Transforming our World into a Better Place for Living
Date: July 13, 2008
Preacher: Guest Preacher
Guest Preacher: Rev. Pedro Jimenez
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Dear brothers and sisters, I want to give thanks to God, to my brother Reverend Jim Moiso, to Judy´s family and Westminster Presbyterian congregation for this opportunity of staying here today. Kenia, my wife, sends greetings to all of you. Unfortunately she couldn't come because, at the moment, She is very busy writing her theses, which must be presented next August.
As soon as I received the invitation to preach today a question came into mind: How can I preach to a congregation who lives in a context so different from the one that I know? Pastors are supposed to preach something related to the experiences of their folks. Preaching must be an act that helps people deal with their daily life problems. Then I don´t know if a Cuban pastor may say something interesting or useful to you. For this reason I was very afraid.
But despite of the gap between our contexts I think there is something Christians have in common: It is the desire, and the need, of transforming our world into a better place for living in. For that reason Jesus said: "Go into the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mark 16: 15). Of course, it is impossible to fix everything that is wrong, but God has called us to change or mend at least those things that in our surroundings are changeable. To do so God gave us different kinds of gifts, a variety of talents that make life incredible, amazing and endless. The central focus of my sermon is the following: Each person has a talent. "There are different kinds of service and working, but the same God works in all of them in all human beings, in each individual" (1Corinthians 12:2). This means that each of us have a calling from God. How do we proceed after receiving a God´s calling? To understand this it is useful to analyze the Call of Abram in Geneses 12:1:
First, God said: "Leave your country, your people and your father´s household and go to the land I will show you" (Gn 12:1). It could seems illogical to Abram, sometimes God´s acts seems "illogical". Of course, "illogical" between inverted comas, because what is impossible to human beings it is possible to God. Jesus said something similar to his disciples where he asked to leave everything to be fishers of men: at once they left their nets and fallowed him (Mark 1:16).
I´m not saying that those who follow God´s calling today are supposed to leave his or her people, families, possessions and so on, but rather that to accept God´s calling is not an easy task: it brings about sacrifices, sufferings, misunderstandings and hard processes of decision making. That is to say, the one who accepts a mission from God has to be prepared to face it.
When you have nothing it is easy to go abroad to look for new opportunities and a new life, but when you have possessions, family and comfort to leave everything to go overseas and start new projects is a heavy deal. I think that Abram was asked to leave his family because God knew that his nephew wouldn't be a good companion for him. Abram did succeed after being separated from Lot. It means that those who are engaged in a mission have to be very careful in selecting the right colleagues. We have a phrase that says People without vocation, talent and engagement hardly can see beyond their own nose. Brazilians also have a slogan that can be translated like this: If you want to succeed, you need to stay on the right place at the right time with the right people. If we received a mission from God we are also supposed to stay on the right place at the right time with the right people.
Second: Among many phrases appearing in this text, to me, there are two that seem linked: God says: I will bless you. You will be a blessing. That´s to say: You will be blessed because you will be a blessing, this is because to help others is a way of helping one´s self. If we want to be blessed by God, first we have to be channels of blessings.
It seems to me that Jesus had the same thought when he said: I´ll tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me (Mathew 26:40). Our societies are full of pain and problems, there are many people in need. It is interesting that even several means of communication have been developed to facilitate communications among peoples, human beings isolated themselves more and more by the day. It brings two big challenges: first, we need to keep ourselves very well informed about what is going on in midst of our contexts in order to help people help themselves. I said to help people help themselves because churches very often develop charity programs, and this is good, but not enough, we have to go beyond that and to encourage people to be self sustainable, to recover their self-esteem, to be human beings, to find a sense of life.
The second challenge has to do with finding ways of bringing people together, with teaching them how to live in peace and how good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity (Psalm 133: 1). This is a very difficult task, because for this reason sometimes one gets depressed while realizing that many things can´t be changed. I remember that long ago I got very disappointed with myself when I realized that, as a church, there was almost nothing we could do in order to change the hard reality of our country and the tendency of its government to isolate it from the rest of the world. Even so, there was something we could do: we were able to live as a community, to keep ourselves united, to work hard despite discriminations against Christians, to keep us in touch with other churches overseas, this made us strong and helped us to go on in the face of adversities.
As I said at the beginning, it is impossible to fix everything that is wrong in our societies, but God has called us to change at least those things that in our surroundings are changeable. No one is perfect, Abram either. But God´s fidelity endures forever. Abram succeeded not because of his smartness but because of God´s faithfulness granted wisdom. We adore the same God worshiped by Abram which means that we can be a channel of blessing. If we have the courage of doing so, surely will hear a voice saying Come, you are blessed by my Father.
Third: Abraham, on the way to Bethel, found a tree, that's to say a sacred place. A sacred place used for peoples of other cultures to adore gods very different from that one worshiped by Abram. It is interesting that Abram instead of rejecting a symbol that could seem very strange to him, He had the ability of using it to reinforce his faith. Something similar did Paulo in Athens when he realized that the city was full of idols: Instead of criticizing the Athenians, he said: Men of Athens I see that in every way you are very religious ...I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWM GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I´m going to proclaim to you. Even Abram and Paul were very disappointed with the Canaanites' and Athenians´ ways of worshiping; both of them respected those cultures and were able to be in dialogue with people of other faiths and ways of thinking. What I´m trying to say is that those who follow God´s calling are supposed to be able to respect others and to express kindly but firm his or her belief.
I think that Cuban Churches have a big challenge. We live in a very multicultural context, and it seems that many church leaders are very much engaged in dialoguing with those who are in power and with those theories related to the meaning of life articulated by the dominant political system; but almost none of these church leaders are willing to create spaces for exchanging ideas with peoples of other faiths and ways of thinking. I´m not saying that we have to agree with them, but that at least we must intend to listen to them in order to understand their ways of seeing life and doing things. If we pretend to perform a liturgy or a church program in a multicultural context, the models practiced by Abram and Paul must be taking into account.
Fourth: Abram, after worshiping God, continued walking. After building an altar he went to Bethel. It means that adoration itself is not a goal, but a mean through which God prepares human beings to serve others. That happens with Isaiah: after the great experience he had before the presence of the Lord, a voice of the Lord came to him saying: Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? Adoration is a prelude that prepares us to go out for transforming our world in a better place for living in.
I´m sure each of us has a talent, a desire, an ability. There are different kinds of service and working, but the same God works in all of us. Each of us has a calling from God. To accomplish this task we have to be prepared for facing sacrifices, sufferings, misunderstandings and hard process of decision making; to succeed in our projects we need to develop them on the right places at the right time with the right people. If we want to be blessed by God, we have to be channels of blessings, we must expand our abilities to be in dialogue with people of other faiths and ways of thinking. Finally, we can´t forget that adoration is a prelude that prepares us to go out for transforming our world into a better place for living.
A poet said:
Human beings may cut down all the flowers in the entire world,
but they will flourish again with each incoming spring.
Society´s evils may try to crush us and beat us down, but God will continue to send us His Springs day by day to allow us to thrive like flowers and transform our world into a better place for living.