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Pay Heed

Rev. Cheryl Harader, preaching:

“Pay Heed.” When I saw that phrase on the front license plate of a car, I thought, “That’s a great title for my sermon!” And now, I have a confession to make. My next thought was that I knew I’d heard it before, and wondered what movie or book it was from. (I know, I know.) So, when I got home, I typed it into Google to find out where it came from. And then, even thought was by myself at the time, I felt really stupid, or ashamed, or something. I mean, really. I should have known that it was a KU phrase! Good grief! It’s practically synonymous with “Beware the Phog.” (Yes, I spelled it P-h- o-g.) Beware. It makes “Pay heed” sound like a warning. And, in the case of the Jayhawks, that’s exactly what they want.

But this morning, “Pay Heed” is a message from God, I think. And coming from God, it becomes an invitation, not a warning. And so, this morning, we look at that invitation, “Pay Heed.”

  • In Luke, we heard that the Pharisees, and I’m sure the disciples and others around Jesus, asked about the kingdom of God. They thought they knew what it would look like, and they didn’t see any proof of it. Jesus basically said, “You won’t find it looking over there or over here. Because the kingdom of God is in your midst (or within in).” The disciples didn’t get it then, and they didn’t get it until much later. God’s kingdom looked so different than what they had been taught from birth. They were looking in the wrong places; they were expecting the wrong things.
  • When talking about noticing—or rather, not noticing—God in the world, Barbara Brown Taylor says, in her book An Altar in the World, “The reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot (that is, the spot where God is) is because we are standing on it.”
  • The Kingdom of God is among us, within us. Every moment, every day.
  • In Acts 3, Peter and John were going to the temple for prayer, when they healed the man.
    • They weren’t in the temple of God. They were outside; and they healed a man. They were “on the way,” and they healed a man.
    • They were on the way to do something they had done thousands of time in their lives—going to a synogogue. A common experience for all of them, the beggar and Peter and John.
    • And God was there, in the common, ordinary experience of going to church.
  • No matter what the time, or the place, God is there.
  • In Genesis 28, Jacob was traveling across Israel to Haran on his way to find a wife. He got tired, found a stone for a pillow, and went to sleep. Pretty normal stuff for a man of his day. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Then, that night, he had a dream, when God promises him the land he is sleeping on. When Jacob wakes up, he says, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!”
  • He doesn’t stop there. The writer tells us that he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
  • There’s no temple here; not even a tent synagogue. But that place—that ordinary place—was the house of God. Jacob experienced it as the very entry into heaven. The place where he laid his head. God was there and he knew it.
  • “The reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing [or sleeping!] on it.”
  • How often do we look in the wrong places? And miss the kingdom of God that is within us or in our midst?
  • Are we looking for the grandiose, when God is in our every day, ordinary lives?
    • Like Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “We can’t all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” God is in those ordinary things done with great love.
  • And God is a part of every small act. When you treat a cashier or waiter with kindness; when you tell your family they are important to you; all of those acts are ways that God is working through you to touch the lives of others. God is in your midst, and within you.
  • When someone shows you love and concern, when someone offers you help. Those are ways that God is working through them to show you that God loves you. God is there.
  • How often do we even think of God when we’ve had a lousy day and someone smiles at us and says “hi” and we feel human again?
  • At those times, we can be thinking what Jacob thought: “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!”
    • The Lord was not “here” or “there.” But right in their midst. In our midst. How often do we overlook God?
  • What possible significance could a trip to the grocery store, or even to the dentist have? What about the fun night at school? Or that business meeting that you have been dreading? Or even the birthday party or wedding? How could those be significant enough for God to show up at?
    • But—I suggest that it is possible that we can say after each one, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I didn’t even know it.”
    • Yes, I think it’s not only possible, but it is the reality—every time we go to the grocery store, or the dentist, or work, or a party.
    • Every single time we fluff up our pillows, get some rest, and wake up. We can say without any doubt, “Surely the Lord has been in this place, and I didn’t even know it!”
  • If we can say that, and I believe that we can, then what prevents us from knowing it? What keeps us from receiving the blessing of knowing that God is with us as we walk into that grocery store or dentist’s office; what keeps us from trusting that God goes with us to that meeting or that class? Or even that God celebrates with us at the wedding?
  • What keeps us from truly knowing that the red X that marks the spot is right beneath us at all times?
  • I think maybe we are the reason. We forget to “Pay heed.” To pay attention. We get tired or lazy. We just go through the motions. And it becomes too easy to forget to “pay heed” to the God that goes with us, every moment of every day.
  • The God that is within us and in our midst, like Jesus promised, is always with us, we just need to “pay heed.” And it’s not always easy.
  • I think Barbara Brown Taylor had it right when she said, “The treasure we seek [God] requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need. The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are.”
  • And why not consent, after all, God “Surely is with us in this place.” No matter where that place is.
  • God is with us, whether we know it or not. Life is so much more exciting when we recognize God in our midst, when we pay heed to the one who created us and loves us
  • And all we have to do is the same thing that Jacob did: to see where we are and say so.


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