First United Methodist Church
June 19, 2022
Rev. Dr. Byron Kaiser
Gracious Living - Living What We Know
"Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:17)
If Repentance is the porch,
And if, Faith is the door,
Then, Perfection is the living room, the kitchen, the table, the bedroom, the bathroom, the back door, the garage and all the closets and storage places.
Candy and I have spoken that last two weeks regarding what it means to live by the grace of God. Candy talked about prevenient grace of God that grace that supports all creation and life that grace that draws us to God and allows us to say “yes” to God. I shared with you last week about the grace of God that straightens us up with God that restores us to a right relationship with God, others, ourselves, and creation. Today, I shall talk with you about sanctifying grace. This is the grace that prefects us.
Are you living on the porch, in the doorway, in the house or just passing by on the street? To test your level of completeness in love, saying it another way, to test your level of perfection, listen to these statements and think with me about the level of love expressed in them.
- “I’m not going to waste my time talking to you.”
- “Why are you behaving like a child?”
- “You don’t even know what’s right, do you.”
- “I don’t care what you do anymore.”
- “You’re not welcome here anymore.”
- “How is it for you?”
- “I do not know what it is like for you, help me understand.”
- “How do you need me to help?”
- “The world is becoming an evil place.”
- “The church is just falling apart.”
We enter the house of God through a narrow doorway. Let’s unpack this word “Sanctification”. “Sancti” means holy, means set aside for the purpose of God. This sanctuary is holy because it is set aside for the purpose of worshiping God. For a person to be sanctified means the person is holy because the person is set aside for the purpose of God. A person becomes perfect when all of who they are is set aside for the purpose of God. Re-phrasing it. A person becomes complete when all of who they are is transformed by the love and grace of God.
God gives the gift of sanctifying grace to grow in our relationship with God. Sanctifying grace exists as the process of opening ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us. A perfect Christian, sanctified Christian, sets aside all aspects of one’s life to be used by God in the completeness of love.
Perfection seems to be thought of as a goal, a stasis. We create a perfect picture, a perfect meal, sing a perfect note, and see a perfect sunset. Somehow to experience the perfect means to arrive at a destination.
In the old days of the church, when I was in grade school, the church held revivals. Often, the goal of the revival was to get a “double dose” of the Holy Spirit. On Monday, one was convicted. On Tuesday, saved. And, on Wednesday, sanctified, which meant, that on Thursday and there after one could not sin ever again. Because one was sanctified or made perfect on Wednesday, there was no capacity in one’s life to do sin.
What a fantastic path to discipleship of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Just get people in the door for the double dose. By Thursday, they will never sin again.
In my experience, many of these persons were like a dry drunk. They walked around town with all their old dead attitudes, beliefs, habits, and values. They were just as mean and judgmental as they ever were. The change, now they were mean and judgmental in the name of Jesus. These persons were awful to be around. They would say things like, “hate the sin and love the sinner.” The testimony of their life was that they would just hate and never expressed love. As a young person in the church, I often thought that if this is what being saved means, I don’t want it.
Jesus calls you and I to enter through the narrow doorway. We are not called to enter through the narrow doorway so that we can go up on the roof and jeer at people who are standing on the porch or passing by on the street. Passing through the narrow doorway means going through the long and painful process of letting go of self so that we may be available for God to use in grace and love. Being perfect in God, being holy, being set aside, intends a process rather than a point.
Sanctification or being made perfect in love is a process not a position. Think for a moment about baseball. Do you remember, Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox pitched a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays by retiring all 9 batters he faced 3 times each on Thursday, July 23, 2009. This event took place in U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois in front of 28,036 fans in attendance. This game took 2:03 from 1:07 PM CT to 3:10 PM CT. It was a moment in time, a process of facing one batter after the next, doing what needed to be done to get the next batter out. Buehrle was assisted by a dramatic ninth-inning wall-climbing catch by center fielder DeWayne Wise to rob Gabe Kapler of a home run. A perfect baseball game can be remembered. Perfection manifested in the process of the game. Buehrle did not pitch perfect in every game. He only performed perfectly once in his career. Yet, every pitcher strives for perfection each time they walk onto the pitcher’s mound. They enter a process of getting batters out.
Being perfect is allowing the grace and love of God to flow through you to meet each situation and person that comes into your life trusting if you slip, others will catch your mistake.
Perfection avails all of who we are that God may use us to be love present for others.
James the brother of Jesus and Bishop of the Christian community in Jerusalem says it this way, "Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
Mother Teresa puts it this way, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
John Wesley’s Sanctifying Grace: “Do good always and all ways, anyways.” Len Sweet
Can you and I really do this? Can one reach perfection in this life? Yes. I have met people like this. Like a baseball pitcher pitching a perfect game, we can meet every person and situation that comes into our lives perfectly in God’s love. Can we do it every time we walk out our door? We hope this for ourselves and for others. And, if not, we hope that we are a DeWayne Wise catching the mistakes of others taking away harm.
Colorado flood volunteers from Lawrence First UMC unexpectedly became first responders due to new floods By Susan Kim*
July 15, 2015—When a group of 16 high schoolers and five adults traveled from Lawrence, Kansas, to northern Colorado in the June heat to help repair flood-damaged property, they faced a tough week of work.
With mosquitoes swarming around them, some of them worked in the town of Kersey, tearing old fencing out of the mud, then installing new fencing. They also painted and cleaned up debris and weeds. Others worked at a ranch, painting the bunk house and clearing debris, and they also cleaned a garage and shop for a homeowner who lives in the same neighborhood.
From Recovery — To Response As their work week drew to a close, the young people received word that the homeowners they had worked with were being forced to evacuate because of a new round of floods. The couple needed help moving some items to safety.
“It was late afternoon by the time we got the information to them, and I didn’t expect them to be able to provide much help as they had been working all day on other projects,” said Mike Moore, flood recovery director for the Rocky Mountain Conference.
But the teenagers arrived on the scene and worked until 8 p.m. loading household items. And “they helped round up the goats so they could be taken to safety,” said Moore. “They passed up their evening showers and dinner to go out to the farm which was swarming with mosquitoes — due to all the floodwaters nearby — and they worked in the wet and mud to help the family move out.”
Savanna Schaekel, then twelve years old, didn’t mind sharing her soccer ball with a homeless child. What she did mind was seeing that the child had no other toys to play with.
That homeless child and others were among the families staying at Mantua United Methodist Church, the Schaekel family’s home church, as part of the Family Promise Network. When Schaekel was at choir practice one evening, one of the children staying at the church wanted to play with a soccer ball that was attached to Schaekel’s ankle with a string.
When Schaekel removed the string and ball from her ankle, it was the beginning of her becoming attached to the homeless children who had nothing else to play with.
“It was a practice soccer ball where you can hook it around your ankle, kick it and it comes back to you,” Schaekel said. “There was a little 2-year-old who wanted to take it and I let her have it. But when I had to leave and take my ball with me, she was upset.”
That event made Schaekel, who recently completed sixth grade at J. Mason Tomlin School, realize children in the Family Promise Network should have toys and things to play with like most other children do. She and her family had two bake sales and took private donations to raise money to buy toys for those children. There are usually between five and 10 children with their families that stay at churches in each county on a rotating basis.
“We originally wanted to buy one toy for each kid,” said Tracie Schaekel, Savanna’s mother. “But we ended up having three per kid and some left over for the next time they came in.”
The Schaekels said the best part was seeing the reaction of children when they received the toys.
You and I can really do this. Like a baseball pitcher pitching a perfect game, we can meet every person and situation that comes into our lives perfectly in God’s love. Can we do it every time we walk out our door? We hope this for ourselves and for others. And, if not, we hope that we are a DeWayne Wise catching the mistakes of others taking away harm. We can “Do good always and all ways, anyways.”