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Monday, June 19 2017

Randy Milleville

Matthew 9:35-10:8; II Corinthians 5:14-21

          Sometime in the last 12 months I watched a move called “The Martian.”  Anybody here see that?  It starred Matt Damon.  It’s the story of a scientist who traveled to Mars on a mission.  He was a part of a team that was there to make scientific studies, and to see what it would be like for humans to live on Mars. 

          Due to an unfortunate turn of events, Damon’s character gets stranded on Mars, while the rest of the crew reluctantly returns to earth without him.  Without giving too much of the movie away, let me say that the movie focuses on what Damon’s character has to do in order to survive on his own with limited food and other resources.  There is also a rescue effort involved.  And, well, if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll just have to watch it yourself to find out if there is a happy ending or not.

          In many ways, I found “The Martian” fascinating.  It is a movie well worth watching.  But I couldn’t help thinking, “Who in their right mind would ever want to travel to Mars in the first place?”  Anybody here interested in traveling to Mars someday?  I didn’t think so.

          And yet, I know that there are plans – both private and public – to send a manned mission to Mars in the not so distant future.  At one time I remember hearing that any current plans to go to Mars would be a one way trip only.  No intention of ever coming back. 

          So I did a little research, and what I discovered is that there is an outfit called “Mars One,” that hopes to put four people on Mars by 2030.  New crews would join them every two years. 

          Again, would any of you sign up for that?  I know I wouldn’t.  Even if I could be promised that I could catch a ride back to earth – you know – on the next available shuttle.  I would not want to go to Mars for any reason. 

          Under these conditions, you would think it would be challenging to find people to sign on for this adventure.  But here’s what I found.  200,000 people applied – to boldly go where no one has gone before!

          200,000 people! So far, they’ve been able to whittle that number down to 100 applicants.  Wow!  But just imagine what it must be like to sign up for a mission from which there is no return.  Anybody interested?

          May I suggest to you that that’s the kind of deal Jesus is offering us today?  A one way mission from which there is not return.  But with one big difference.  The Mars mission is asking people to leave the world.  Jesus is calling us to go into the world.  For the sake of the world.  For the purpose of bringing the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ to a world that is hurting – that is desperately in need of something new.  Something different.  Something better.

          A Mars mission means leaving everything behind – never to return again.  The mission Jesus calls us to means leaving our old way of life behind – our old values – our old self-centered way of looking at things – and finding a new direction – a new purpose – a new way of life altogether different from what we used to be.

          Does that make sense?  Leaving the old way of life behind, to take up a new way of life with Jesus Christ? 

          What I’m talking about is personal transformation.  You know – as the Bible tells us – “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation.  The old has past, the new has come.”   II Corinthians 5:17.  But that’s what we are.  As followers – as disciples of Jesus Christ – we are a new creation!  The old has past.  The new has come.  Or as my favorite Scripture passage, Galatians 2:20 says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.  And the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave his life for me.”  In Jesus Christ – we are changed.

          Now I know that for some, change does not come easily.  Some of you have even told me that you don’t like change.  And yet, change is all around us.  Every day you see it on the news, or read about it in the newspaper.  SO we have a choice.  We can either resist change, and grumble about it, and quite frankly be miserable.  Or we can move forward and live into the change that affects our life and our way of living. 

          That’s not to say that all change is good.  It isn’t.  And I suspect that when people say they don’t like change, this is the kind of change they are talking about.  But there is good change.  How many of you remember a time when garage door openers did not exist?  Yeah.  Remember having to get out of your car in the pouring rain to open that heavy garage door?  Or in the winter in the middle of snow storm?  Garage door operners.  Aren’t they a good change?

Or how about this key fob.  How many of you remember a time when these things did not exist?  I remember the first time I saw one of these.  It was used to open the trunk on a Cadillac.  I had never seen one before.  Didn’t even know they existed.  And I thought, “Oh.  Fancy Shmancy!”  Now – they’re standard issue on any car you want to buy.  I think this is a good thing.  Don’t you? 

          Listen!  When Jesus comes into a life, that life is changed.  I think that’s a good thing.  Don’t you?

          Let me read to you an article from a group called “Lead Like Jesus.”  Listen to what this group has to say about change.

“You may have heard it said that the gospel is about change. From the beginning of time until today, God has been in the business of change. He changed the chaos and darkness of Genesis into the light, land, and seas. He changed water into wine. He changes the times and seasons and He changes you and me. From the moment of birth to new birth and through the passing into the heavenly realms, life is about change.

“Sometimes, we handle change well if it's not too disruptive; other times we balk, scream and cry. Change is evident, at this time of year, as teens graduate from high school and make plans for college or work; young adults consider marriage proposals and make choices. We've enjoyed the seasons as they change from the cold winter to the warmer spring and early summer warmth. The flowers and plants seem to know that it's time to burst forth in a great variety of color. Change, it seems, is everywhere.

“The psalmist writes that God who is all wise and full of power is the One who initiates change. In what ways do you see your life changing? How would you describe your thoughts and feelings? How will you embrace the change when you acknowledge that the all wise and powerful God has initiated it? Change will always be with us. Does your perspective need to change?”[i]

          You – my friend – you’ve been changed.  If you are in Christ, you are a new creation.  The old person that was you has died, and now in Christ you are a new – what?  That’s right.  Creation.   This is the impact that the Good News message of Jesus Christ brings to all who believe this Good News. 

          And that’s why Jesus sends his disciples out in our Gospel lesson today.  To bring this life changing Good News message of Jesus Christ to others.   As new creations in Christ, that is our job too.  Yes?

Jesus tells us today that the harvest is ready, but the workers in the fields are few.  Changed people – people like you and me – share that Good News message.  With friends.  With family.  With neighbors.  With people who already believe.  Changed people – change people.  Changed lives change lives.  It’s a fast-changing world, but the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ remains the same.  What people need to hear is that God loves them.  That God loves them just the way they are, but that He loves them too much to let them stay that way.  And that’s why we need the Gospel.  SO that the Good News message of Jesus Christ changes us from the inside out.  

Just think about your own life.  How has the Good News of Jesus Christ had an impact on your life?  Since you began your walk with Jesus, how have you grown?  How have you changed?  How have you developed?  In what area of your life is the Holy Spirit at work right now to make you all that God wants you to be?  By the way, it’s a constant process – this change thing.

And – it’s a one-way trip.  Just like the planned journey to Mars is going to be a one-way trip, the journey with Jesus is a one-way trip!  Once we’re on the road with Jesus – with all of the change and transformation that he brings – there is no going back to the old way of life.  No turning back.

          And one last thing.  Just as we – the disciples of Jesus Christ – are being made into new creations through change – so too, churches go through change as well.  In a few weeks, we will say Goodbye to Pastor Becca.  You’ve all heard that news by now.  She will be leaving this place to go to United Lutheran Seminary on the campus at Gettysburg, PA.  As the Associate Director of Admissions, she will be recruiting men and women to the seminary for training as pastors and leaders in the church.  Kind of like what Jesus did when he called disciples to follow him – called them – trained them – and sent them out.  Pastor Becca will play an important role in making that happen.  In the name of Jesus – and for the sake of Christ’s church.  So – our loss is the seminary’s gain.  Our loss is the wider church’s gain.

          It is my hope, that as we release Pastor Becca into this new calling, that she will take a part of us with her.  Because we certainly will think back on these last two years with fondness, delight, and thanksgiving – and realize the important role she has played in our own change and transformation – as she brought to us the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ in her preaching and teaching. 

          She still has a few weeks left with us, so it isn’t quite time to say goodbye yet.  But we do want to thank you, Pastor Becca, for your ministry among us. 

          May the Lord be with you, as you go on your way.  Amen 


[i] The Gospel is About Change – Lead Like Jesus Newsletter June 2013

Posted by: Randy Milleville AT 01:45 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email

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Zion Lutheran Church
9535 Clarence Center Road

PO Box 235
Clarence Center, NY 14032
Phone: 716-741-2656

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