5 Is Risk Taking” (Matthew 21:31-40)

By | August 28, 2010

Glen Rose 5-P:
The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations #5


     The movie Coach Carter, starring Samuel L. Jackson, is based on a true story of a basketball Coach who was more interested in the long term effects education would have in the lives of his players than he was in just winning games. He locked his players out of the gym and the game until they focused on their schoolwork. But in the process, he taught them how to play, how to succeed and how to be champions both on the court and in life.

     Coach Carter risked everything to make his point. He risked his career and his reputation. But most of all he risked himself and risked getting involved with students many others had written off. He risked getting to know them. He risked rejection in order to make a difference. And he did.


     Years ago I ran across a piece titled RISK. I don’t remember who wrote it or where I found it but it goes like this: “To laugh is to risk appearing the fool. To weep is to risk appearing sentimental. To reach out for another is to risk involvement. To expose feelings is to risk exposing our true self. To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd is to risk loss. To love is to risk not being loved in return. To live is to risk dying. To hope is to risk despair. To try at all is to risk failure. But to risk we must, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The man, the woman, who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.”

     I’ve got a friend who puts it a little more simply. He says, “You can’t steer a parked car and you sure don’t get anywhere if you spend all your time trying.”  Growing, active churches don’t try to steer parked cars. They seek ways to be involved in Missions and Service and are not afraid to take risks. Partly because they remember the passage for today. Matthew 25:31-40 (NRSV)

[31] “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.

[32] All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,

[33] and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

[34] Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;

[35] for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

[36] I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

[37] Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?

[38] And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?

[39] And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’

[40] And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

     Today we draw our series on The 5 Practices to a close as we talk about Risk Taking Mission and Service. What is it that sets Risk Taking Mission and Service apart from any other kind of Mission and Service. Risk Taking automatically sets up the notion of Servant Leadership and Sacrificial Servanthood.


     A. For me, one of the most incredible things about Jesus was that he modeled Servant Leadership. Jesus’ words and actions spoke louder than his message. He taught “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

     In America we define success as fortune, fame, power and prestige. For most people, success is something that can be measured quantitatively through performance and by dollars and cents.

     Contrast that to the portrait of Jesus painted by the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:6-8: “Though He was equal with God He did not see equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, took the form of a servant, humbled Himself, came in the likeness of man, and was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

     Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting ambition down. In other contexts, Jesus that we’re to supposed invest, utilize and develop our talents. If we don’t invest and risk them by using them, then the only thing we risk is losing them. Jesus wasn’t against ambition, he just turned everything around. Our ambition should be to be like Him. Our ambition should be to serve as he served.

     B. Ernest Henry Shackleton was born on February 15, 1874, in Ireland. While Shackleton was still young, the family moved to London where Shackleton was educated. Ernest’s father wanted him to follow his footsteps and become a doctor. Instead, Shackleton joined the merchant navy at the age of sixteen. As a sailor, he traveled to many places, but his great desire was to travel to both the North and South Poles.

    In December of 1914, Shackleton finally set sail for the South Pole in command of the ship Endurance. He took with him a crew of twenty-seven men, many of whom had answered the following recruitment notice Shackleton placed in the newspaper: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.”

     So many men responded to the ad that Shackleton had to turn dozens away! Jesus leaves no doubt to how important and necessary Risk-Taking Mission and Service are. Our future and the future of the Church depend upon it. We need the same sort of men and women who are willing to step out on faith and take the risk in Servant Leadership in the life and ministry of the Church.


     A. And we do that partly through Sacrificial Service. Sacrificial Service is giving of our selves. It is making sacrifices in our lives we can touch the life of others with the love and grace of Christ. We’ve been called and commissioned to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world. We are called to be reflections of God’s Kingdom and God’s glory in the world today in tangible ways.

     In the movie Bruce Almighty, Jim Carey plays a guy who God chooses to let make all the decisions that God makes everyday. He basically let’s Bruce be God. Bruce is trying to figure it all out. God tells him one of the most profound things I think we can ever learn. WATCH

     We do have the power. The power to be the Miracle and we use that power or distribute that power  through Servant Leadership and Sacrificial Service.

     Shortly after World War II came to a close, Europe began picking up the pieces. Much of the Old Country had been ravaged by war and was in ruins. One of the saddest sights of all was all the orphaned children starving in the streets of those war-torn cities. Early one chilly morning, an American soldier was making his way back to the barracks. As he turned the corner in his jeep, he spotted a little boy with his nose pressed to the window of a pastry shop. Inside the cook was kneading dough for a fresh batch of doughnuts. The hungry boy stared in silence, watching every move.

     The soldier pulled his jeep over to the curb, stopped, got out, and walked quietly over to where the boy was standing. Through the steamed-up window the soldier could see the pastries as they were being pulled from the oven, piping hot. The boy’s mouth watered and he released a slight groan as he watched the cook place them onto the glass-enclosed counter. The soldier’s heart went out to that nameless little boy. Standing beside him the solider asked, “Son . . . would you like some of those?” The boy was startled. “Oh, yes Sir, . . . I would!”

     The American stepped inside and bought a dozen doughnuts, put them in a bag, and walked back to where the boy was standing in the foggy cold of the morning. He smiled, held out the bag, and said simply: “Here you are.”

     As he turned to walk away, he felt a tug on his coat. He looked back and heard the boy ask: “Mr. . . . are you God?” (3)

     We are never more like God or reflect the love of God more than when we Serve Sacrificially by sharing with others unselfishly.


     A. In Risk-Taking Mission and Service we bring eternity, we bring the presence of God right smack dab into the lives of those in need. As we Hold On To God and Hold On To Each Other God’s presence is made known in times like we’ve had this last week.

     Every Sunday in the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  In other words, each Sunday when we gather for worship, we ask for God’s will to be done so that we might experience the presence of God and the power of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

     In Risk-Taking Mission and Service, the church not only brings the presence of God, but we become the physical presence of the Body of Christ as we reach out to each other in times of need. God shows up in us: in every hand on the shoulder, every spoken and unspoken word that is said; in every gesture of love and support; in every bite of food prepared and in every prayer lifted to heaven.

     B. In Risk Taking Mission and Service we Hold On To God and both remind and encourage each other to do the same while we hold on to each other. Because when tragedy strikes, as it does, we can’t do it on our own. We can’t do it without God and we can’t do it without the help of others. And we certainly can’t do it without the help of God’s Holy Spirit.

     Do any of you remember St. Patrick’s Prayer? It is a perfect example and description of the power of the Holy Spirit that sustains us and fills us when we are involved in Risk Taking Mission and Service.

          Christ be with me, Christ within me,

          Christ behind me, Christ before me,

          Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

          Christ to comfort and restore me,

          Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

          Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

          Christ in hearts of all that love me,

          Christ in mind of friend and stranger.

     The presence of God’s Holy Spirit is simply God with us, every day in every way. Through the sustaining Reflection of God, the Redeeming Reflection is always with us. God fills us with the Spirit so that when we take risks for God’s Kingdom, when we respond to the love of God with Risk Taking Mission and Service we know we are Not Alone.

     And at times like this when one of our friends and family are hurting and grieving, we are given the strength to Risk our selves in service to them by upholding them and holding them up. It’s hard


     We have been created for Servant Leadership and not just Servant Leadership but a life of Sacrificial Service given lovingly and willingly.

     A mother was celebrating her birthday and the rest of the family was treating her to a party.  When the time came for the gifts, Mom was told to sit in her favorite living room chair.  One by one, the father and the two older children came in from the kitchen bearing their gifts on a tray.  They solemnly presented them to Mom as if she were royalty.  The smallest girl, who was really too little t have had much of a role in picking out the gifts, had been left out of the plans.  But watching the process, she rose to the occasion.  When the others thought the party was over, she appeared from the kitchen bearing an empty tray.  Approaching her mother she placed the tray on the floor, stepped on it herself, and with a childish wiggle of joy said, “Mommy, I give you ME!”

     Jesus, the only Son of God, walked the world, homeless. He borrowed everything, from the stable in which he was born to the tomb in which he was buried. Jesus, the Lord of all life, had everything and yet claimed nothing. Out of his great love and compassion, He gave himself up for us on the cross. Out of his unselfish service and obedience came our salvation and new life. He calls us to live and pursue a different kind of greatness, the greatness that comes from being a servant in the kingdom of God.  He calls us to pursue “the ambition to serve, the ambition to do things for others.”

     Follow the example of Christ.  Make Risk Taking Mission and Service your ambition.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.