15th Sunday after Pentecost
August 28, 2016
“But I’m Too Burned Out”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon is today’s Gospel lesson from John 19.
My dear friends,
Today I would like to finish my 4-week sermon series on excuses, and as I have tried to show, our God is a God of commitment, not excuses. Excuses in the church are like Port-O-Potties. You hate the fact you have to use one, there’s never a good one when you really need one, and they always stink. We may claim we are “too broke” to help, but that’s not true since God in Christ has repaired our broken, sinful selves and that enables us to be faithful stewards in all things. We considered the excuse “but I’m too burdened” only to learn you feel that way because you are expending your energies in the time-consuming, soul-starving tasks of maintaining the self-imposed burdens of your life wall instead of taking the light yoke of Christ upon yourself. We also considered the excuse “but I’m too busy,” only to remember that excuse holds no weight compared to the urgency of the announcement that the Kingdom of God has come for people who badly need to hear that truth.
And today we examine our 4th and final excuse…”But I’m too burned out.” It is commonly held that in most American churches 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. And that 20% is tired…burned out and the other 80% feels too broke, burdened, or too busy themselves to make new commitments. Now what? What are we going to do? Indeed…what are WE going to do?
Today’s Gospel lesson, I would imagine, is already well known to all within the Church. This narrative, commonly heard every Good Friday, is one of the most recognizable and important texts of the New Testament if not the entire Bible. The events of Jesus’ Passion – His suffering and death – weigh emotionally heavy on us every time we hear the awful details. In addition, when Jesus declared from the cross, “It is finished,” these words indicate (1) God’s salvation plan is complete/finished because of Jesus’ bloody, sacrificial offering, and (2) He wasn’t too burned out to finish what He started.
In the dictionary, an excuse is “a reason put forward to defend a fault or offense.” Excuses are our way of rationalizing away a lack of commitment. The sinful self knows what it wants: in greed and pride and laziness and self-centeredness, the sinner in us says “You cannot help with that or get involved or give. No…let someone else do it. You are tired and weak and worn. Here…let’s sit and watch some nice TV…again.”
You think YOU’RE burned out? On Good Friday, we hear with open ears and heavy hearts the culmination of Jesus’ mission on our behalf. Although He could have called for his Father to supply twelve legions of angels, He used no such excuse and allowed Judas’s kiss of betrayal to mark him as the one to be seized and arrested. Although He was innocent, He again made no excuses and stood silently as Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin charged Him with blasphemy that He never uttered. Although a few days earlier He had been honored as a king, He never brought that up as an excuse when He heard the crowd’s echoing shouts of “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Although He came to provide us with the white robe of righteousness, He was not “too burned out” to be stripped, beaten, and spat upon for us. If there EVER was a time for a legitimate excuse, it would be Jesus’ rejection on Pontius Pilate’s guilty condemnation, but again Jesus offered no excuses. Finally, for all His faithfulness, He was crowned with thorns and forced to carry His cross to the Place of the Skull making no excuse His cross was “too heavy” or He was in “too much pain.” There, nails pierced His hands and feet as He was lifted up for all to see and mock.
Was Jesus too “burned out” to finish His passion? Absolutely not…and thanks be to God He wasn’t! He knew what needed to be done…truly what needed to be done, and He did it. No excuses. No leaving it for someone else. When everything was completed, he declared for all to hear, “It is finished.”
Like for the thief on the cross, the Holy Spirit has brought you to faith and moves you to seek an active, committed life in Christ’s kingdom. Being a member of God’s Kingdom is not a spectator sport. In the Word and Sacraments, the completed work of Christ is presented to you week after week with no excuses or God being too burned out to forgive again as you receive forgiveness of sins. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation and hope and action, not excuses. No, you are not Jesus. Yes, you lack His divinity, His courage, His strength and His merciful love. Who doesn’t? But, He is a perfect example of how YOU are to act and respond when you are able instead of making up an excuse.
So, to ask a good Lutheran question, what does all of this mean? Why spend a whole month talking about excuses? Why? SO THAT WE DON’T MAKE THEM OURSELVES! Earlier this year our Strategic Vision Planning team met, held a workshop, and came up with the following proposed vision statement for Good Shepherd: “Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and School is a Christian family that models God’s love by connecting people to Christ and to one another, embracing our community and its needs, and by making a difference together.” Did you hear that? Embracing our community and its needs. No, we cannot fix all of Sarasota’s problems, but we CAN identify one, take it personally and passionately, and commit ourselves and our resources towards making a difference. But that will NEVER happen if all we do is make excuses.
May God move us that we might stop making excuses: I’m too broke, I’m too burdened, I’m too busy, or I’m too burned out. How about we stop making excuses and start making a difference? How about we stop sitting on our hands and use them for some work done in His name and for His kingdom? How about we stop asking “why?” and start asking “why not?”