Sermon from Sunday, October 2, 2022
Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffenried
Scripture: Luke 17:5-10

Sermon Transcript

Our lesson this morning comes from the 17th chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Hear these words.

The Apostle said to the Lord, Increase our faith. The Lord replied, if you had faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you. Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, come here at once. Take your place at the table. Would you not rather say to him, prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink.  Later, you may eat and drink. Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So, you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say we are worthless slaves. We have done only what we ought to have done.

Friends, this is the Word of the Lord for the people of God thinks be to God. Amen.

We are award winners. Hang on. We are award winners. Award winners. This arrived in the church office mysteriously, about, oh, three or four months ago. the 2022 Ruston Daily Leader, Best of Lincoln Parish. Here we go. We won an award in the category Best Church Music. Wait a minute. There were three churches in the category, and we’re number two. Number two. First Baptist won it, and Temple and Trinity tied for second. Just because they didn’t want to tell us one of you are third. Now I’m going to hang on to this with great pride. I may get this framed. I mean, we got Mark Burns and the band, for heaven’s sakes. We’re better than tied for second. I was disappointed.

So, what the Ruston Daily Leader uses this for is to sell ad space or to encourage subscriptions. And people eat this stuff up. You probably voted for your favorite church. I want to know why some of you voted for First Baptist. You voted for your favorite daycare. You voted for your favorite insurance agency. You voted for your favorite whatever. And the Ruston Daily Leader, the whole town’s Going; We got them sign up for our newspaper. We do that in our culture.

October. Welcome to October. October is national; Catch all of these because I want you to participate in every one of these but one. It’s national. Adopt a shelter dog day month. Excuse me. It’s American Cheese Month. It’s American Pharmacists Month. It’s Applejack month. How come Apple Jacks gets its whole month? It’s breast cancer awareness. Smart Clergy Appreciation Month. Don’t you dare. Do not do that. We do this because we’re called. We don’t want a month for appreciation. It’s computer learning. Month, cookie month, domestic violence awareness month. Eat Country Ham Month. International drum month, National Diabetes Month, and to go with that one, it’s national Pizza Month, National Popcorn Popping Month, National Vegetarian Month. It’s sarcastic month and seafood month. Oh, I just found the sarcastic section. And next week so you can get a start on the week is get Organized week or customer service week. Today is National Custodial Workers Day, Name your car day. I want everybody out in the parking lot to name your car before you go home. World farm animals today and to help you for tomorrow, Tomorrow is national boyfriend Day, Techies Day and my absolute favorite, virus appreciation day. How do you do that? Thank you, Mr. COVID for coming to visit me. I appreciate it.

But that’s the culture in which we find ourselves. We just love to appreciate ourselves. And this will sell newspapers and advertising space because we want to know the favorite and the best. And we want to show appreciation to the favorite and the best. And for our children, we create gifted programs. We have a college advance placement program, college prep programs. We self-congratulate our kids so much that they could wallpaper their bedrooms with what they get sent home from school. National You were here day. And teachers are worried about the kid’s self-esteem. There, there, there, there, there. They’re so worried about self-esteem, two plus two does not equal four two plus two equals whatever your self-esteem says it equals. I don’t want to go on a bridge that some engineer that believes two plus two equals five has designed. We’ve got to affirm our children. We’ve got to love our children. And by loving and affirming our children, they’re suddenly going to be smart.

When I went to school a hundred years ago, my teachers had three pieces of educational equipment, a piece of chalk, an eraser and a paddle. Football coaches were advanced. They had four pieces of equipment, a piece of chalk, eraser, a paddle and a whistle. And that’s all they needed. They taught you, reading, writing, arithmetic. And your self-esteem was enhanced when you made good grades.  Your self Esteem was enhanced when you played a sport, when your team won. We didn’t start with the self-esteem and then acquire the capabilities and the talents we acquired, the capabilities and the talents, and that led to self-esteem. My suggestion is we have turned everything just upside down. And what we created with this self-congratulating behavior is we’re thinking ourselves to death, and we’ve created an entitled culture. An entitled culture.

You know what the starter job was when I was a teenager? McDonald’s. Great part time job because that’s what it was. It was a part time job. It was a part time job to get you through high school. It was a part time job to give you a little extra spending money. It was a part time job to keep you out of trouble. According to my mother, it was a part time job. But our culture now says I’m entitled to a living wage. at McDonald’s? Are you in management? Oh, Brother Doug. Oh, that hurts my feelings. And that’s what the entitlement culture has done to us. It’s all about our feelings. It’s not about what we think. We are thinking ourselves to death. And then we have the words of Jesus, which offended us because Jesus mentioned slaves and masters. He was using an illustration of the culture in which he ministered. He was using an illustration out of the reality of his day. Jesus never says that slavery is good. It just was. And so, we lose this story that Jesus told because we immediately step back from the whole imagery of slaves and masters, and we don’t hear it. But these words are important for us today. These words are important for us in the self-congratulating culture in which we live. And I’m going to drop down and I’m going to do two words in the text, because Jesus spoke a Semitic language, and that Semitic language was translated into Greek, which was translated into English. And we’ve lost some of the Semitic nature of what Jesus was saying.

So, Jesus said, which one of you having a slave who’s just come in from plowing or tending the sheep in the field says, come here and take your place and eat. And the answer to whenever Jesus asks who among you. The answer to that is always no one. No one’s going to say to their slave, Come sit down and let me serve you. Rather the servant is going to serve the master. Verse nine Do you Thank the slave for doing that which was commanded, do you say thank you to the slave for doing what the slave ought to have done? The unfortunate. Here’s one of the Semitic parts of that. That is, the Greek word thank, is the Greek word for grace. It’s not Eucharisto, though the usual verb to think. It’s charis. It’s the word that grace comes from.

And Jesus used this grace word in another place, and it sort of explains what he just said. It’s in the sixth chapter of Luke, the 32nd verse. Here These words: if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? There’s the Greek word, Chris, right there. What credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit – There’s the word again – What credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same and if you lend to those whom you have hope to receive, what Credit is that to you? Even sinners, lend to sinners and receive as much Again. But love your enemies, do good and lend expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the most high. For he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful as your father is merciful.

Jesus is setting the example. He’s showing us our role as children of God, that we are credited as servants. We are credited in doing that which the father has commanded us to do. Jesus in another Place told a story. He said, a man had two sons, and he said to the sons, go into the field. And one son said, yes, Father, I’m going into the field. And he did not go. And the second son said to the father, Sir, I’m not going, and later changed his mind. Jesus said, which of these two boys did the will of the Father? And they had to say the one that was obedient, the one that worked, the one that did what was commanded.

Commandments bother us. We don’t like to be told what to do. Jesus told us, love your neighbor. Love God, love your neighbor. He told us to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to pray for one another. He told us to forgive each other 70 times 7. There are things that Jesus told us to do. He told us to go into the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He told us, there are certain things you need to be doing and we don’t do them.

There’s a ritual. Some members of the Christian Church have adopted this ritual and made it a part of their worship life On Holy Week. we Methodist have not done this, but Jesus told us to do something that we’re not doing. Here it is. It’s in the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel. So, if I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I’ve set an example that you should do as I have done to you. Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one that sent them. If you know these things, you’re blessed If you do them. Jesus told us to wash each other’s feet. If I announced as part of the communion ritual this morning, we’re going to have a foot washing the worship space would clear there wouldn’t be anybody left in here. You’re going, you ain’t washing my feet new. No, no. But that’s not what Jesus commanded. He commanded not to receive foot washing, but to do foot washing. Jesus said, do it. It’s plain. Why aren’t we doing it? Well, Brother Doug, that’s culturally sensitive. And I have ugly toenails.

We don’t like being told what to do. So, which one of you Thanks a slave for doing what the slave ought to do. And the answer is we don’t do that. Our human models service is optional, appreciation is obligatory, service is optional, appreciation is obligatory. But in the Kingdom of God, in the Kingdom of Jesus, service is obligatory, and appreciation is optional.

So, the other word that I want to work on just a second with you is the unworthy slaves. We are worthless slaves. Some translations have it We are unworthy slaves. We have done only what we ought to have done. Now it’s really out. I don’t want to bore you. Too bad, but this is a Greek verb that’s got an alpha privative in front of it, and the alpha privative has changed the meaning of the verb. I worked all that and just to prove I’ve been to cemetery. But it’s true. It’s like, you know, some verbs, you put an A on it. It changes the meaning of the word. That’s what’s going on in this. It’s an alpha privative. It is better translated not as unworthy or as worthless, but the better translation is without need, without need. Works like this. You have a fantastic yard person. This fantastic yard person does your yard. Your fantastic yard person shapes your shrubbery, edges your driveway mows your yard, mulches, does everything in your yard, and just goes that’s a great yard job is done. You asked the lawn contractor; Do I owe you anything? And in Semitic culture, they say I am without need. It simply means it’s paid. I am without need.

Do you thank the slave do you credit the slave for doing what was commanded? So, you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say we are servants and slaves without need. We have done only that which needed to be done. We’ve done only what needed to be done. We don’t need to be congratulated. We don’t need to be thanked. The grace of God in Jesus Christ is sufficient. As a matter of fact, we did this because we’re responding to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

I walked into a church as the new senior pastor walked in the front door right under the bell tower in the front door, and immediately on the wall to my left was one of those, you’ve seen on one of those boards where you’ve got name, you’ve got a little plaque and it’s got a name or something, And there was a name for 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992. Had the name, had the date. Do you know what the title of the board was? Christian of the Year. Christian of the Year. And I got there in 2010 and I went, Wait a minute. What happened from 1992 to 2010? What happened? Well, it embarrassed some people that we were doing this and other people it offended that we were doing this. So well take the board down. We can’t do that. And Harriet gave the board in honor of her husband. Really? Is Harriet still here? No, she’s gone on. Take the board down. Oh, brother Doug it honored those people. Really? So, one Friday afternoon, church office was closed, the doors were locked, and the board disappeared. And I went through with my little screwdriver. Every Methodist preacher has a little screwdriver over because this church put plaques on everything. I mean, they put plaques on the doors coming in the worship space. Billy Bob Bubba’s Memorial Door given in honor of Billy Bob. popped them all off. Are you going to notice I, did it? And will you dare say anything that I did it? Did you need to be honored in church by having your name put on a door? I’ve been honored by one thing at a church and all these years of pastoring. Methodist Church is right now at the Blackwater United Methodist Church, right by Blackwater Bayou, where the sewage line had to be lifted to go over Blackwater by you, the church had to put in a sewer lift station. It’s the Doug de Graffenried honorary sewage lift station. it’s mine. the slaves had been credited. They were without need. They were serving because the master asked them to serve. There are some servants like that at Trinity. They visit nursing homes, and nobody knows about it. They make phone calls to church members, and nobody knows about it. They write cards and letters. They build ramps, they serve meals, they drive people to doctors’ appointments. They’re folks, they’re being light and salt. People are they’re not shining the light on them. They want to shine the light on Christ, and they want to show other people that they’re loved and remembered and cared for. And it’s when we’re salt and when we’re light and when we do it anonymously, and it’s when we do it as servants of God that we change our world. You see, we love the invitations. Jesus said, come unto me, all you who are labor heavy laden, and I will give you rest. And we love the invitation where Jesus invites us to the table. Come unto me, all ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins are in love and charity with your neighbor and intend to lead a new life following the commandments. God draw near with faith and take this Holy Sacrament to your comfort. We love that stuff. but with each invitation comes an obligation to faithfully follow Jesus Christ, to live as His children, to serve as He’s called us to serve, to do the things He’s called us to do.

So, I want you to remember that as an invite you to come to the altar. You’re invited to this table of grace, but you’re also invited out into the world to become salt and light for others who need to know about Christ.