3rd Sunday After Pentecost & 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 25, 2017

Sermon: “Taking the Good With the Bad”


Six years ago next Sunday, I arrived at Heritage Presbyterian Church as your pastor.  Bad things have certainly occurred during the past six years…here is a short list of some of them:

  • July 2011 average worship attendance was 46; that included the ten-member choir, two people leading worship, one usher doing the attendance count…and all of this occurred in a beautiful sanctuary that could hold 450 people.
  • In March 2012, we moved into a 100+ year old chapel on our former property…that also had 100+ year old wooden pews.
  • We were forced to sell that beautiful property and its buildings because we could not afford to keep it.
  • Members of Heritage left our church due to PCUSA denominational decisions that I had NO part in making.
  • Members of Heritage also left because they got mad at me.
  • Our first builder raised the price to build our new church by $300,000 after we had made the deal and raised the necessary funds.
  • And of course, we were just denied a new construction loan.

That’s quite a list, and I can imagine that many of you are cringing and hoping that I don’t read any more.  I don’t blame you at all.

But in the life of any believer, we must strive to also seek the good with the bad.  Here is another list of some good things:

  • All the people at Heritage, including those here at the Lodge.
  • The brand new church officers who never served before!
  • The returning church officers who came back to serve again – even though they know and understand what they are getting themselves into!
  • The Deacons’ Fund that is one of our largest benevolences.
  • Our Deacons, who are in charge of a ministry that does nothing but care for others – just as Jesus told us to do.
  • Watching our music program grow.
  • Teaching other, more experienced pastors the value of a regular day of Sabbath – like the one you ensure for me.
  • Finally…Stump the Choir Sunday, which was started during that very first July way back in 2011.

If we only notice one part of this list, then we only learn half of what is needed to learn; thus, the necessity of taking the good with the bad!

It is a silly fallacy if we believe that because we are Christians, because we are believers, because we know our Savior…that it means we will not get any bad stuff in our lives.  That is not true!  We will get all kinds of bad stuff in our lives, no matter what we believe.  The only thing we can do is to lean on our Lord for help and for strength during those times of trial and to keep moving.

And, of course, we could also take the good with the bad…and work harder at noticing the good!

In our reading from Genesis from today, Abraham takes his own son, Ishmael, and sends him away with his mother, Hagar, who was Sarah’s maid.  This is wrong in any modern view, but it is also what the Lord commanded Abraham to do.  Look at the bad in this story:

  • Sarah resented Hagar and her son, Ishmael.
  • Sarah thought that Ishmael competed with Isaac for Abraham’s attention, so she was upset and nagged Abraham to do something FAST.
  • Hagar and Ishmael were sent away into the desert to die.
  • Hagar turned her back on Ishmael so she won’t have to watch him die of thirst.

Could this BAD list get any worse?  But did you miss the GOOD?

Here is that list:

  • Ishmael is a son of Abraham, the father of God’s nation.
  • Ishmael will have a role of importance and security in the future, and this is promised to Hagar by God Almighty.
  • Ishmael and Hagar are saved by God himself.

That’s all good, don’t you think?  We have to take the good with the bad.

In the reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans, we have a clear-cut choice between good and bad.  And Paul makes absolutely sure we see both of them.

First, the bad list:

  • Sin
  • Death
  • Our old lives
  • Bondage

Now for the good list:

  • Grace
  • Eternal life
  • A new life
  • Freedom

Paul wrote his triumphant letter to the early Christian community in Rome.  Paul had his three missionary journeys all over the known world as he brought the Good News to the people.  Paul was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, even as he was a proper Jew himself.

But Paul also had his final journey to Rome where he appeared before the Emperor.  Paul was tortured, beaten, jailed, and ultimately beheaded for his faith…because Paul was an Apostle of Jesus Christ.

If we only notice one part of this list, then we only learn half of what is needed to learn; thus, the necessity of taking the good with the bad!

Finally, in the really odd reading from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we get a whole list of good and bad.  Here they are:

  • the disciple not above the teacher;
  • the slave not above the master;
  • dark and light;
  • killing the body and killing the soul;
  • God knows every sparrow and every hair on your head, so God certainly knows you;
  • if you acknowledge Jesus, Jesus will acknowledge you;
  • if you deny Jesus, then Jesus will deny you;
  • no peace but a sword instead;
  • and we get family problems such as:
    • man against his father;
    • daughter against her mother;
    • daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
  • If we find life, we will lose it;
  • If we lose our life, we will find it.

Now that’s what I call a pattern of good and bad.  Life as a believer guarantees good and bad, and we will certainly have opportunities to have both.

But I have often wondered what would happen if we had NO knowledge of bad at all…we only knew good.  History shows us clearly that when the people of God had it good, it didn’t take too long before they turned against the God who had provided all the good they needed.  They had plenty of good, but they deliberately turned away from it and chose bad.

It is human nature, it would seem.

So perhaps the best we can do is to fight against our own nature.  That means being steadfast and stubborn and immovable when it comes to the bad.  It may happen, but that doesn’t mean we have to take it, embrace it, or even accept it.  We can fight against the bad with every ounce of our being because we know who provides all the good.

The Lord God, who is loving and merciful and good, is the one.

Take the good with the bad just means you are going to look for both, even when it is hard to see anything other than the bad.

Alleluia!  Amen!

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