Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost (July 30, 2023)

Blessed Are the Small Things

Preaching Text: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Can you imagine taking $15,000 (which is a lot of money), and using that to erase over three million dollars of medical debt?  That is a huge boatload of money!  And it releases families at the poverty level from the burden of having to pay for much-needed medical care.  Let me introduce you to the Debt Jubilee Project.

The Debt Jubilee Project: For the Healing of the World is a collaborative effort of the Board of World Mission, the Commission on Congregational Development, the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America, and the Interprovincial Board of Communication. Based on our biblical call to care for the sick and our belief that healthcare is a fundamental human right, this project will work to offer grace and hope through the forgiveness of medical debt. Because our call is to our siblings in Christ here in North America and throughout the world, this project will forgive medical debt in the United States as well as at the Moravian medical ministry of the Clínica Evangélica Morava in Ahuas, Honduras.

Through this effort, we hope to build on the energy and witness of the recent work of Moravian congregations such as Trinity in Winston-Salem, which raised about $15,000 earlier this year to forgive over $3,000,000 in medical debt. The Debt Jubilee Project; For the Healing of the World aims to provide an opportunity for more Moravians to join in this freeing and life-changing initiative. Our goal is to raise $50,000 in 50 days with the project concluding on August 13th.

75% of the money raised will support the elimination of medical debt in the U.S. through a partnership with RIP Medical Debt, an organization that purchases medical debt for pennies on the dollar and erases that debt, which would otherwise have been sold to for-profit debt collectors. RIP Medical Debt only abolishes debt for those earning less than 4x the federal poverty level and/or holding debts of 5% or more of their annual income. The Debt Jubilee Project: For the Healing of the World will specifically forgive debts for those living in U.S. counties with a Moravian presence (through a congregation or ministry). The individuals and families who owe the medical debt purchased will receive a letter informing them that their debt is forgiven. Jubilee!

25% of the money raised will buy debt owed by patients of the Clínica Evangélica Morava, a Moravian medical ministry in Ahuas, Honduras, that has been serving the remote area of La Mosquitia for over 75 years. Medical debt held in this area is a burden on the indebted patients, the clinic, and the community as a whole. The individuals and families who owe the medical debt purchased will receive notice informing them that their debt is forgiven. Jubilee!

Imagine just $15,000 being used to forgive $3,000,000 in medical dept.  AMAZING! Sometimes the world’s problems overwhelm us to the point that all we can do is stand still rather than do something to improve it. But take heart; sometimes it takes just a little bit of love to mend hurt feelings. Sometimes it takes just a little bit of generosity to bring about healing. Sometimes it takes just a little bit of grace to save a marriage. We are not being called upon to save the world; that’s God’s work. Our mission is to touch one life at a time.

If we can take one thing from the string of illustrations that Jesus gives us in this week’s Gospel lesson, it is that small things end up making a big difference.

Back in the early 1970s, Dr. Edward Lorenz was researching weather prediction patterns and noticed that just a slight change in the initial calculations could, over time, yield vastly different results.  This is why hurricane course predictions begin rather focused, but over time; the cone widens to allow for the variability.  Dr. Lorenz is famous for positing that the flutter of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil could start the ripple effect that causes a hurricane in Texas.  I think he was stretching his point by saying that, but we should get the point.  That which seems small now, can have a significant impact later on.

So Jesus begins this series of illustrations by talking about a mustard seed. The smallest of seeds but which grows into a tree that can provide shelter and shade for the birds.  That tiny seed certainly means a lot to the birds that build their nest and raise their family under its protection.  I would also suggest that the tiny mustard seed provides some mighty good mustard on my hot dog.

Jesus doubles down on the argument by talking about yeast in bread.  Again, we don’t use much yeast in baking a loaf of bread, but that small amount radically transforms how the bread feels and tastes.  Leave the yeast out, and the bread is dense and tasteless.  Something small that changes everything.

Jesus then changes the focus slightly in the illustration about the hidden treasure.  Here Jesus tells us of a person who, upon finding something valuable beneath the ground, sells all they have and buys the field. This person, Jesus tells us, is so filled with joy that they risk everything they have to obtain more. This hidden treasure buried in the ground completely changes this person’s focus in life.

This notion is amplified as Jesus moves on to talk about a merchant who has been searching for the perfect pearl.  Like the person who has found the hidden treasure, this merchant sells everything they have so that he may purchase this one pearl.

I have come to see valuing our relationship with Jesus as being the hidden treasure or the priceless pearl is what can transform our own focus and purpose in living.  Giving our all to the kingdom as Jesus sees it allows us to follow him with how to live, how we love, how we share, and how we forgive.  And, as sharing Jesus’ love and grace begins to define our mission, it is the small acts of kindness that will transform lives and, down the line, could make all the difference in the world.

Finally, there is the illustration of the fishing net. Too often, we narrow our focus to those who look like us, talk like us, worship like us, and believe like us.   The fishing net does not discriminate. It envelopes everything that it can.  Jesus called questionable fishermen and tax collectors to be his disciples.  He ate with the prostitutes and was not afraid to touch the lepers.  We too are being called to share these small acts of kindness in ways that move us beyond our safe harbors.

Perhaps a small change in your life could change you and help you impact the world through small acts of kindness. It may be a more consistent prayer life. Or, what would adding a Bible Study or Sunday class to your weekly routine do for you? What community service organization could use an hour or two of your time each week? Could you give a week of your time to volunteer for a VBS program or be a cabin counselor at a summer church camp? What could a charitable organization or church budget do with an increase in giving from you?

Think about this, every $1.00 given to the Dept Jubilee project forgives up to $15,000 of medical dept. It is the small gifts that make the most significant difference in life.