Turning the World Right Side Up
Sunday, August 28, 2022
Guest Preacher, Katie Hendrikson 

Grace, peace, and mercy are yours, from Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

What a joy and honor it is to be standing in this pulpit as a seminary graduate. It only feels right that my first time preaching after concluding my internship year and graduate degree is back in the church where it all began with the people who quite literally raised me.

As many of you know, I recently moved back to Minnesota after spending a year living in Vancouver, Washington—just outside of Portland. Just as Augustana used to host interns for a year of growing and learning, I was the pastoral intern for a congregation named Messiah. Messiah reminded me a lot of Augustana—a welcoming congregation with much of their focus aimed on how we are able to best serve our neighbors, both inside and outside of the church walls.

Though much smaller than Augustana, Messiah has two pastors– a married couple– serving their congregation, both of which held supervisory roles for me as an intern.

I was the 11th intern at Messiah in a decade, and just a few months into my internship, these pastors announced their retirement after 28 years at Messiah, and over 35 years of ministry overall. I started internship with the goal to do well; to use the skills and experiences I had at Augustana over the course of my life to show them I was more than capable to be a pastor, and to be a good one at that. I was so focused on how to prove myself, not only to the pastors but also to the congregation, that I lost sight of what was happening in front of me.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us of what it looks like to live a faithful life…of what it looks like to live in the world without being subject to it. But how do we achieve that when we are so focused on our reputation and material items… the things we wear, the gadgets we have?

I will be the first to admit—I love a new pair of shoes…having the newest Apple products…I am definitely the type to fall victim to the newest and latest trends in fashion, attempting to update my wardrobe when a new trend has taken off. Don’t we all love to be in touch with the newest and coolest and latest trends in society?

The problem with this is that, as Christians, we fall victim in our attempt to serve two masters. We are overcome by the grip society has on us all when we are focused on material possessions, wealth, and our overall reputation. Jesus tells us in his sermon “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

When we are so focused on keeping up with society…when we are so focused on what we’re wearing or where we’re eating… when we are so focused on the smallest details of our life, our faith in God is tested, and we tend to forget about the bigger picture. We fail to recognize the ways in which we can be living a Christ-like life.

As an intern in Washington, one might say I was a disciple of the pastors I was working under. Oxford Languages defines the word disciple as “one who follows the teachings, life, and aim of another person until the person becomes like the master.”

If you think of Jesus’ 12 disciples, their purpose was to learn the teachings and way of life of Christ so they could go out do the same. And this is exactly the point of a pastoral internship—to follow the ways and being of the seasoned pastors we are paired with. To learn the ways of the church. To know and understand what it looks like to be a pastor and a follower of Christ.

I was so caught up over the past year about how to please my internship “masters” that I failed to see the ways that God was at work ahead of me. I worried about the small details of internship rather than focusing on the bigger picture—that being how to faithfully proclaim and live out the teachings and ways of Christ and how to fully put my trust in God. I’m sure my mom will tell you all about the many phone calls she got throughout the year, many accompanied with tears, of me worrying about how to please my supervisors; worrying about if I was doing something right; worrying about my attempt to be a pastor and to be a faithful one at a that.

I was so focused on serving my masters that I forgot to recognize the ways in which I am called to serve the greatest master of all—God.

When we try to serve two masters in life—those being God and whatever else consumes your time and thoughts—maybe it’s society, maybe it’s your boss, maybe it’s your family… when we try to serve two masters in life, we lose sight of what it looks like to live a Christ-like life. When we only focus on the newest gadgets, the newest clothes, pleasing others in our life, our world is turned upside down. We are in competition with each other to have the newest and coolest items… We are divided. We are more focused on ourselves and not so focused on what it means to be a disciple of Christ; we are not so focused on how to serve our neighbors. We are more focused on the “me” rather than the “we.” That’s not what a world turned right side up should look like.

But when we turn our hearts, minds, and actions toward God, our world starts to shift and turn right-side up again. The Sermon on the Mount always reminds me of my early years at church. Between my brother, myself, or any of our church friends, you could always find one of us wearing on our wrist the letters “WWJD” – What would Jesus do? And that phrase feels like it could be the mantra or slogan for Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount—

…in the moments we are overcome by societal trends, our attempts to please others, or caring too much about what others think—I hope you remember those four letters. WWJD. What would Jesus do if he were in your situation? I can tell you this much… Jesus wouldn’t worry. He wouldn’t care about having the newest shoes or clothes…he wouldn’t worry about what was for dinner… he wouldn’t worry about what others thought of him…and he never did! But one thing Jesus always did—Jesus always trusted God.

We are constantly reminded throughout the bible that Jesus is God incarnate. Jesus is sent from above as a gift to us all and he embodies the ways and being of God and exemplifies that for all of us here on earth. Jesus shows us what it looks like to be and do and trust as a disciple of God. And with that, we too are invited to become disciples of Christ.

So, what does that look like? Of course, there are the traditional ways that come to mind for us all—going to worship, saying prayers, singing songs. But there are so many other ways to be and do and act as a disciple of Christ. It might include the ways of love, and care, serving others, dignifying the lost, the least and the forgotten. It might come in the form of showing up for someone, delivering a meal, lending an ear to listen. Trust that God has provided you with all you need to be the best version of yourself. There is no right or wrong way to be a disciple of Christ.

My internship year was a time of growth and challenges and learning. Learning what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ. As I reflect on my year of service, I am able to recognize the ways in which my worrying kept me from trusting God and kept me from living a Christ-like life

I was so caught up in proving myself and worrying about what my “masters” and others thought that I didn’t focus enough on proclaiming the good news or even remembering why I was there. I was in that role to serve Christ, to learn and embrace how to become a disciple. To be reminded of the ways that God is at work in my life currently, and the ways the God is at work in my life ahead of me. Worrying about all of these things adds nothing to our lives but trusting in God and following Christ adds so much.

When you are feeling engulfed by the expectations of society, your job, or even your family or friends, I hope you pause and think of those four letters “WWJD.” What would Jesus do? Jesus would keep on with his life, healing, and loving, and caring for others, trusting in God, and trying to make an upside down world right…and he would encourage us to do the same. Jesus wouldn’t worry about it…. So why should we? Amen.

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