Shaking Off the Dust

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

I was intrigued recently by an article that aired some dirty laundry. No, it wasn’t a celebrity gossip magazine, or The Presbyterian Layman, for those of you who know PCUSA scandal sheets (They love to publish what they view as theological dirty laundry). It was a science journal, and the aforementioned dirty laundry is the problem that Apollo Moon Missions had with moon dust.

One of the major problems that all the missions shared were not explosions, or mysterious black obelisks, or aliens leaping out of astronauts stomachs (a la the movies “Space 2001” and “Alien”) “The major issue the Apollo astronauts pointed out was dust, dust, dust,” says Professor Larry Taylor, Director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute at the University of Tennessee. This is not your minor annoyance kind of dust. It is not like the harmless dust bunnies that hide under your bed. It is “fine as flour and rough as sandpaper.” The dust was so abrasive that it actually wore through three layers of Kevlar-like material on [astronaut’s] boot[s],” Taylor says. To make matters worse, it was electromagnetically charged, so that the more astronauts tried to brush it away, the more it worked its way into the space suits’ fabric. It would gum up the joints of space suits so that it would eventually be difficult to move. It was everywhere and couldn’t be escaped.1

Clingy, omnipresent, abrasive, damaging, dangerous. This moon dust is like much of our lives. It is like the brokenness of life that clings to us like nothing else. Our uncertain circumstances, our past failures and wounds, our overwhelming challenges and limited resources, these things stick to us like moon dust. Despair, fear, alienation, wear through our Kevlar layers and work their way into our joints until we can hardly move.

My friends, it is time to shake off the dust.

The apostle Paul, when he wrote to the Corinthian church, wanted the Corinthians to shake of their dust. Paul had a long and deep relationship with them as their founding pastor. He went through many ups and downs with them. He loved them, got angry with them, and wept over them. There were times when he had to forgive and times when he had to be forgiven. There were times when the moon dust of life had worked into their joints so that they could hardly move. When they became dusty like that, they became stuck living in ways of selfishness, pride, and injustice, and idolatry.

1 “NASA’s Dirty Secret: Moon Dust,” Science Daily (Sep. 29, 2008): http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/

2008/09/080924191552.htm

But in our text this morning, Paul offers them an opportunity to shake off that dust and participate in God’s blessing. The specific invitation has to do with an offering that Paul was gathering for needy Christians in Jerusalem. The material offering was important, but in our text, Paul teaches the Corinthians that the meaning of the offering was even more profound than providing a meal or a place to sleep for someone who needed it. The offering was a chance to participate in a harvest of righteousness. It was an invitation to be a partner in God’s blessing. It was an opportunity to shake off the dust, to move and to breathe the fresh, clear air of a faith that makes a difference. Not only would it bless the believers in Jerusalem, it would bless the Corinthians themselves.

I hope that you felt it this past week. Our nation has reached a milestone in electing its first African-American as President. As many have observed, even if you didn’t vote for Obama, you can sense that something historic has happened. Last Tuesday night, as we saw the weeping faces in that huge crowd gathered in that park for Obama’s speech, we had hope served to us.

Now, I do have my cynical side. I wonder how the hope of this moment will be spent. Part of me wonders how much change will really come. We face huge challenges of bringing peace and dealing with the current economic crisis. The powerful, almost irresistible temptation in these times is to look out for ones self, to hoard, to act out of fear and mistrust, to blame others and absolve ourselves. This temptation clings to us and paralyzes us.

And yet, though self-centeredness & fear are almost irresistible, we hear the good news in this house of faith that this day is also an opportunity. It is an opportunity to shake off the dust.

The reality is that President-elect Obama can’t do it alone. Things will only get better; change will only come if we all pitch in and participate. If Democrats and Republicans and others seize the opportunity, if we open up our minds and hearts, if we for a few moments not let fear and self-interest rule the day, we can work together for the good, for the good of everyone in this nation, and yes, the world.

Now these words can be idealistic claptrap…or, if we are open to it, this time can herald a shaking off of the dust that paralyzes us.

This morning we are invited to offer the first fruits of our time, talent, and treasure to God, and, like the Corinthians were long ago, we are invited to shake off the dust of life and embrace a living, life shaping faith, to shake off the dust and participate as partners with God in bringing hope, and making peace, and working for justice, all while joyously praising and thanking God, and enjoying each other. This is what stewardship is: it is shaking off the dust, and moving forward.

Look at this building project. We had a little dust to shake off not too long ago. It had gone through some fits and starts, plans had to be redrawn, lots of different things went on.

But look now. Much of the dust has been shaken off and we are moving forward. Much work remains, but it is God’s work, and there is no better partner to have. When the building is done, we will be better able to shake off even more profound dust in this community as we grow in ministry.

You who are members and friends of this community of faith are invited to shake off a little dust with your financial commitments for 2009. It is tough, I know, in this day. But ultimately we belong to a faith that is not down in the dumps about this day. With our worship, with our fellowship, with our mission outreach, and with our financial priorities shaped by the commandments to love God and neighbor, we celebrate and respond to the invitation to shake off the dust.

I was amused by the British 19-year-old who has officially changed his name to “Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined.”

The Glastonbury, England, teenager — originally named George Garratt — said his new name, which is thought to be the world’s longest, has so outraged his grandmother that she is no longer speaking to him.

The teen said he used an online service to officially change his name for a $20 fee.

“I wanted to be unique,” Captain Fantastic said of his name choice. “I decided upon a theme of superheroes.”2

Well, my friends, we are unique, so shall we choose an apt name for ourselves? How about “Presbyterian Captains Fantastic, Dust Repelling, Joy Celebrating, Justice Seeking, Love Making, Peace Planting, Hope Proclaiming Cache Valley-ites.” Ok maybe not that.3 Maybe we can shorten our name to this: disciples. Besides being a little easier to say (and remember), simply being a disciple, with God’s grace, is enough to shake off the dust.

2 “Teen’s ‘Fantastic’ new name ‘Super’ long” Published: Nov. 3, 2008: http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/

2008/11/03/Teens_Fantastic_new_name_Super_long/UPI-90361225751268/

3 Maybe I should reconsider. When I said this name in worship, some really liked it!

November 9, 2008

Rev. Paul Heins

First Presbyterian Church

Logan, Utah

This entry was posted in Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Affirmations of Faith

    On the last Sunday of October, ‘Mission Sunday,’ many of you helped us pack more than two hundred bags for a local school food distribution program.  Those bags of food went out to local schoolchildren, who live in food insecure settings, to keep their bellies full. The food we provided has the potential to ensure the schoolchildren are more successful in life and in their education.  In worship we sometimes use the phrase ‘Affirmation of Faith’ and then repeat a longstanding confession of the church, such as the Apostles’ Creed or the Brief Statement of Faith. I value reciting these affirmations, because they remind us of the core values we hold as Christians. But as I was thinking about this over the last few months, I believe that such mission work to the community around us is an even deeper affirmation of our faith by acknowledging Jesus’ call upon our lives, and then living out that ministry.

    I want to share information with you this month about another ministry which I believe is an affirmation of our faith. You have heard us talk about it quite a bit but may not know the details. For years now the Deacon’s Fund at First Presbyterian Church has provided financial assistance to those in our community facing immediate financial need that impacts their ability to live a healthy and productive life.

    There are social services around town, which provide supportive and meaningful resources, but there can be qualifications and restrictions associated with the access of those services. The Deacon’s Fund strives to offer judgment-free ministry to those who are facing financial challenges in life and helps people access these services.

    Barbara Troisi and Beth MacDonald are currently our two Deacon’s Fund facilitators.  They spend time each month looking at applications for assistance, and then distribute funds, which may involve multiple phone calls, trips to the store for Smith’s gift cards (useful for food or fuel), and various other tasks.  Prior to Beth and Barbara, other wonderful people contributed their efforts to this ministry: Linda Roberts, Tina Purintun, Kelly Rhea, Terry Brennand, Barbara Lutz (I am sure I have left a name or two off, please forgive me). Pam Riffe also makes contributions and supports people applying for these funds in her role as our office administrator.

    These are some of the ‘saints’ of the church. These are angels among us – superheroes, one might say – who make time in their lives to help others.

    The Deacon’s Fund recently received a large contribution from a couple in our community.  They are not part of our church, but they learned of our efforts to help local people through some friends who are church members.  They made this contribution to help those who are struggling to find sustainable and affordable housing. They wanted to make a significant contribution to help with housing issues and knew that First Presbyterian Church would be a wonderful avenue for those efforts. I am thankful for everyone who makes contributions to the Deacon’s Fund, small or large (most offerings to this ministry come in $10, $20, or $100 increments). Over the decades these dollars have helped hundreds of people in our community in moments of great need. This is truly part of the mission of the church, and one of the callings Jesus has placed upon us.

    Beth MacDonald is transitioning out of her role as a Deacon’s Fund facilitator at the end of the year (she will be plenty busy helping to organize and lead the Westminster Bell Choir). Thank you, Beth, for your efforts. This means we are looking for a new Deacon’s Fund coordinator to work alongside Barbara Troisi. If any of you would like to help, please let me know. If you have questions about this ministry, please talk to Beth, Barbara, or me. Beth has set up a nice spreadsheet to help keep track of funds received and funds dispersed. You don’t need to be a financial expert or math whiz to fill this role, only to have a caring heart.

    The ministry efforts of Mission Sunday and through the Deacon’s Fund are two of the wonderful aspects of First Presbyterian Church. Our calling as a faith community is certainly to worship and praise the Lord, but also to share the good news and make helpful, life-affirming contributions to the community and world around us. I pray that our ministry together continues to be vigorous.

    May the grace and peace of Christ be with you all,

    Pastor Derek

  • Pages