Summary: A sermon for the New Year.
"How Will We Serve Christ in 2016?"
I think this is a very appropriate passage of Scripture to look at as we come to the end of a year, and prepare for a new one.
The reason I say this is that Jesus is filling in the metaphors of the parables that come before it.
"This is what it looks like to stay awake when the Master comes at an unexpected time."
"This is what it means to bring extra oil for the long nights of waiting."
In verses 31-46 "the oil has become food and drink, clothing, empathy, compassion, hospitality, love."
"This is what it means for us to invest our talents while the Master is away.
We are to invest them in those persons who have nothing to eat or drink, those who are naked and sick, those who are strangers or imprisoned--those who probably will not increase our stock portfolio nor the amount that we get in the offering plate."
"It won't bring us the money to build a fancier building.
I won't get a raise.
But the payoff is worth so much more than all that!!!"
The payoff is that whatever we have done for our fellow human beings--we have done it for Christ!!!
And this is what I believe God continues to call this Church to do.
We are to feed the hungry in our neighborhood and community, we are to visit those who are sick and in prison, we are to clothe the naked, we are to give a drink to the thirsty!!!
18 years ago, I owned a rock and roll tee-shirt shop--named Rock Bottom Imports--in a mall in Syracuse, New York.
The mall was located right next to the biggest high school in the city, and so, after school got out--the mall--and my store had an explosion of teenagers.
Even while school was going on, a number of kids would skip class and come hang out all day in my store.
On the weekends parents, who used the mall as a baby sitter, would drop their kids off and the kids would come and be in my store all day.
The skateboard kids loved Rock Bottom Imports.
Skateboards weren't allowed in the mall, but they were allowed in my store.
So the first place the skater kids would come when they got to the mall was--Rock Bottom Imports.
15 or 20 of them would walk in at a time, all handing me their skateboards which I would store behind the counter for them as they went to the movies, roamed the halls or whatever.
Lots of kids spent a lot of time talking to me in my store.
And my customers weren't the preppy, popular kids.
My customers were the burn-outs, the marginalized, those failing out of school, those whose lives at home were basically a living hell.
As I got to know these kids, I came to love them and care about them...
...and worry about them.
My store was doing pretty well.
And at the time, my biggest seller, by far was Marilyn Manson, who had recently come out with his big hit album: "Anti-Christ Superstar."
I sold more Marilyn Manson tee-shirts, hats, patches, watches, stickers--you name it--than any other band combined.
One night I was watching the MTV Music Video Awards, and Marilyn Manson was playing.
On stage, he got up in something which looked like a pulpit, for he claimed to be a minister in the church of Satan.
He ripped up a Bible and screamed at the crowd: "Christians are a scourge on this earth.
And who would want to go to heaven anyway, you'd just be surrounded by a bunch of _______" you can fill in the blanks.
This really got me.
I was very convicted.
"This is the guy who these precious, troubled kids look up to as a role model.
This is the guy that I am making a living off of selling his merchandise in my store.
At the very least, I don't want to be part of the problem."
So, that night, I made a pact with myself.
I wasn't sure whether I would keep it or not, but I decided I wouldn't sell anymore Marilyn Manson merchandise in my store.
I kept that resolution, and with that decision--my Christian faith, which I'd been struggling with for a number of years, came roaring back to life.
And I decided that I would finally follow God's call and go to seminary in order to become a pastor.
I went into the ministry because of a strong desire to try and make a positive difference in this world--in order for my life to count for something good.
I didn't go into the ministry to get rich, serve a fancy church, etc, etc.