The Sunday Sermon: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – July 21, 2019
Here’s My Heart: Reflections from Triennium 2109
Well, it happened again … you’re going to hear a bit about it so the Spirit of God may move in you as it did in me, in us, this past week. You see, last week five thousand youth and a couple hundred adults fortunate enough to be with them had the Sprit move among, in, and through us at this year’s Youth Triennium Conference at Purdue University. Almost all the groups that go to Triennium find themselves in Delegations, not just congregations. Our Delegation was Mid-Kentucky Presbytery and we had twenty-two youth and four adults who made it up. I joined Annie, Gabe, Nick Metry, Ethan, MacKenna, and Emma from our congregation and we were with Lauren, Katie, Miriam, Wendy, Abbi L., Sharon, Abby S., Lydia, Kaylee, Robyn, Tom, Jake, Nick Mo, Jonathan, Paul, Henry, Nathan, Doodle, and Heather – Youth and adult leaders from five other congregations.
Very briefly, Youth Triennium is a PCUSA thing that happens every three years, brining together youth from around the world, but mostly from across the United States for Mission work, recreation, small group discussions, fun, fellowship, worship, and discernment. Beginning on Tuesday afternoon and ending on Saturday morning, our youth spent most of last week with youth from Alaska and Hawaii, the West coast, the East coast, the Southern borders and the northern ones, and everywhere in-between. Each Conference has a theme. This year’s was Here’s my Heart.
Pray with me …
Very much like Montreat a little over a month ago, each day at Triennium had a theme and scripture verses that helped explore that theme in story, sermon, song, and prayer. The daily themes began on Tuesday with “Tune My Heart,” then on Wednesday “Jesus Sought Me,” Thursday “Prone to Wander,” Friday “ Here’s my Heart,” and ended on Saturday morning with “Take and Seal It.”
There is a song, a hymn, whose lyrics included every theme of the week. It’s a very familiar song. I wonder if any of you heard it in my reading of the daily themes. Anyone? I though maybe Thursday’s “prone to wander” or Saturday’s “take and seal it” might give it away. Anyone?
Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing God’s grace …
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God …
Prone to Wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love …
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.
That’s a mixing of the verses, but the hymn, the song, is Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. It’s our sermon, or second, hymn that we’ll be singing not too long from now. We sang that song a lot this past week, in traditional ways and not-so-traditional ways. And we picked apart those choice lyrics beginning with a reading on Tuesday of Psalm 100. Listen for the Word of God … Read Psalm 100. The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
We talked about this particular psalm as it describes a person whose heart is “in tune” with God. Someone who is joyful, full of joy, making a joyful noise; who is glad and is singing; who knows that the Lord is God and that she – he, we – are and will be cared for; one who is thankful and full of praise; and perhaps most of all, who knows that they are loved and cherished and will be forever. It’s in this place of certainty, not certain of exactly what we should do or exactly how to do it, but certain that we are not alone and that love surrounds us, that our hearts are most fully “tuned” to the full life and wasteful love that we call God. With this reminder, we moved into the “real world” and our lived experiences.
On Wednesday, the story of wee Zaccheus provided the scripture for how “Jesus seeks us” – just as we are, not necessarily “in tune” with God. Zaccheus, you’ll recall, was a tax collector, and not just any tax collector, but the “chief” tax collector and, says Luke 19:2, he “was rich.” Even the youth at this conference knew that a description such as this in the Gospels of our bible is “not so subtle code” for someone who was not a Godly person, not a popular person with those who were responding to the teachings of Jesus, not someone who was likely to be invited to the parties of anyone not rich themselves. Zaccheus, however, does something most of the rich weren’t doing, and almost certainly none of the other Chief tax collectors were doing – he was seeking Jesus. And so, Jesus, love itself, found him. It’s not our perfection that makes us faithful, it’s our perseverance. We will be found by the Love that is seeking us. How will we respond?
On Thursday we read the whole fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke to help us better understand how we’re all “prone to wander.” Luke 15 contains three parables. The first is about a lost sheep, the second about a lost coin, and the third about a lost child. The sheep and the prodigal son wandered off with “minds of their own,” meek as a sheep’s mind may be. (No offense to any sheep lovers out there!) But we had a beautiful conversation in our Delegation group about why a “coin” should be blamed for getting lost, finally considering that maybe we’re not supposed to identify with the lost coin in this parable, but with the woman who lost it! How do we, too, lose those things entrusted to us and how happy we should be when we find them, or remember them again. How are we “prone to wander” and what does it fee like to be lost and found?
On Friday, the parable about Jesus, not from Jesus but about Jesus, in Matthew, chapter 14 walking on the water served to help us better understand how we might offer our own hearts. Look it up for the whole story, but you may recall that Jesus told the disciples to get in a boat and head out on the water, away from the crowds. He then went up a mountain to pray. A storm rises up and the boat is tossed about on a stormy sea. When the disciples call for Jesus, he walks on the water to get them. When he gets close he calls out “take heart,” and as Peter offers him his heart, Jesus tells Peter to come to out with him … on the water … to do the seemingly impossible.
Now, believe whatever you want about whether this story actually happened. But ask yourself what it means! Maybe, just maybe, if we really listen to, follow, and “give our hearts” to the Way of God in Jesus of Nazareth we will be able to do things we never imagined … maybe, if only for a moment or two, we will be able to “walk on water,” too, faltering as Peter did, but persevering again. It’s not simply about what Jesus did. It’s about what we could do if we’d only say, “Here’s my heart, Lord.”
And on Saturday, we read from the Book of Acts, Luke’s “second volume” that chronicles the birth of the early church to discover how God takes and seals our hearts for the work of the church. Listen again for the Word of God.
Read Acts 1:6-11. The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Our preacher yesterday morning was supposed to be our denomination’s chief executive, Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson. We were disappointed when we were told that he was unable to be with due to a death in the family and a personal injury. Instead, the Reverend Doctor CC Armstrong. Now, J Herbert is a dynamic preacher, but it’s hard to imagine anyone with a better message more beautifully delivered than CC. After that scripture reading was shared, Reverend Armstrong noted that Jesus’ whole Gospel message could faithfully boiled down to two word. Two words … Anyone?
In the beginning of the Gospels Jesus says, “Come.” To the disciples, “Come, and follow me.” To the people in the towns to which he traveled, “Come, and listen to this.” To the religious authorities, in fact to all of us, “Come, and repent of your ways.” And in the end of the Gospels he says, “Go.” The Great Commission in Matthew 28, is the most well known “sending.” Reverend Armstrong noted that all the other action words in that Commission have “directions.” Jesus says, “Make … disciples. Baptize … in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach … them to obey what I have commanded you. And, remember (remembering is an action), remember … I am with you to the end of the age. But the first action word, Go, has no direction. Go where? “I don’t know, just … go.” She told us it was time to go.
She came back to the passage from Acts we just read. If the Matthew passage leaves us unclear as to “where” we’re supposed to go, this passage, she said, gives us a map. “You will be my witnesses,” Jesus said, “in Jerusalem” – in other words back at home – “in all Judea” – Judea was the ‘hood, the neighborhood – “in Samaria” – Samaria was the beyond the neighborhood, the places we think the “others” are. But our “going” doesn’t stop there. We are to go “to the ends of the earth” with the Good News of God’s love and with the messages we received last week.
Reverend Armstrong got a standing ovation from five thousand youth and few hundred adult leaders. She came back out for the Benediction and asked us what the Holy Spirit dressed in white robes in the Acts’ passage asked the first disciples. ”Why are you standing here looking up to heaven?” Jesus did what he came to do. He’ll come again, but meanwhile … meanwhile … “It’s time for you to go.” And so we went. We’re back. Back in our neighborhoods different people than when we left.
So that’s fun, little “sermonettes” on four or five days of themes and scripture readings. As I mentioned when I began, this is the second time I’ve done that this summer – the Sunday after Montreat and the Sunday after Triennium, both youth events, youth conferences. But I hope that all of you heard the first and hear this one as more than just “recaps” of what others did on their summer vacations. I guarantee the youth of last week don’t just hear them that way. Time will tell how much and how well we will share the messages of “tuning our hearts to God, being lost and found, and being sealed and sent.”
I don’t know how they’ll remember the words or the lessons or the sermons they heard when they’re fifty-three, like me, but they will remember that it happened, that five thousand youth from around the country and the world gathered and talked about God in ways that mattered to them and all they’re going through; that they were part of something bigger than their own lives, or their own church, or their own state; that they were loved by something that doesn’t care what their “selfies” look like, or how many “likes” they have, or how funny their posts are. And these themes, these scripture readings, and these sermon messages are for you, too. Maybe they’re even more for you and I because we don’t put together retreats like this for us old people. Not quite like this.
We need to learn again what they now know. When we tune our hearts to God, seek the Way of our Christ and know that we are being sought; when we know we are prone to wandering but offer our hearts to God anyway, then we realize that our hearts are sealed by a Love that doesn’t count the cost and that will never leave us. And when all that happens, we are free to be all we were created to be. We need to re-learn all they learned again last week and all you heard again this morning. And we need to hear it from all the voices who are a part of this community.
We are preparing to explore all those things and more right here at home. Who are we to our neighbors? How are we to our neighbors? And how can we best share who and what we already have with one another, with our community, and with the world. We have empowered our youth this summer through two profound experiences – Montreat and Triennium. But that’s just the beginning. We have to provide the space for them, for all of us, to show up in new ways, to reach out in new ways. With all endings come new beginnings. Let’s keep dreaming together.
Come thou fount of every blessing, tune our hearts to sing your grace.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / July 21, 2019