"Free, But Not Cheap"
Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Church
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
These are two concepts that each of us weigh
the benefits and the liabilities
in just about every consumer decision we make.
Price is essentially a fixed data point;
but generally not,
at least in our North American culture.
Value, on the other hand,
is a wide open frontier,
involving many subjective criteria, such as:
satisfaction to the purchaser.
For example, one might believe
Toyota is better than Honda, or Ford is better than Chevy.
Lexus is a better car than a Scion, or Buick is better than Dodge.
If the neighborhood all drives Hyundais, then the peer pressure may be to buy a Hyundai.
One might believe
Nissan is more reliable than a Chrysler,
that a Corolla will last longer than a Civic,
or that a Leaf is more green than a Prius.
At the end of the day, one may believe
one car just fits and feels better than another.
Cars all serve the same function:
to get from point A to point B.
Yet, there is a rainbow of diversity when it comes to cars.
It is all very subjective.
Similar analogies can be made in regards to home purchases,
college or career selections,
what job we take or what church we choose.
On a micro scale,
weighing Price and Value
even has its place in choosing between
what restaurant we visit or
what soup you want to have for lunch.
At the risk of appearing to equate consumerism to theology (I’m not),
I’d like to make the suggestion that a similar analogy can be made
between Price and Value and a life of faith.
Our brand is United Methodist.
Our product is Zion.
Certainly, there are other brands and products out there;
each has its unique set of benefits and liabilities.
Our status may be seen in decline, by some,
especially when compared to independent, evangelical, mega churches.
But others might see our status differently.
Mainline churches would score as reliable by most people;
after all, we’ve been around for centuries.
If any church is Old Reliable,
it would be a Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, or Baptist.
This would give us a high ranking on sustainability.
Performance is more a hit or a miss.
Some local churches are thriving like gangbusters,
others, are like a thirsty plant long in need of watering.
At the end of the day
joining our personal spiritual journey with a community of faith
comes down to individual satisfaction.
Does it fit?
Does it feel right?
Some might make the decision to stay
while others might want to search other seas.
There are a lot of good cars on the road
and there are a lot of fine communities of faith in the neighborhood.
Unlike cars, when it comes to a life of faith, price is variable.
There is a price that is paid by the individual
and there is a price that has been paid for the individual.
First, what is the price to take part in a life of faith and spiritual development in a community of faith?
You’ll find different prices for different products.
At Zion, the price is quite simple.
We each agree to the same price:
We will support our community of faith with our prayers, presence, gifts, and service.
We will pray for Zion;
our children, our elderly, our sick, and our infirmed.
We will pray for our people making life decisions.
Our prayers will include praise and thanks for blessings,
confessions for our failures,
even our anger and our disappointments in our setbacks.
This is why prayer is such a central part of our worship.
Another price we agree to pay is the price of our presence.
we will be here.
We will be here for our worship
our planning, our outreach, and our missions.
We will be here in good times and bad times.
We will be here to serve turkey and dry dishes
and to attend meetings or attend a class.
Our gifts reflect a monetary price.
There is a fiscal aspect of every community of faith and ours is no different.
Each of us pay what we are able;
a portion of the abundance God has given to each of us.
I’ve often thought that there is a certain fiscal elegance to small churches;
everyone must do their part,
no matter how large or how small it may be,
but everyone is essential.
No one is disposable.
Our service comes at a price, too.
We pay the price with our time,
committing our skills for the community’s benefit.
The time and effort we pay is real;
whether we are installing a floor, sewing a quilt, making personnel decisions, or singing a duet.
It is all too easy to focus on the price we pay to participate in our spiritual journey through life.
But often times, we fail to recognize the price that was paid for us, on our behalf.
Peter addressing Cornelius and his two slaves
in our lesson from Acts of the Apostles (10:34-48)
reveals the depth and breadth of
the price God paid for us.
God wants us to live in peace,
to be healed of all that oppresses,
and to do good.
God wants us to be witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection
and to testify that Jesus is ordained as judge of the living and dead.
God wants us to receive forgiveness of sins
simply in exchange for our belief in Him.
This is what God wants
and the price He paid for this
was the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s grace comes free to us,
but it isn’t cheap:
it has been bought and paid for by the blood of the Lamb.
We didn’t ask for God’s grace;
his kindness to purchase these gifts on our behalf.
God wanted these wonderful gifts for us before we were ever born
simply because we are His creation,
we are His children,
and He eternally loves us.
But God’s grace doesn’t end here.
The resurrection story of Easter helps brings this fact into laser focus.
Just as Christ died for our sins;
so too, does Christ rise from the dead for our salvation.
The price God paid for our eternal life
Is the same that God paid for our redemption.
To win victory over death,
His only begotten Son had to die.
To claim eternal life,
Jesus emerged from an empty tomb.
Our Lord paid, and paid dearly.
God paid the ultimate price for our redemption and our salvation.
We have been purchased,
by the loving grace of God;
bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Truly, “Amazing love!
How can it be,
that you, my King, hast died for me.”
I’d suggest the value we receive
in choosing Zion
as our faith partner
is a pretty good value, indeed.
We come together,
we walk together through thick and thin
throughout all of life’s events.
We are one Body of Christ.
The price we pay to take part in this spiritual journey
pales in comparison
to the price that has already been paid for each of us.
Our redemption and our salvation has come free to us,
but they’ve been purchased at a great price;
the precious blood of Jesus,
God’s only Son.
That, my beloved,
is how much God loves you.Amen.