“Worthless or Servant?


September 01, 2013
Jeremiah 2:4-13 Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 Luke 14:1, 7-14

Will Rogers, the great American humorist, once described President Calvin Coolidge this way "He didn't do much, but that's what they wanted done." "The country wanted nothing done, and he done it." We laugh because more often than not, we would be happier if the folks in Washington stayed home and left us alone. But other than Washington and Columbus, most of the time we get more than a little annoyed when people don’t do what we expect them to do. We are disturbed when someone who is hired to do a job, does less than we expect them to do, or even worse, does nothing. President Harry Truman (as well as other presidents) railed against what he called a “Do-Nothing Congress.” President Herbert Hoover (among others) was accused of being a “Do-Nothing” President. It seems that one of the worst accusations that we can level against someone isn’t that they are not good at doing their job, or even that they are doing something that we don’t like, but that they aren’t doing anything. Interestingly, scripture has a similar view. The prophet Jeremiah says this (Jeremiah 2:4-13): Hear the word of the Lord, you descendants of Jacob, all you clans of Israel.
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This is what the Lord says:

“What fault did your ancestors find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. 6 They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and ravines, a land of drought and utter darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’ 7 I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. 8 The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.
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“Therefore I bring charges against you again,” declares the Lord. “And I will bring charges against your children’s children. 10 Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: 11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols. 12 Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord. 13 “My people have committed two sins:

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They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. God says that his people have abandoned him for worthless idols, gods who neither hear nor see, they do… nothing. The people forgot all the wonderful things that God had done for them and instead decided to leave him behind so that they could worship gods that they liked better, gods whose demands were fairer, or more lenient, or somehow more aligned with the lusts and the desires of the people. The problem is, we have never been called to align our gods with our desires but to align our desires with God. God declares that this represents two acts of sin, the first is abandoning God and the second is trying to create a new God for ourselves. The God of Abraham declares that when we try to create a god in our own image, we do not recreate, or copy the God of living water, but instead build broken cisterns that cannot hold water. Instead of following the God of fresh, clean and living water, we build dark underground, moldy caves that leak. Instead of keeping what is bright, wonderful, and life giving, we build something that is worthless, perhaps even less than worthless (if that’s possible). Instead, God calls his people to do, and to be, something different. Instead of turning our backs on God and attempting to recreate him in our image, God calls us to be conformed to scripture, to become more like Jesus, to be transformed into something new and wonderful, to act, not as dark, dreary, moldy, leaky cisterns, but to be conduits of God’s grace, rivers of life, filled with his mercy and overflowing with his love. Cisterns capture water and hold it where it can become stale, polluted, and leak into the ground, but rivers are conduits, they have nothing of their own except what they carry from the source and give to another. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way (Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16): Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
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Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
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So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
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Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

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Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Our lives are to be overflowing with love, hospitality, purity, morality, contentment, and confidence. Because our lives themselves become a continuous source of praise to God, we naturally become a conduit of the good that we can share with others. We cannot capture God; we cannot recreate him in our image. We cannot be a source of love and compassion and hope for others, until we are connected to the source of all good things. When we try to be the source of good things we become like leaky cisterns, but if we are connected to the true source of living water, then we become like rivers, filled to overflowing, not because we are the source, but because we are the conduit, the connection, to the true source. In Luke 14:1, 7-14, Jesus put it this way… One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.
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When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
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Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” I’ve said it before and here we see it again, the whole of scripture is all about the heart. Jesus says that when we are too proud to serve, we no longer have the heart of God. Jeremiah said the same thing, when we think so much of ourselves that we think we can reshape God in our image, our heart is lost. We see this all the time, how often do we see people of faith who are attempting to make scripture say what they think it should say, rather than believing what it really says? My personal feeling can be described this way, when we are interpreting difficult or controversial passages of scripture, often times there is a simple and a complex way of interpreting it. More often than not, the simplest way is correct. The harder you have to work to explain why the Bible doesn’t really say what it seems to be saying, the more likely you are to be wrong. God calls us to be conformed to scripture, to be transformed into his likeness, not to explain why God really supports all the things that we think he ought to support. Jesus talks about hosting a dinner or a luncheon and not inviting your friends or your relatives. This sort of thing was exactly what happened regularly under the Roman system of patronage. It was normal, and expected, for people to host lavish dinners so that they could invite their friends, relatives, rich neighbors

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and patrons. Patrons were people who were of a higher social and financial class than you were and who, because of their social class and connections, were able to do things for you, to introduce you to the right people, to allow you access to business people you would otherwise not have access to and to generally assist you in making a profit or moving up in society. In exchange for doing things for you, you were expected to do favors for your patron. It was the “Old Boy Network” in the extreme. But Jesus says that this is not the path that God chooses. Instead of trying to impress your friends, your boss and your rich neighbors, Jesus says that we should invite the poor, the homeless, the handicapped, and others who would otherwise never be invited to dinner. It is the spirit of servanthood that keeps us close to the will of God. When we become too proud to serve, we become useless to God, like moldy cisterns that cannot hold water. Our calling is not to transform God into our image and explain how God really does like all the things that we think he should, but to be transformed into the image of God. To wrestle with what scripture says and to change our lives so that we look the way God intends for us to look and believe what he intends for us to believe. We are not to be so proud that we cannot serve others, but we are to have the heart of God, so that we do not become leaky cisterns, but conduits, rivers of living water, carrying mercy, grace, love and compassion from the source of life itself, into the lives of the people around us, rich and poor, able and disabled, Republican and Democrat. We are to love as Jesus loved and remember that the savior of all came to serve. Let us pray that we would be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. May God, in his grace, give us the heart of a servant, so that we might never be accused of being… …a worthless, do-nothing Christian.

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You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at http://www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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