Monday, December 14, 2015

"Church Can Be ... Everyone"

3rd sermon in the "Church Can Happen Anywhere" Advent Series. I only did it in our Jubilee! contemporary service, because our annual Christmas Cantata was happening at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary. 

I am SO BLESSED to serve a church with a variety of worship styles. This year's cantata was AMAZING. The song "Gesu Bambino," with the choir and soloist and the violins and orchestra brought tears to my eyes. And Jubilee! was a heap of fun with foot-stompin' bluegrass and lively singing. 

As you read the sermon below, imagine me dressed in modern-day overalls and a biblical headdress, and carrying a traditional shepherd's crook.

Well, hey, y’all! My name’s Barnabas Benjamin Bartholomew Shepherd—but y’all can call me Bubba.

Now I’m a feller what takes care of sheep, and that means I ain’t real clean, ‘cause I live outside all the time. I reckon that’s why folks don’t take much to us shepherds nowadays. My brother Billy Bob says the people in town like to tell jokes about us shepherds—like:

       “If you refer to the fourth grade as your senior year, you might be a shepherd.”

       “If  puttin’ on shoes is your idea of formal attire, you might be a shepherd.”

And then there’s one I just don’t get:

       “What do you have if you get 32 shepherds in a single room? A full set of teeth.”  

Now I don’t understand them jokes, but I guess I understand why they don’t think much of us shepherds. We ain’t real fancy, and we aint real educated, and to tell ya’ the truth, we don’t smell too good. To most people, we shepherds ain’t nobody. And I used to agree with most people—until last night.

Last night we was sittin’ out there watchin’ the sheep, like we always do. It was just me and my older brother Billy Bob, and my little brother Ed Bob, and my brother Jim Bob, and my other brother Jim Bob—and we was just sittin’ there, looking up at the stars, and all of a sudden, there was this bright light that blinded us.  And we was sore afraid.  And I said, “Billy Bob—it’s one of them UFOs like you read about in the Jerusalem Enquirer!” And Billy Bob said, “Bubba, hush. You know you can’t read.” And I said, “Naw, I can’t, but I can look at pitchurs, and I know that’s a UFO, and what’s more, it’s full of little green men with great big googly eyes, and they’s gonna suck us up and do experiments on us!”

Well, no sooner’n I said that, that bright light calmed down a little, and then we could see it had a face.  And then we could see that it had a body, and it was wearing a fancy robe, and it had a big ol’ pair o’ wings. And then that UFO spoke to us, and it said, “Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people. For unto you this day is born in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. “

Now, like I said, I ain’t all that educated, but I knew who that shiny feller meant when he said, “Christ the Lord.” He was talkin’ about the Messiah! Our people been waitin’ for the Messiah for years. We been hopin’ he’d come along and kick some Roman rear end! That’s right! Them Romans been tellin’ us what to do long enough. We’re tired of it! We’ve been praying for God’s Messiah to come in and raise up a war band and drive out them Romans, and lead God’s people to GLORY!

And that’s why I couldn’t believe the next thing I heard. That shiny feller said we’d find God’s Messiah lyin’ in a manger. A manger! Do y’all know what a manger is?

That’s right. It’s a trough where cows eat. Now y’all think sheep are dirty—don’t even get me started on cows.  I couldn’t believe we was gonna find God’s Messiah—the holy one, the Chosen One, the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings—Christ the Lord—layin’ in a heap o’ cow feed.

But before I could even scratch my head to think about it, a whole bunch o’ them shiny fellers showed up and started sangin’: “Glory to God in the Highest! Peace on earth, good will towards men!” And friends, I mean to tell ya’, it was the purtiest singin’ I ever heard...oh, no offense to y’all that sang a few minutes ago, but you see, them shiny fellers, they was angels from heaven!

Well, them angels went on back up, and I said, “Boys, let’s go in town yunder and see about this thing.” So we hurried off into town. And on the way, I started thinkin’: Why would God send the heavenly host to us shepherds? We ain’t nobody. Why not go to somebody with some clout? Why not one o’ them priests all duded up in his fancy robes? Or some rich guy in a nice house? Or even old King Herod in his palace? Why send angels to a bunch of smelly old sheep farmers campin’ out in a field? We ain’t nobody.

Well, we got to town, and we found the stable, and there they were. There was old Joe the carpenter, and there was his little wife Mary, and there was the King of Kings layin’ in the cow feed. We said, “What’s his name?” and they said, “Jesus,” and we knew that means God saves. And at that point, they wasn’t nothin’ else to say, so we all just knelt down.

And when we got up, Joe asked us who we were and why we come. And when we told ‘em about the angels, Joe and Mary just grinned from ear to ear like they knew exactly what we was talkin’ about.

See, they’d had angels call on them too! And they told us that this weren’t no ordinary baby. Let’s just say this baby didn’t come in the usual way. This baby, that we was lookin’ at, is not the son of a man, but the Son of God Almighty. Ooo-weee! If that don’t get you fired up, your wood is wet.

Well, we said our goodbyes and headed on back, and I started thinkin’ again. Old Joe and little Mary—they ain’t nobody either. Why, they’s poor workin’ folks, just like us shepherds. So I talked to my brother Billy Bob. I said, “Billy Bob, this don’t make no sense. Why did God send his son to Mary and Joseph. They ain’t nobody. And why did God send his angels to us shepherds? We ain’t nobody, either.”

And Billy Bob stopped walkin’, and he turned around and looked at me, and he got all serious-like, and he said, “Bubba, don’t you get the point of what we’ve seen tonight? There ain’t nobody who’s nobody, ‘cause in God’s eyes, everybody is somebody!”

And I felt the tears come up in my eyes, and I looked at my brother, and I said, “Say whut?”

Billy Bob said, “Bubba: The whole point of that baby layin’ in the cow feed is that God loves this crazy old world and everybody in it, includin’ us poor folk. Maybe especially us poor folk. But don’t you ever forget, Bubba: Everybody’s important. Everybody matters. Everybody is precious in the eyes of God!”

And then I remembered what that angel said: “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to ALL people”—to ALL people—rich, poor; young, old; strong, weak; educated, and them that cain’t read. God done sent that baby to save all of us.

Well, that made me feel so good that I started tellin’ everybody I could, and so did my brothers. Y’all need to know there’s a God who loves ya’, and he done proved it by sendin’ this baby.

And remember: There ain’t nobody who’s nobody, ‘cause in God’s eyes, everybody is somebody.

And that there is some good news. Amen?

Y’all take care now, ya’ hear?

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