Dramatic Proclamation: Why Church is Better than Baseball.

Matthew 11: 16-19; 25-30

The proclamation of God’s Word is central to the weekly worship of Christian communities. We hear the Word proclaimed in the readings, we all participate in the proclamation in song, and we also hear the Word proclaimed in the sermon, which is designed to help us better understand and apply God’s teaching in our lives.

Today's sermon will be presented in the form of a dramatic proclamation that was prepared by Vicar Serena for our community in her absence. It is our hope that this proclamation will help our community to live into the call of the gospel in our lives.

[The scene is two friends who run into each other unexpectedly]

Thom: “Sue, how nice to see you!”

Sue: “Hi, old friend! Nice to see you too. Say, I’m glad I ran into you. A buddy of mine just gave me two tickets to the Yankees game this Sunday. They’re great tickets right behind home plate, but he can’t use them. How would you like to go with me?” [Mimes swinging a bat]

T: “That sounds like fun, what time is the game?”

S: “Start time is just after 1:00, but I want to get there for batting practice. So, with driving into the city, and parking and everything we will need to leave early. I could pick you up around 10:00. What do you say?”

T: “Oh, what a shame. I would love to go, but I have church on Sunday morning and we don’t finish until 11:00. “I’m afraid I will have to take a pass this time.”

S: (shocked) “Church? You’re going to give up free tickets to prime seats just to go to church?”

T: (smiling and shrugging) “Well, yes! It’s important to me.”

S: (looking skeptical) “I don’t get it. I mean – no offence, but I don’t really get the whole church thing at all! I mean – you’re a good guy and all, but most of the Christians I know… they are all a bunch of sanctimonious hypocrites. Either they are super self-righteous and judgey about anyone who doesn’t make EXACTLY the same life choices they do, or even worse, they say one thing and do another. I can’t imagine WANTING to spend time with people like that, much less model my life on that faith. I mean… no offence!”

T: (laughing) “None taken. Actually, did you know that Jesus shared some of your frustrations with the religious people of his time?”

S: (skeptical/confused) “Come again?”

T: “It’s true. The gospel passage we will be hearing about in church on Sunday talks about some of the frustrations Jesus had with the people he was trying to teach about God. He compared his generation to children who complain no matter what happens. He talked about how they rejected John the Baptist because he lived a life of deprivation, and then they rejected Jesus because he feasted too much and spent time with sinners.”

S: (shaking her head) “You see. This is what I mean. You just can’t win with religious people; and they never judge themselves the way they judge other people.”

T: “But Jesus did not stop there; he said “wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” His point was that the people used their judgments as a way of avoiding the teachings of the prophets God had sent to guide them.

(Pause – Sue looks away, visibly uncomfortable, because this point has hit home.)

T: “But the thing is, that’s just deflection. Their judgments are not the measure of what is really true. Jesus proved himself, and the truth of his teachings, by the way he healed and helped people.”

S: “Yeah, I just don’t buy all that miracle stuff. I mean, it’s the 21st Century. We have science now. How can you still believe in ancient superstitions?”

T: “Actually, I don’t think that science and faith contradict each other. If we read the Bible as it was intended, instead of as a science text book, it doesn’t have to contradict scientific explanations of how the universe developed, or how rainbows are formed, or even what causes epilepsy and other conditions that might have been explained by demon possession in the first Century.”

S: “Glad to hear you say that. I was a little worried about your rationality.”

T: “I have no problem with rationality. I just know that it is not the answer to the deepest questions.”

S: “What do you mean?”

T: “Faith is so powerful for me because it tells the truth about how I can’t think my way to peace. Science can answer lots of questions about how the world works, but it can’t tell me why anything matters. If I try to rely on my own intellect and wisdom as the only source of truth, it turns me in on myself. It takes away my ability to trust in a God who is bigger than my own reasoning, and that’s isolating and lonely.”

S: “Lonely, hmmm. I never thought about it that way.”

T: “Jesus talked about how God has “hidden things from the wise and the intelligent and has revealed them to infants.” That doesn’t mean that you have to reject science, or turn your back on reason to have faith. It just means that you can’t reason your way to God. Reason leaves us in control, and faith is about TRUSTING in God the way that infants trust their parents. It’s about recognizing that God is the one reaching out to us. We get to know God because God decided to come to us through Jesus.”

S: “OK. I think I get what you mean about faith giving you something reason can’t. I can even see how it might be nice to trust in something bigger than myself… But I still don’t think I could live like a Christian. There are so many rules about what you can and can’t do!”

T: “I know that’s the way Christianity is often portrayed, but it’s really not accurate. Jesus said ‘come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’ Jesus saw the way that all the religious rules of his time were burdening people who really wanted to obey God, but who struggled to keep all the rules that the leaders heaped onto them. Jesus wanted to relieve them of that burden, and he modeled that by breaking pointless rules himself.”

S: “So, are you trying to tell me that Jesus was a rebel?”

T: “In a way, yes. Jesus ‘broke the rules’ all the time. He was always getting into trouble for doing things that the religious leaders said were wrong because that challenged their authority. In the end, they killed him for it.”

S: “So, what does that mean? Does it not matter what we do? Jesus was a rule-breaker, so anything goes?”

T: “Not exactly. Jesus didn’t break rules for no reason. He broke the rules that were hurting people, or that would have stopped him from helping them. He broke human rules in order to keep the greatest commandment: the commandment to love God and to love our neighbor.”

S: “Yeah. I think I’ve heard that one.”

T: “Well, at least some of our press is right” (both laugh). “Jesus talks about his burden being light. That means there is still work we have to do to follow Jesus; it’s not ‘anything goes.’ But it’s not a heavy burden. The work we have to do as Christians is to share the love we have already received, and that’s the best kind of work there is.”

S: “But what does that actually mean? ‘Love’ can mean lots of different things.”

T: “You’re right. It can mean all kinds of things. At our church, it means helping to feed people who are hungry – whether through our food pantry, or volunteering at the soup kitchen, or growing vegetables to share. It also means reaching out to our Islamic neighbors to let them know that we value them, and want them to feel safe and welcomed in our community. It means creating social opportunities for seniors, and building deep relationships with each other, and listening to each other when we disagree. Love includes all kinds of specific actions and relationships, but the central thing is that we do all this because we are yoked to Jesus.”

S: “What does it mean to be yoked?”

T: “A yoke is the bar that rest across the shoulders of a cow or oxen in the field. It connects two farm animals together so that they can pull the plow together. Jesus talks about his yoke being “easy.” In other words, when we are living out our faith as Christians, we are connected to Jesus who is doing the work along with us. Jesus helps me to love other people even when it would be hard on my own, or when I want to do other things with my time and resources.”

S: “Wow. I’ve never heard Christianity described that way. You make it sound… I don’t know. Appealing!... but I still don’t know. Having to miss the ball game to go to church?! I don’t think Jesus could make that ‘easy’ for me.”

T: “I don’t HAVE to miss the ballgame. No one would give me a hard time if I wasn’t there on Sunday, and God certainly wouldn’t reject me. No, it’s that I WANT to be there. I get something from church that is more precious than anything else I could do with that hour.”

S: “That must be pretty great.”

T: “It is.”

S: “I tell you what… I’m not gonna miss the Yankees on Sunday, but the next time they are on the road on a Sunday, maybe I could come with you to this church of yours and see for myself what’s so great about it?”

T: “You are welcome anytime.”

End Scene

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