To begin this morning's message, I would like to read our Epistle Reading from two different versions. Sometimes we get so used to using a certain version that the words don't seem to hold as much meaning any more. So I will start with the more traditional NIV version:
EPISTLE READING - 1 Corinthians 4:10-20 (NIV)
"We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world”right up to this moment. I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have."
But now I would also like to read a contemporary version...
EPISTLE READING - 1 Corinthians 4:10-20 (The Message)
"We're the Messiah's misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we're mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don't have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living. When they call us names, we say, "God bless you." When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We're treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture's kitchen. And it's not getting any better. I'm not writing all this as a neighborhood scold just to make you feel rotten. I'm writing as a father to you, my children. I love you and want you to grow up well, not spoiled. There are a lot of people around who can't wait to tell you what you've done wrong, but there aren't many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God's Message to you that I became your father. I'm not, you know, asking you to do anything I'm not already doing myself. This is why I sent Timothy to you earlier. He is also my dear son, and true to the Master. He will refresh your memory on the instructions I regularly give all the churches on the way of Christ. I know there are some among you who are so full of themselves they never listen to anyone, let alone me. They don't think I'll ever show up in person. But I'll be there sooner than you think, God willing, and then we'll see if they're full of anything but hot air. God's Way is not a matter of mere talk; it's an empowered life."
April 17, 2016
I'm sure that many of you, like me, have often felt like misfits in this world. Not only was I an ugly duckling in school; it was even worse because I was also a book nerd with a high IQ, and had skipped first grade which made me younger than all my classmates. I played chess with adults, and read encyclopedias and the Bible instead of comic books. I did not fit in at all, and the only time most of my classmates even wanted to be around me was at test time. As an only child, I would spend much time alone, in my room, in the garden, or with four-legged friends. Even today, I still often find comfort in time spent alone running through the woods, gardening, or being with my cats and dog. Thankfully, the Lord blessed me with a wonderful, loving husband who understands me and loves me in spite of myself.
But it is often hard for the misfits and outcasts of society to survive, much less thrive in our culture. And yet, very often it is exactly the misfits, like me, that God calls into His service.
Remember our 1st Gospel Reading for this morning (Mark 3:13-19)? It is the selection of 12 men from the hundreds of followers of Jesus that He would take and train to change the world. What an odd lot they were, too! Let's start by taking a look at just two of those guys, Matthew and Simon the Zealot. Matthew was a tax collector. Simon was a tax protester. Matthew was a revenuer for the Romans. Simon was a rebel. Matthew was wealthy. Simon was a commoner. Matthew made his money overcharging people like Simon. Simon lived to eliminate people like Matthew. Talk about an odd couple. Even odder than Oscar Madison and Felix Unger (I'm sure most of you remember them from the show called "The Odd Couple - one a complete slob and the other a neat freak).
Each of the original disciples was unique in their own way, and Christians today are no different. Young, old, or in between; male or female; smart or not so smart, rich or poor, physically fit or handicapped, attractive or plain, none of this is of any importance to God. Whatever qualities you need for the calling He has for you, He will provide. There is absolutely no one that can say that there is no way that they can be of any use to God. If that were so, He never would have created you in the first place. You have just the right qualities for whatever it is that God needs you to do for Him. The problem is often that we want to do what He has called someone else to do, and not what He has called us to do. And so we feel like we are useless, or a misfit in God's kingdom, when this is hardly the case. Last Sunday the message was about listening for God's voice and His direction. If we would only be willing to listen, and then follow God's will for our lives, we would find the true happiness and a sense of fulfillment that is often so elusive.
Remember, God loves you just as you are. And He has a special plan for your life. It doesn't matter where you have been, or who you were before He called you. He will empower you and lift you up, give you a purpose and make you beautiful - for all true beauty and power and meaning is found in the spirit, not the flesh. Each of you is important to God, as well as to this church. You are always home here, part of the family.
So as you leave your home here this morning, please take these thoughts with you in the world. First of all, remember you are a child of the King. Be humble, but do not be self-loathing. There is a difference. And secondly, be kind to those the world has labeled as misfits. Just as Christ lifts you up, do likewise for them. Go out of your way to pay them a genuine compliment or offer a kind gesture. Not out of pity, but out of love. Jesus loves all those that the world deems unlovable - enough to die for them. Heaven will be filled with misfits and hell with those who hated them, so rejoice that you are one of the Messiah's misfits. God bless you! Amen.
THE CHILDREN'S MESSAGE WAS BASED ON THE ISLAND OF MISFIT TOYS FROM "RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER"