Sermon for Sunday October 11, 2020
Proper 23; Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
A minister passing through his church In the middle of the day, decided to pause by the altar and see who had come to pray.
Just then the back door opened, a man came down the aisle, the minister frowned as he saw the man hadn’t shaved in a while. His shirt was kinda shabby and his coat was worn and frayed. The man knelt, he bowed his head, then rose and walked away. This scene was repeated over several days.
Well, the minister’s suspicions grew, with robbery a main fear, he decided to stop the man and ask him, ‘What are you doing here?’ The old man said, he worked down the road. Lunch was half an hour and was his prayer time, for finding strength and power. ‘I stay only moments, see, because the factory is so far away; as I kneel here talking to the Lord, this is what I say: ‘I JUST CAME AGAIN TO TELL YOU, LORD, HOW HAPPY I’VE BEEN, SINCE WE FOUND EACH OTHER’S FRIENDSHIP AND YOU TOOK AWAY MY SIN. DON’T KNOW MUCH OF HOW TO PRAY, BUT I THINK ABOUT YOU EVERYDAY. SO, JESUS, THIS IS JIM CHECKING IN TODAY.’
Past noon one day, the minister noticed that old Jim hadn’t come.
As more days passed without Jim, He began to worry some. At the factory, he asked about him, learning he was ill. he hospital staff was worried, but he’d given them a thrill. The week that Jim was with them,
Brought changes in the ward. His smiles, a joy contagious. Changed people, were his reward. The head nurse couldn’t understand why Jim was so glad, when no flowers, calls or cards came, not a visitor he had.
Looking surprised, old Jim spoke up and with a winsome smile; ‘the nurse is wrong, she couldn’t know, that he’s in here all the while. Everyday at noon He’s here, a dear friend of mine, you see, He sits right down, takes my hand, leans over and says to me: ‘I JUST CAME AGAIN TO TELL YOU, JIM, HOW HAPPY I HAVE BEEN, SINCE WE FOUND THIS FRIENDSHIP, AND I TOOK AWAY YOUR SIN. ALWAYS LOVE TO HEAR YOU PRAY,
I THINK ABOUT YOU EACH DAY, AND SO JIM, THIS IS JESUS CHECKING IN TODAY.’ Jim passed away later that day, but had a smile on his face.
Our lesson from Isaiah today reveals to us that only one God proves His deity through marvelous acts. Remarkably, He desires to be personal, a God who thinks, plans, works, and relates to us. Further, He tells us that victory over human death is not just a nice thought, but a true fact that is to be offered to all. This victory only comes through active intervention by God. We see His actions fully in the ministry and resurrection of Jesus and in the proclamation of the gospel. Jesus is even foretold. Paul exulted that the promise was realized through God’s Christ, who has overcome death (1 Cor.15) God’s destructive judgment on evil leads His people to recognized He is our Savior and to trust Him.
In Philippians, we see Paul, though an apostle, called both men and women his fellow workers. They did not work “under” Paul, rather they worked “side by side” with him. He taught that Christian character was to rejoice in the Lord, be full of thanksgiving toward Him. Attitudes like this bring the sense of fulfillment and joy in God that affects all of our relationships. This, beloved, is God’s peace. A peace so wonderful the human mind cannot fully understand or appreciate. This peace can be a present reality for the persons who gently and kindly loves life by letting God take care of our anxieties, and prayer is our lifeline to God’s peace.
In Matthew, we’ve all heard the “Parable of the Wedding Banquet.” It represents Jesus’ coming represented God’s invitation to Israel to attend the banquet honoring Messiah. They failed to participate. To refuse to honor’s God’s Son is to reject the Father. God in grace invites all people to His kingdom.
The kingdom of heaven includes those whom others reject. Entrance into God’s kingdom depends on His goodness, not on social rank or good deeds. The kingdom’s membership is limited. Just being part of the human race or having a gave belief in some kind God does not qualify any of us for membership. We must, you and I must accept God’s invitation on His conditions of repentance and faith.
Nowadays, most churches are not open, but I am blessed to serve at a church that is unlocked, lights on, and visitors welcome to stop in and pray throughout the day. We have a unique opportunity to witness to others in our community or even to passersby, to come in and kneel and pray, for a minute or two or for however long they need to. This is really a gift and an oddity in the world we live in today.
In closing, I want to go back to “Old Jim” and the minister. You see, the minister had thought of all of the negative things that the old man could have been doing in his church, when in fact, he was doing what we all should be doing every single day. The minister felt ashamed of ever questioning him at all. Old Jim had reminded this minister of what he himself had once known and somehow had forgotten. So with that, I just want to kneel at this moment and say to the Lord:
‘I Just came again to tell you, Lord, How how happy I’ve been, since we found each other’s Friendship and you took away my sin. I don’t know much of how to pray, but I think about You everyday. So Jesus, this is Jerry checking in today.’ Won’t all of you join me in your own daily prayers, to recite this for yourselves, as an opening to your own prayers with God? Amen