Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Always Room for One More

Always Room for One More
Tony E Dillon-Hansen
14 May 2017

Sermon based upon Acts 15: 1-18

Will you pray with me?  Let God guide our senses, our hearts and our ears to receive the lesson given to us.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. You are indeed Our Rock and Our Fortress.

Well folks today we have another debate with our Pharisees,
but this time it’s the apostles rather than Jesus.
Also, thanks to all those who played the role of a mothering influence in someone’s life! 
I pray it has been and continues to be a positive experience.

I

Before we get into this debate, I would like to tell you a couple stories that might help to understand more about today’s lesson involving good women in my life.

My mother is middle child of 17. 
I want to share something about her,
but I want to share something about her mother first:
How we came to understand one of her well-worn quotations.

“There is always room for one more.”

You see,
from our young ages, we would go stay with Grandma and Grandpa at their farm for a spell. 
We would have to help around the farm:
fetching eggs from the chicken coop,
fetch milk from the dairy barn,
picking apples from the orchard, or
often get pulled into field work.
When we would do field work, Grandpa would take us for the day, but
Grandmother would be busy at home
filling the house full of wonderful smells of baking, canning and cleaning. 

You see,
they rarely had to go into town for anything
because they would grow and make everything they needed from the farm.
So, her day was usually busy with hard work as well with all this cooking and cleaning. 
At noontime, we come into the house from the field for lunch,
and you could smell the rich jams, cut garden vegetables, warm breads and often fried chicken for lunch. 
At the 3:00 hour, we would find her out at the end of the field with a pitcher of lemonade, along with some snack like some homemade pastry with those jams or juicy watermelon—
 The kind where you must flick your hand dry given so much juiciness!  mmm mm mmm.

We would get back later that evening of work to a table ready for supper.
We always say grace before the meal.
Yet, no matter how much food was on the table, how full the kitchen was, or the work involved,
a neighbor or another uncle might visit. 
It would not matter.
She, without question,
would quickly find another plate setting and invite them to supper. 
She would not turn someone away.
Despite having a big family and despite the limited supply,
she would remark “there is always room for one more.”

In Acts, we observe the beginning of the Church through the Apostles: thus, the Apostolic Church.
The Apostles are now the caretakers
put in charge of the work and mission that Jesus gave them.
God has literally fired up the Apostles to “encounter” and be among the people
Apostles have been busy baptizing and celebrating communion with more and more people.
The Apostles are travelling many paths to meet people where they are like:
North Africa, Ethiopia, Persia, throughout the Roman Empire, and beyond.
Thus, the message of Jesus is spreading and fast. 
You can almost hear God speaking, “there’s always room for one more.”

They witnessed, they believed and they felt the grace of Christ.

Then, we get to this text.
There are several things happening in this lesson today.
First, we have our familiar actors: the Pharisees and
They call a council with the Apostles in Jerusalem.
In this council, they again want to challenge the message professed by Jesus.
They want to question who can be included in God’s “plan” and salvation.
They think that they can win over the Apostles, since Jesus was not there to debate them.
What is clear --They want to exclude Gentiles
(Obviously, the Gentiles didn’t go through the work of being born from specific tribes.)
Essentially, they want to use tradition and symbols to excuse people from knowing God.
Unlike my grandmother,
they do not think there is room for one more.
They think this church is growing too fast.
They think it should not extend to communities outside of Israel.
It is like they think God cannot possibly be big enough for everyone.
Despite what Jesus has instructed,
What is clear, these religious elites simply do not want to share,

II

This brings me to a story involving my mother.
When Bret and I were considering wedding plans,
we had a particular day that we wanted and
looked at the calendar ahead of us.
We found one that also landed upon my parents’ anniversary.
Hold on here!
Before we made the date, we went to visit with my parents to talk about this. 
We did not want to be rude or overly presumptuous about their special day.
We wanted their permission to share the day
and my mother remarks,
“You would be making our day even better!! “

These stories of sharing contrast with what the Pharisees want.
It seems that these religious leaders
could have taken lessons from the two great women in my life.

In our story, the Apostles are not fooled, or tricked to give in;
Likely there were some good women involved here too!
Instead, they profess their faith even stronger
that through the grace of Jesus --
No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey,
all are welcome to a relationship with God.

The Apostles want to share the experience of God with anyone willing.

III

Again, despite what Jesus teaches and when you really ponder this,
the Pharisees’ desire to exclude makes God seem “small.” 
Maybe, some people do not want to share the graces and hope;
Like keeping God in a box tucked away except for special occasions.
Why deny what we are clearly called to do?

The Apostles, just like great mothers, remind us that
sharing is part of the peace and grace of Christ,
that peace and grace is for everyone, and
everyone is welcome.
The Church is as big as God is.
There are no litmus tests like
whether you wear shoes,
if you speak English,
if you wear a headdress,
if you have tattoos,
if you have education,
or if your home is in the right neighborhood.
Grace is given->
when you walk with Christ.

Jesus is here among us today and we are challenged to make room.
We are tasked to be bear witness to the truth of Christ.
We are challenged to share what little we have.
We are reminded that we have so much!

There are no exceptions to the mission of compassion, only invitations.
The grace of God is for those who seek and desire wholeness of life.
Through this divine mission, we are given that grace;
Through the mission, we are to share that grace
That is core to our faith!

We extend that grace when we share
We extend that grace when we have compassion and hope
We extend that grace when we welcome
We extend that grace when we are love
We extend that grace when we open our arms and hug life.

We can live and share these moments of grace.
Yes, Christ came to fill all our hearts with hope and compassion.

Whose day can you be making better?

Is there room for one more in your life?

Let that grace fill you today and share it with everyone around you!

Let us rejoice and be glad!


Thanks Be to God! 


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