November 13, 2016 - 212 Degrees

26th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 28

Malachi 4:1-2a; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21: 5-19

 In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to get a little anxious when Jesus starts talking about wars and insurrections and false messiahs and the destruction of the Temple. There was a young church in Thessaloniki, the Roman capital of Macedonia, a church Paul had planted.  He wrote his first letter we have in the New Testament only 20 or so years after Jesus’ death to them.  

The folks in this community were particularly concerned about the second coming of Christ.  This was a great expectation of the Thessalonians, and probably all of the early Christian communities.  In Paul’s first letter to them, he goes to some length to explain and reassure them that their relatives and friends who have died will still be part of the great resurrection when Jesus returns, so they don’t really need to worry about that at all. 

Paul was having difficulty with the church in Thessaloniki because some of the members were refusing to do their share of the work.  I am sure you have seen bumper stickers or signs that say:

“The worst day of fishing is better than the best day of working.” 

“Hard work may not kill me but why take a chance.”

“I don’t mind going to work but that 8 hour wait to go home is awful.” 

But most of us relate to the bumper sticker that says: “ I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” 

Paul says, “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive.  They are not busy; they are busybodies.”  It seems that at least some of the Thessalonians decided that since Jesus was going to come back any minute anyway, and since they were all saved, then they would just sit back and wait in leisure, letting others take care of things.    Because, in Paul’s first letter he explained that Jesus would return like a thief in the night and they needed to be ready, some of them were compulsively examining every potential clue to see if in fact Jesus was in the process of coming back.  They kept asking, Could this be a sign?  Could that be a sign?  Is Jesus back yet?  Is he?  Is he? 

Paul then had to write a second letter saying that perhaps he, Paul, overstated Jesus’ imminent return. Paul told them pretty much what Luke said in our gospel today.  The gathering of the faithful will not come before there are some big events that are cosmic in scope.  It is not going to be subtle.  They really won’t be able to miss it. 

Meanwhile, he warned those who are continuing to sit back and wait for the big day without contributing to the community to avoid spending their time getting into everybody’s business. 

Paul is not saying that we should not feed the hungry unless they get jobs. That would go against the grain of everything in the Old Testament and Jesus’ teaching.  We should care for the most vulnerable among us, feeding the hungry clothing the naked and show hospitality to strangers in our midst.  Instead Paul is saying, do your work, don’t be a busybody, don’t neglect to do your part in building up the community.  In our world today there are many kinds of hunger.  Truly through our Faith and Food Pantry we are feeding those who need food to eat.  People need to be fed in so many other ways.  Families trying to escape poverty, addiction, domestic violence and homelessness need not only food but classes to teach them how to be self-sufficient.  There are those who hunger for friendship and community and others who hunger for ways they can join in an already existing group to find a meaningful activity. 

The members of the church at Thessaloniki had many good excuses, just as you and I do, when there is work to be done.  Churches are a living testimony to Paretto’s principle that 20% of the people do 80% of the work.  It is human nature.  I know I am talking to the 20% but each of us can try a little harder to bump it up a notch, whether it is your time, talent or treasure. 

At 211 degrees, water is hot.

At 212 degrees, it boils.

And with boiling water, comes steam.

And steam can power a locomotive. 

It is your life.  YOU are responsible for your results.  From this day forward, commit to operating at 212 degrees in everything you do.  Etch it into your thinking – into your being.  Apply it to your actions.  It guarantees to increase your results positively and in so many cases, increases your results exponentially! 

Don’t be afraid to step out on courage.  General George Patton said, “Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.” 

Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” 

Hall of Fame Football Coach, Vince Lombardi said, “Inches make a champion.” 

Here is a very short story about the 212 degree attitude from the CEO of a very large company:

“I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 30 years, and I’ve come to realize that the difference in success or failure is not how you look, or how you dress.  It’s how you think!  Early in my career I was the vice president of sales for a food company.  One time I was in Detroit hiring a sales person for the market.  We had lined up eight appointments for the day and the morning had been a bust.   

I looked up and my 1 o’clock appointment was standing at the door. He was a tall, good-looking guy and I remember thinking, “This could be the one.”  We talked for about 15 minutes, and I asked a question I always ask, “What will you be doing five years from now?  I’ll never forget his answer:  He said, “Mr. Anderson, the way these appointments have been going, I might be still interviewing!”  Well, that was not exactly what I wanted to hear.  We talked for a few more minutes and I excused him.  

Then I looked up and my 2:00 was there.  He was a short guy with a wrinkled sport coat.  He walked over and gave me a confident handshake, and a few minutes later I asked the same questions, “What are you going to be doing five years from now?”  He looked me right in the eye and said, “Mr. Anderson, I’m going to be working for you.  This job fits my skills and my needs to a tee.  I don’t just think, I know I can sell your product in this market.  And furthermore, if you don’t like my performance after thirty days, you don’t owe me a cent.” 

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather!  He had just made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  But the offer had nothing to do with the money I might save; it had everything to do with his unwavering passion and belief he could do it.  Within a year, Bob was the number one sales person in the company!” 

As part of the plan of God, all work is a ministry, a mission, a sacred endeavor.  Each of us seeks that Divine “well-done thou good and faithful servant” not because we have to earn God’s favor, but because He has honored us highly by giving us a part in His kingdom.   

Involvement and reminders drive continual awareness.  With awareness comes responsibility and action.  Let the number 212 degrees serve as your constant reminder.  Write it down and leave it where it might serve you best to prompt you to extra action. 

What will YOU be doing in 5 years? 

This week, it’s time to turn up the heat to 212 degrees in everything you do and let’s see what we can accomplish! Let’s go to work!  AMEN.