20th Sunday after Pentecost
October 11, 2015
“God Loves Leftovers”
God’s grace, mercy and peace be to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today, the basis for the sermon is taken from our First Lesson from Amos 5.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Who likes leftovers? I do…at least to a point. Take for instance Thanksgiving Day. We always make a traditional meal: turkey, potatoes, stuffing, corn, and my mom’s excellent pumpkin dessert. And that meal is always great…the 1st time around. Pretty soon, though, the leftovers begin to be a bit much. It starts with turkey sandwiches, then turkey soup, and then turkey casserole. Pretty soon turkey starts showing up in everything we can tolerate before we finally designate a meal as “must go,” that is, whatever is not eaten as a part of that meal must go into the trash afterwards. Leftovers are good…to a certain degree.
I bring it up because the idea of “leftovers” is kind of a significant theme in today’s lesson from Amos. Amos was a prophet during Israel’s “golden age” of prophets. The nation Israel had known great prosperity under David and Solomon, but ever since things had not been that great. On the outside Israel looked good; but on the inside the people were falling apart morally and spiritually. The morally corrupt people of Amos’ day detested those who spoke the truth (v. 10); Jesus Himself said during His ministry “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets.” It only makes sense; wickedness has never been able to tolerate sound doctrine, and Amos’ day was an “evil time” (v. 13). The poor were trampled with heavy taxation (v. 11) and got no help regarding their needs (v. 12). There was no ministry of mercy for the poor, the widowed, and the orphans.
All too often, though, even we in 21st century America still treat people that way. We evaluate some as relatively worthless leftovers that we disregard and throw away rather than deal with. As a congregation of God’s people in this community, what kind of impact are we making for the leftovers? What kind of difference do we make for the marginalized and the needy, the homeless, the addicted, the abandoned?
Let me ask you a tough question, and don’t give a knee-jerk response. Would anyone notice if our doors were closed forever? Would anyone within 5 miles or even 5 blocks notice? Is that the kind of impact we want to have?
And I recognize the problem goes beyond, “But Pastor, we’re not getting any younger here!” I recognize the days in which we live and serve and worship are difficult ones indeed! For the first time in its history, the United States does not have a Protestant majority. The percentage of Protestant adults in the U.S. has reached a low of 46% in 2014, the first time the number has fallen below 50%. But just because the days are bleak doesn’t mean we can or should stay silent. Now, more than ever, is our time for the church to be the church; it has never ceased to be the time to proclaim the truth in love. But are we actively doing that?
What kind of witness are we giving? When people think of you or observe your life, how do they see faith in Christ being lived? Do they see you excel in the grace of giving, or the sin of selfishness? Do you give God what is left over of your time? What about in your commitments of spiritual gifts and talents? Are you giving of yourself to God first, or does He get what’s left over? And what about your financial stewardship? Do you practice first-fruits giving so that your financial gifts make a difference, or does God once again get what’s left over?
But can I also tell you something? God loves leftovers! The Bible is full of people who are rejected: Mary Magdalene, Rahab, the woman at the well, Matthew, Elijah, Zacchaeus, all whom God deeply loved. Jesus associated Himself with the marginal and society’s leftovers. He was a friend to sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes.
Christ Jesus was also despised and rejected by men (Isaiah 53:3). He was mocked by the crowd, betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, forsaken by the ten, unjustly accused in a kangaroo court, sentenced to death by a weak-willed Roman governor, crowned with thorns by those who spit upon him, and scourged just short of death by sadistic men. But the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (Psalm 118:22). God loves leftovers. God loves us! He loves you. That love is manifested for you at a blood-stained cross and an empty rock tomb.
It is in Jesus’ death and resurrection that the God of hosts is gracious to you, His faithful remnant, so that forgiven and washed you not just work for the Kingdom, but you are a recipient of the Kingdom of Heaven.
As God’s redeemed remnant, we care for those among us who are the least, the lost, the last, the leftover. You are the hands and feet of Christ in this community. Yes, some hands are more arthritic than others and yes, some feet are more slow than others. YOU can and do make a difference. While so many dismiss the leftover margins, instead we will find them, feed them, clothe them, shelter them, and bring them the Gospel. We also love leftovers!
You ever feel like a leftover in life? Like life is passing you by? Like you missed your shot? You cannot catch a break? Have nothing left to offer anymore? You are NOT a leftover, for even greater than your self-doubt is God’s faithfulness and abundant favor and grace towards you!
As a result, seek good and not evil (5:14) knowing that the Lord will be with you. Know that you are not a leftover in God’s eyes so don’t treat others the same way. Give to God what you can of your time, talents, and treasures knowing that He loves what you give from the heart and not from compulsion. Stewardship is about attitude, not dollars and cents. Do what you can to make a difference in the life of your family and your community. You want to see a miracle in our age? BE A MIRACLE for someone else – a leftover – as you serve the Kingdom both now and forever.