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Summary: A sermon about coming closer to God through accepting our messiness.

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Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

“The Church is Not an English Garden”

By: Rev. Ken Sauer, Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, Soddy Daisy, TN www.graceumcsd.org

I have never seen an English Garden, but I am told they are so beautiful.

The flowers are carefully arranged in rows, fancy configurations and designs.

You won’t see a weed or an unclipped shrub.

The garden is striking in that it fits the design of its creator and all the parts fit together as one body.

There are no weeds to detract from the flowers or suck out their life.

That’s all good and fine.

But if our church begins to look and feel like an English Garden—we’ve got some serious problems.

There is a myth flourishing in some corners of the Church today.

It’s a big lie that has caused all kinds of trouble: “once converted, fully converted.”

In other words, “once I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, an irreversible, sinless future beckons.

Following Christ will be an untarnished success story; life will be an unbroken upward spiral toward holiness.”

Tell that to the Apostle Peter who, after three times professing his love for Jesus on the beach and after receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost—was still jealous of Paul’s missionary success!!!

The Christian life is a journey—it is the most exciting and worthwhile journey imaginable—but it is still a journey.

God isn’t finished with any of us yet!

Justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior means one has been put in right relationship with God…has become a part of God’s Kingdom—God’s Church, not made the equivalent of a patient who has been put to sleep on an operating table.

The church is not an English Garden.

It’s a messy garden and it’s full of weeds!!!

And the healthier a church gets—the messier it gets!!!

I was amazed and unsettled a few weeks ago when I spent the better part of a week trying to find a shelter for a family with two children.

We live in what many call “the buckle of the Bible belt” where there are more churches per square mile than in any other place in America.

But with all these churches, we don’t have a decent system to help the poor family who suddenly finds themselves homeless!

Something is wrong with this picture.

What is our theology?

Where are our priorities?

What are we doing with all our assets?

One colleague of mine, frustrated by the situation, said to me: “Churches spend anywhere from 6 million dollars to 23 million dollars on building programs for themselves while people are starving in the streets!”

Jesus came to show us what God’s Kingdom is about.

Jesus comes to the sinners, the poor, the hungry.

Jesus welcomes the tax collectors and the prostitutes, and tells the religious leaders of His day that these are the kinds of folks who are entering the Kingdom of God—ahead of them!!!

Jesus’ ministry is to be our ministry, and Jesus’ ministry is messy business!!!

The Church is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live here.

The Church is, as Morton Kelsey wrote, “not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners…” or as we may say, “a hospital for people with ‘messy lives’!”


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