Saturday, October 02, 2010

Write It Plain Pentecost 19 Proper 22C

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 

Have you ever really paid attention to the billboards along the roads? You are probably saying to yourself, “What a stupid question! Of course I have seen the billboards along the roads; how could I miss them?” But that is not what I asked. I asked if you paid attention to them.

Some billboards are really easy to see, really easy to read. They are printed in large letters and the message is brief and to the point. Other billboards are messy with too much printing, too small of print, and indistinct pictures. There is billboard like this on the corner of Rogers Rd and Main St. I had to drive by that one a few times before I could even figure out what they were trying to sell. When the message is that muddy, that indistinct… Well, I know that if the message is that difficult to comprehend, I tend to give up rather than try to figure out what the message is saying.

But there is something to be said about clarity of message and ease of understanding. When you want to get the message to the people, knowing what you are trying to say, and saying it as clearly as possible are your best bets. And although I’m guessing there probably weren’t billboards in the desert during Biblical times, God seems to be giving us some lessons in how to get our message out there. And even though the message is from the past, we still have something that we can learn from our Old Testament reading for today.

The prophet Habakkuk tells us that there is still a vision for the appointed time. God still has a vision, even if we think it is delayed, it is occurring and it is occurring in God’s time. God’s vision is so much bigger than our vision and God’s vision will not be delayed. It occurs when it is needed. We may feel that the vision is late, or that the vision is not occurring at the right time. We may feel that we have lost the vision or God has taken the vision from our community. We may feel this, but that is because we are looking with our limited sight. God’s vision is still there; as the scriptures say, “If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surly come, it will not delay.”

But what is this vision of God? What are we supposed to write plain? What are we supposed to be writing so it can be read by a runner? What is the vision God is supposed to be giving us?

Sometimes I think we make this vision too difficult. We are like the advertisers who what to put too much on the billboards. We want to say everything. We want to put it all out there. But that is not what we are told to do. We are to make the message plain! Plain enough so that drivers, flying by at 75 MPH can comprehend it! Plain enough to make an impact on the hustle and bustle of the world.

Last week, I asked you to really think about why you are here, in this place, on this morning. I asked you to consider why you come back week after week. And I asked you what you had to give to the Kingdom of God. In looking at your responses, one of the things that kept jumping out was the feeling of mission and outreach that has been a part of this congregation since its establishment. This seems to be the message that we are given to write. But sadly, this is the message that seems to be missing. This is the message that we are forgetting.

What is our message? What are we saying as a congregation? Even though it appears that God is telling us that our message is mission and outreach, that message seems to have become lost from public view. It is still in our hearts, God has not taken it away, but it is not written plainly for the runner to read. We don’t seem to be out there spreading the message. Even though God appears to be making it plain to our hearts, we seem to be getting sidetracked.

What so often happens is that the messages of the world are more plain then the message we are trying to send. I remember a small town near where I grew up. Everyone knew about the purple house on the bend in the road. What most people didn’t know was that right across from the purple house was a restaurant. The purple house was much more plain to see than the restaurant and therefore, people remembered the house, even though the restaurant had a large, lighted sign out in front of it. The message the house was sending, which was “Look At Me!” was so much more plain than the message of the restaurant. So therefore, the people remembered the house, and totally ignored the restaurant.

We have a similar situation here. We have a school across the street from us that writes all kinds of messages plainly. When someone drives down the road, they are not looking at us; they are looking at the school. Maybe we should paint the church purple! People would remember us!

But all kidding aside, how do we make the message plain? How do we make the message more memorable and more important than the messages the world is sending out? The world is sending out some pretty strong messages and if we want to make the message known, we need to be sure of the message we are sending out. We need to know the message so well that we can spread it in as plain a way as possible. We need to spread the news of God’s love in as easy a way as possible.

Now, I have been speaking about message as if it is something that we just set out there like a sign in the front yard and hope that people see it and understand it. And that IS one aspect of making the message plain. But there was also the aspect of MAKING the message known. The reason why the message needed to be read by the runner was because the runner was going from community to community spreading the news. TVs and radios didn’t exist, so if you wanted to get the message to the people, YOU had to bring the message to the people. You or your apostle (the word “apostle” is Greek for “messenger”) would have to be sure the message was spread to those who needed to hear it. As I said, there were no billboards in the desert so getting the message out was very important. And if you wanted to make sure the people knew, you sent a messenger out to the people.

So we need to get our message out and we need to be the ones bringing the message to the people. We need to be out running in the world and spreading the message of Christ’s love. We need to be about spreading the message of God. God has a vision for us; God has a vision for the world. And although this vision may seem to be tarrying, it will surely come. It will not delay. We may fear that the vision will pass us by, but what God has promised, God will see through. God has put the message of mission and outreach onto our heart. God has let us know that this is the vision and that this vision will not fail. God has given us the message, and now calls us to bring it to the world.

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