“Think Global; Shop Local”

Ps. 116:7-19 (MSG); Mt. 10:1, 5-8 (MSG)
South Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship of Faith – June 18, 2017
Volunteer Recognition & Father’s Day
The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift

 Psalm 116:7-19 (MSG)   (responsive)

I said to myself, “Relax and rest. God has showered you with blessings.
Soul, you’ve been rescued from death; Eye, you’ve been rescued from
tears;
And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling.”

I’m striding in the presence of God, alive in the land of the living!
I stayed faithful, though bedeviled, and despite a ton of bad luck,
Despite giving up on the human race, saying, “They’re all liars and cheats.”

12-19 What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God! I’ll pray in the name of God;
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, and I’ll do it together with his people.
When they arrive at the gates of death, God welcomes those who love him.
Oh, God, here I am, your servant, your faithful servant: set me free for your service!
I’m ready to offer the thanksgiving sacrifice and pray in the name of God.
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, and I’ll do it in company with his people,
In the place of worship, in God’s house, in Jerusalem, God’s city. Hallelujah!

Mt. 10:1, 5-8 (MSG) 

The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives. Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:
“Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.”

 

Do you ever find yourself either so busy or so stressed that you just have to operate on kind of an automatic pilot? I do. And I confess that I’ve been in one of those places lately, what with relocating our offices, dealing with the shifting Acts of Faith at this time of the year when some start up and others end.

But the nice thing is that when you spend the REST of your life trying to be connected to God – whether you’re always successful or not – then God IS the automatic pilot and you can sort of trust HOW things are going even if you don’t know WHERE they’re going.

Autopilot doesn’t just kick in when things are hard or traumatic … it can take over when things are great and ecstatic, too. It’s just when things are too BIG for us. When changes come at such a fast CLIP that we just can’t keep up. And it’s a comfort to remember that they’re NEVER too big or too fast for God.

 

So as I was showing one of my colleagues around our new offices this week, we got to talking about this automatic pilot thing. I told her how I’m feeling a little TORN … of two minds, if you will … because while I’m trying to focus right HERE on getting books put away and remembering where I put my stash of BREAKFAST tea, I’m ALSO thinking about conversations I’ve had where some people are thinking about NEW Acts of Faith.

And when I shared that feeling of being pulled in two very different directions – one VERY small (where’s my tea cup?) and one with LARGER implications (like how do we start up another new program?) she stopped walking and looked me in the face and said, “But that’s the THING about you. You can look at the micro and the macro at the SAME time. You hold both of them in tension and let one inform the other.”

I know I just stood there and I must’ve looked a little confused because then she said, “You don’t get it, do you?”  And I continued to stand there. “Not everybody DOES that. I can’t,” she said – which totally surprised me. I figured she could do EVERYTHING. “I have to look at one or the other, but YOU are always thinking about how the big effects the little and how the little effects the big … all at the same time.”

I have to admit she was RIGHT … I DID think everybody looked at life that way. And then she started walking and threw back at me, “That’s why God called YOU to do this ministry and not me.”

Well … THAT was humbling.

So then when I went back and looked at the Scripture again.

“Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers.

 

And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy.

 

Go to the lost, confused people right HERE in the neighborhood. Tell THEM that the kingdom is here.

 

Bring health to the sick.

Raise the dead.

Touch the untouchables.

Kick out the demons.

You have been TREATED generously, so LIVE generously.

I read and RE-read that passage. And sometimes God speaks to me through bumper stickers and billboards.

This was one of those times because as I was driving home from that encounter … thinking about the scripture at the same time … I got behind a car with a bumper sticker that said, “Think Global; Shop Local.”

That’s IT.

That’s what Jesus was talking about.

Keep your eye on God (that’s the global part) but put it in action in your own neighborhood – right AROUND you (that’s the LOCAL part).

So many of us get it backwards, I think.

We think LOCAL – we are so focused on OURSELVES (can’t get much more local than that) that we forget we have to APPLY that focus to the larger world. But just like my colleague said – we have to learn to hold both in TENSION … it’s not either / OR … it’s both / AND.

 

Okay.

So what does that really mean to us in our personal, everyday lives … in our relationship with God?

For the answer to THAT, let’s look back at the Psalm that we all read together.

I said to myself, “Relax and rest. God has showered you with blessings. Soul, you’ve been rescued from death; Eye, you’ve been rescued from tears; And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling.”

In other words, we have all been kept SAFE by God whether we realize it or not. God is in CHARGE. We can TRUST that we will be kept in perfect stead.

I stayed faithful, though bedeviled, and despite a ton of bad luck,
Despite giving up on the human race, saying, “They’re all liars and cheats.”

Boy … doesn’t that sound like how some of us feel about our world today??? Like we want to give up on the human race because they’re all a bunch of liars and cheats?

And what can we DO about that? How can we THANK God for that protection and that constant attention that we receive from the Creator of the Universe?

12-19 What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me? I’ll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God! I’ll pray in the name of God; I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, and I’ll do it together with his people. When they arrive at the gates of death, God welcomes those who love him.
All we have to do is love and WORSHIP God … CELEBRATE God … offer a TOAST to God.

But it’s not enough to do THAT part if we forget the OTHER part … the acting LOCAL part. Jesus SAYS:

“Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers.

Okay. That makes sense. We are called to do ministry right HERE. Right in Brighton and Rochester.

And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy.

We don’t have to tackle some HUGE issue. It doesn’t have to be a big dramatic event – in fact, it SHOULDN’T be. It’s not about SHOW. It’s not about somebody else SEEING it and being impressed.

No. Instead, Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Which might mean right here at the Meadows … or maybe right here is your next door neighbor … or MAYBE  right here is in your family.

Tell them that the kingdom is here.

Oh boy, how often have we heard THAT? 😊 The KOG is NOT somewhere far off. It is right HERE. And we are supposed to SHARE that fact with others.

We are supposed to Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. And Kick out the demons.

Now, I’m going to leave it up to you to wrestle with Holy Spirit about whether you take that literally or metaphorically. The bottom line is that we are called to be the presence of CHRIST to everyone we meet. Jesus sends us out as part of HIM and we are to restore the health and wellness … the BALANCE of goodness and justice … we are to help people choose LIFE by practicing what we say we believe in.

And the reason we are to do this? He sums it up: You have been treated generously, so live generously.”

It’s like the Lord’s Prayer … as we have been forgiven, so we must forgive. We have been given much and so we must GIVE much. The changer and the changed.

 

And what happens when we don’t DO that?

Well, if we forget the GLOBAL and only remember to local, then we become mired in our own self-delusions. We lose sight of our touchstone that keeps us honest with ourselves.

If God isn’t part of the mix, then we are likely to become enamored of our own specialness and think that we are “all that.” If we don’t remember that there’s someone or something BIGGER and more powerful than we are, then we are likely to elevate ourselves, become FULL of ourselves, and forget that we are accountable to someone else – namely … GOD!

 

And likewise, if we only ever stay focused on God and reach out too far, trying to only to the LOFTY things, then we MISS the opportunities that God is placing right before us.

It all goes back to that thing that we read in the epistle of James … Faith without works is dead.  Or, as the Message puts it: 14-17 Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely TALKING about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

 

See, the Bible has some basic THEMES that get repeated by MANY of the authors. I think that’s because some of them are really PIVOTAL to helping us on our spiritual journeys.

This is one of them: Faith without works is meaningless; works without faith is not God-centered.

And so we have to hold both in tension. Think Global; Shop Local.

But it doesn’t come NATURALLY for us to do this. We have a human brain with a human attention span and our human EGOS that think we are the most special and wonderful thing that ever existed.

So we have to PRACTICE. We have to be INTENTIONAL about it EVERY DAY! Whether we are HERE at the Meadows, at home … or at Bible & Brew … or walking with Slow Sheep … Whether we are worshiping with Back2Center or sitting at the Diner with Food for Thought. We have to constantly REMIND ourselves to balance the Global and Local parts until we do it so much that it becomes second NATURE to us.  We have to do it by ROTE until it becomes part of our automatic pilot.

THAT’S what it is to practice spirituality. To be DISCIPLINED enough to remember to look at BOTH things and hold them in tension with each other.

And Jesus is just the guy to teach us how to do that – because that’s what HE did. And that’s what he instructed the Disciples to do.

 

 

May this week be FILLED with opportunities for us to recognize the global AND the local at the same time so that our faith and our works might walk hand in hand. And may we EACH be CONSCIOUS of laying the foundation for our automatic pilot as we practice the spiritual discipline of  “Think Global; Shop Local.”

 

AMEN.

 

 

 

 

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