said that we should do-not just because he, Jesus, said to do it, like some authoritarian. NO, but because what he told us was for our own good; he told us over and over. Yet, we still haven't caught on.

He has already proved to us that what he said was true. How much more proof do we need than to have him rise from the dead? Surely if he can accomplish that, then what he said, what he taught, what he did in terms of miracles are true.

We have two stories in scripture today relating to someone being raised from the dead. In both of them, one Elijah, one Jesus, it takes raising someone from the dead in order for folks to believe. It was only because they SAW it that they believed.

In the Epistle reading, Paul refers to, but doesn't tell, the story recorded in Acts about his conversion-it took a thunderbolt and voice from heaven knocking him to the ground and making him blind in order for him to turn his life around and stop persecuting Christians and become an advocate for The Way.

What will it take? What will it take for us today to really trust God? Do we have to SEE someone raised from the dead? Do we need to be knocked to the ground and blinded in order to totally trust God?

Our country commits one crime after another against nature, God's creation. We are sadly paying the price, yet we continue to repeat the same behavior. The confirmation class recommended that we get with it as Christ's church to be responsible in our use of God's resources. The council is putting together a policy on what we should purchase and use and what we should not-especially things like STYROFOAM which has been, for YEARS, known to be a horrible substance that never breaks down to become part of the earth again when we throw it into the trash. We bury it, and it never breaks down. Never. When will we people of the earth learn? The same is true of the plastic plates and plastic tableware and cups. Almost all of them aren't recyclable. They just use up God's resources and they are never a renewable source.

We are created in God's image. That does NOT mean we look like God. We would hope God doesn't look like this....pointing to myself.....We aren't created to LOOK like God. No. Just as God is our caretaker, we were created in God's image to be caretakers of the earth, God's creation and all that is in it, and caretakers of each other. What have we learned? We repeat the same mistakes over and over. Looking at the environmental mess and global warming I'd say we haven't learned much. And look at how folks care for each other? Abuse, verbal and physical, molestation, murder. That's not care-taking.

Why don't we trust God enough to actually believe what Jesus taught us to the point of actually implementing the things he taught us in our lives? What will it take for us to tell other people of how God has been active in our lives? We're very aware of it, but we don't share it. We share it only if we feel safe and are certain we won't be ridiculed or made fun of or labeled a 'religious freak.' That's not the kind of Christian that's a follower of Jesus, a follower of 'The Way.'

What will it take for us to raise from the dead the part of our spirits that have lost touch with the joy of being a Christian? What will it take for us to work for the Lord through his church on earth? And not in the way of the world, trying to force the church into a 'business' model, but believing that if we do what Jesus taught, which is a new way of thinking which is spiritual, THAT will change the world. But FIRST it will change US, you and me. What will it take for us to let go and let God?

What will it take to rejoice in the children and youth of our church enough to step up and work with them and be an example for them and lead them? Some folk wonder why the youth leave and yet, what's the example the youth have from their parents or from others in the church? Are they here? Are they here regularly? Do they give any of their time to the church, Christ's church? The Bible teaches that all that we have-our time, our talent, our treasure-is from God. But there are a lot of folks who don't believe they need to share any of that.

What do the folks who seldom come see about folks who DO come to worship or volunteer at the church? Do they see those attending as happy in what they do for the church, or do they see them complaining that they are stuck with doing it because no one else will? Or even worse do they see those folks who do things for the church lauding it over others?

What will it take? What will be the wake up call? Some people push and push themselves until something happens to them physically and then they wonder why God is doing that to them. Yet, God keeps telling all of us over and over to let go, let God, let up, let loose, but we don't always listen.

What will it take for us to get the message that we need to take care of ourselves, so that what we do for OTHERS is healthy and beneficial.

We should do good things for other folks, but ALWAYS so that God is the one who gets the credit, not us. Someone once said, "It's surprising how much gets done when no one cares who gets the credit." We are given the privilege and opportunity to use our God-given talents and we do it for Christ and through Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit. We, of ourselves, can do nothing. Yet there are countless folks in churches who think they deserve the credit and forget that it's God who should get the credit.

So, what will it take? We all face our individual challenges. We all are children of God, loved equally. We all have our special and individual talents and gifts that God has given us to use, no matter what season of life we are in.

So, what will it take for each of us to absolutely follow Jesus? To absolutely trust? To absolutely believe that God's ways of living our lives are better than the ways that the world teaches us? That what Jesus taught us was for our own good, not just to make us behave or follow some rule?

What will it take? Jesus has already risen from the dead. So what else is there that can really astound us enough to make us trust and believe and obey what is good for us and is for our benefit? And for us to happily and willingly, at every opportunity, SHARE with others, who aren't aware of the love of Christ pouring out on them, just how we ourselves have experienced that love in our lives?

What will it take? Jesus showing up in person? Walking through the door here in person? The voice of God the Father calling out from the bell tower? The Holy Spirit swooping down and around the sanctuary in the form of a dove? You tell me. Do we have to be 'knocked to the ground' and blinded to the teachings of the world in order for us to totally "see" and trust in what Jesus taught us?

You tell me what it will take to make us recognize that Christ IS here present in each one of us asking us to reach out to each other and to others beyond these doors; to reach out to the Christ within others, just as they reach out to the Christ in each of us. What will it take to make us realize that we have been given incredible power through the Holy Spirit to accomplish 'even greater things' than Jesus did? He told us that in the Gospel of John. What will it take to believe that, and thereby USE that power to benefit others, and not to try to use that power against others by trying to control the lives of others? What will it take for us as a church, as a people gathered in Christ's name, to be a spiritual force in the community, to be a spiritual resource to the community and to each other? What will it take for us to shape up our lives and think spiritually FIRST? (Seek first the kingdom of God and everything else falls in place-the kingdom of God to seek is within you, and it's a new, SPIRITUAL way of thinking.)

What will it take? You tell me. I've been telling you for 5 years what I think the Bible tells us it will take for us to individually to trust God. It's YOUR turn to tell me what it will take in YOUR life. I've given enough suggestions over 5 years.

What will it take?


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