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Pastor John Gibson preached this sermon Sunday June 25, 2017 on Matthew 10:24 - 39.

When Cindy and I got married in 2002, I moved into her house and we decided to rent out my house. In part, partly it was a sentimental decision since I loved my little home and partly an investment although I don’t know that we’ve made money on it.

Since the income from the property was always important, whenever there was a vacancy, we would always pray for a new tenant whenever one left which happened every year. After four or five years doing this, we thought that we were praying only for ourselves and felt that as followers of Jesus we should pray also that the house would be a blessing to whoever moved in there. The first year we did that a young couple who had just gotten married leased the house. We were excited because we felt that our house was in a small way contributing to their new life together. When they told us they were moving out a year later, we again prayed for a tenant for whom the house would be a blessing. This time in January 2009, a single man rented the house.

Several weeks after he moved in, I was over at the house doing some minor work. During the course of the conversation, he asked how I became a pastor. After I told him that my college chaplain had been a great influence he said a chaplain had made a great difference to him, too. Thinking it had also been in college, I asked where. When he replied in prison, I nonchalantly said, “Oh.” He then said he was a repeat felon who had just gotten out of prison in Texas and had moved to North Carolina to start his life over again. I thought my jaw was going to hit the floor. When he was a teenager, he had committed armed robbery. He became a repeat offender when he was convicted of having a handgun. He admitted he had taken a wrong turn in life, but he was starting over. He had moved to North Carolina to start a new job. The house was virtually empty, because he didn’t own anything.

Yesterday, Cindy and I had the pleasure of attending his wedding. While other tenants left after a year, he stayed for eight and a half years. Without a doubt, he has been the best we’ve ever had. He took excellent care of the property. Bob has not only been a tenant but he has also been a friend. He has helped us move things with his truck. He’s prayed for us during difficult times and we’ve prayed for him. He’s a man of deep faith, who is very active in his church and a ministry to children. Cindy, the neighbors and I respect and love him. Bob has been a great blessing to us. We are thankful that we and our house played a very small part in getting his life started, again.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the Collect of Purity. The Collect of Purity is the prayer we say at the beginning of the service. I’m sure some of you know it by heart. The prayer says, “Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.” This prayer is based upon today’s Gospel lesson where Jesus says, “nothing secret that will not become known” as well as Psalm 19:14, which I always say at the start of the sermon, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.” In reality, the prayers we say week after week come straight from the Bible.

The part I have been thinking about is the “meditation of my heart.” This is sometimes also translated as the “thoughts of our hearts.” I was struck recently by how incongruous those words are for us today. We generally think of the brain as the center of thought and the heart of emotions.

We in the modern world have a tendency in the modern world to compartmentalize our lives. We in the Middle Class embody this in how we live and work. Most of us live in a suburb and go to work in an office in a commercial district. Sometimes the values we profess on Sunday morning are very different from the ones we operate by in the workplace Monday through Friday.

Compartmentalization, as psychologists will tell us, has good and bad points. Compartmentalization can lead to problems when areas of our lives that we have tried to isolate adversely affect the rest of our life. However, it can be helpful. For example, if we always take work home with us and work on the weekends, we will become workaholics with little life.

The Scriptures provide I believe great guidance for us. The Bible tells us it is important to take a Sabbath Day of Rest. They tell us it is important to take time to worship God. They also tell us that our faith values need to govern our personal and professional lives. Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops” (Matthew 10:26).

The more we center our lives on God, the more our values cohere. We live by the same moral code on Sunday as we do Monday through Friday. We find balance in our lives. We take time to rest. We take time for family and friends. Worship is something we do not only Sunday morning but every day of the week in our prayer time and in our interactions with others.

I confess I struggle with this. Last week for example I didn’t take a day off. Normally, Monday is my day off, but I worked then because there was a Chamber meeting I wanted to attend. I told Cindy I would take another day off later in the week which I never did. Of course, we’re all going to have times like this, but our goal is the integrated life shown by Jesus and the Scriptures. Jesus shows us the way of life and health.

I’m thankful for our tenant because he shows me what is possible when we focus on God. Cindy and I prayed that we would find a tenant for whom our rental property investment would be a blessing, and it was in ways we could never have imagined. It was the best investment we could have ever made.