Membership has its privileges?

Matthew 25:31-46 Lent 5 March 22, 2015

Membership has its privileges. We’ve heard this before, haven’t we? For country clubs, and all those cards you accumulate for Target and Best Buy and ShopKo and Madcake and Dunn Bros. I fumble to find them, so that I can get points that I never know how they’re used; or for my free cup of coffee or for the book of coupons. Yes, I’m a loyal customer. Reward me, please. Wait, I have proof. Here you go.

Today’s scripture seems to suggest you should be digging in your pocket or into the depths of your purse to find your loyalty card, your good works card, to show the punches, the efforts.

Yet it would be hard not to notice what happened in the reading, right? Each of you were indicated in the reading as being both on the right and on the left. In categories of accursed and righteous. The line down the middle didn’t hold.

We turn to scripture to find our story. Often times, when we read scripture, we want comfort or answers or both. It is tempting to read today’s scripture with neat categories in mind: right and wrong; good and bad; accursed and righteous; saved or damned.

Today, we celebrate one of the greatest gifts of faith: baptism. This is not a card you collect to prove your worthiness. Ashlee and Christopher do not change categories today, from the left to the right. It’s way better than that. It’s way more dangerous than that. Today, they die and are brought to new life in Christ. And they will never be the same again. Because life in Christ, for all of us, means that we die to our own selves and are made new because we put on Christ.

It’s in this water that all the divisions we draw about who is in and who is out are washed away. It’s in this water that Christ gets rid of all the stuff that hurts us and hurts other people and separates us from God. And this water and God’s word promises that, once and for all, we are claimed by God and made members of the body of Christ. This human, fleshy family that defies time and space, country and nation.

I’ve been intentional in talking about River of Hope as a place you call home instead of being a member. It’s way more awkward and clumsy to call yourself a River of Hope-er, or to say you are part of a church community called River of Hope. But it’s an intentional move. Because then you can’t just say, “I’m a member” and leave it at that. To talk about belonging to the family of Christ, well if you want to say membership has its privileges, then lets just name what those are: You have the privilege of worrying about other people more than you worry about your own self, your own family. You have the distinct privilege of getting clothes on people who are naked; feeding hungry people; visiting murderers in prison; getting a cup of water to someone who is thirsty.

One of our guiding principles, one of our core values here at River of Hope is this:

We meet you where you are. It’s something we want to practice because we know that Jesus comes to us right in the middle of wherever we are. It’s true. In our despair and in our joy. In our doubt and denial. In our faith and love.

So, we too are called to go out and be part of the work of Jesus transforming lives and that means we can’t wait for people to get themselves together to meet them only on Sunday morning at 10:30 at the Hutchinson Event Center, after they’ve gotten it together to be a good Christian.

Church membership is not about who is in and who is out. Who was here first and who matters most. Belonging to the family of Christ means we are sent out to love other people. It means that we are loved always and forever and our response to that love matters. Because God is desperately in love with you. And God is desperately in love with the world that he sends us out to love.

Put away your punch card and your membership status. You don’t have time to keep track of it. God made you and claims you and loves you. The reward is the work and it’s good work. So how will you love Hutchinson? How will you show love to the world? Well, we are sent out to meet people where they are: naked or hungry or thirsty or lonely or gay or trans or atheist or apathetic or rich or poor. We are called to all of it. Thanks be to God. Amen.