Sermon for 10/25/20, Proper 25

Deuteronomy 34:1-12; 1st Thessalonians 2:1-8; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; Matthew 22:34-46

A little boy was selling newspapers on the corner, the people were in and out of the cold. The little boy was so cold that he wasn’t trying to sell many papers. He walked up to a policeman and said, “Mister, you wouldn’t happen to know where a poor boy could find a warm place to sleep tonight would you? You see, I sleep in a box up around the corner there and down the alley and its awful cold in there for tonight. “Sure would be nice to have a warm place to stay.”

The policeman looked down at the little boy and said, “You go down the street to that big white house and you knock on the door. When they come out the door you just say ‘John 3:16’ and they will let you in.” So he did. He walked up the steps and knocked on the door, and a lady answered. He looked up and said, “John 3:16.” The lady said, “Come on in, Son.”

She took him in and she sat him down in a split bottom rocker in front of a great big old fireplace, and she went off. The boy sat there for a while and thought to himself: John 3:16…I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a cold boy warm. Later, she cam back and him, “Are you hungry?” He said, “Well, just a little. I haven’t eaten in a couple of days, and I guess I could stand a little bit of food. She took him in the kitchen and sat him at the table full of food. He ate and ate until he couldn’t eat any more. Then he thought…John 3:16…I sure don’t understand it, but it sure makes a hungry boy full.

She took him upstairs to a bathroom, to a bathtub filled with warm water, and he sat there and soaked for awhile. He thought to himself…John 3:16 I don’t understand it, but it sure makes dirty boy clean. The lady got him, took him to a room, tucked him into an old feather bed, pulled the covers up, kissed him good night and turned out the lights. He thought to himself, I don’t understand, but it sure makes a tired boy rest.

In the morning the lady came back and took him down again to that same table of food. After he ate, she took him back to the room with the fireplace and picked up a big old Bible. She sat down and looked into his young face. “Do you understand John 3:16?” she asked gently. He replied, “No, Ma’am, I don’t. The policeman told me to say it to whomever opened this door.”

She opened the Bible to John 3:16 and began to explain to him about Jesus. Right there, in front of that fireplace, he gave his heart and life to Jesus. He sat there and thought: John 3:16 … don’t understand it, but it sure makes a lost boy feel safe!

In Deuteronomy, in its last chapter, the Hebrew people are about to enter the Promised Land, and it is Moses’ time to give leadership over to Joshua and for Him to enter God’s kingdom. He had anointed Joshua and the Spirit gave Joshua the gift of wisdom. This gift was not for knowledge, but for the understanding, judgment, and insight which equipped him to lead Israel. The laying on of hands was a sigh that God had chosen Joshua to be Moses’ successor.

In order to make Himself known to His people, God empowered human leaders to lead in historical acts and to interpret those acts as God’s acts. Moses had led the people out delivered many miracles to the Egyptian Pharaoh, to their people and to His people, that allowed Moses to bring them to this point. It was now time to enter the land God had promised them and Joshua was to lead them. From the very beginning God had revealed His love for the people, by sending Moses to carry them out of Egypt, and for Joshua to lead them into their new land.

In Thessalonians, we read one of the most compassionate and loving address to the Thessalonica church. He gave them an outline of his method of evangelism and gave us today and example to follow: He ministered for God’s glory; he ministered selflessly; he ministered in humility; he ministered with care and sacrificial love; and he ministered long and laboriously. It is little wonder that Paul could say “our visit to you was not a failure!”

In Matthew, the Pharisees find out how Jesus had silenced the Sadducees had asked a question about resurrection (and they didn’t believe in it anyway) and marriage, with several children and one wife involved, as her first and subsequent six husbands (all brothers). Their real question was at the resurrection, whose wife will she be? Jesus said, “You don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven—-But at the resurrection of the dead—-have you not read what God said to you, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of God of the dead but of the living.”

Now enter the Pharisees who have come to test Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it” ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.’

Personal character grows out of love for God. Loving God leads us to love other people. Such love will result in actions which comply with all of God’s moral demands. Love is the starting point for Christian ethics.

Therefore people are expected to be related both to God and to others persons through a commitment of sacrificial, giving love. Loyalty and faithfulness are to characterize such relationships. Jesus provided the best summary possible of all the Old Testament revelation. He focused all Scripture on the priority of a right relationship with God and then with neighbors.

Christian love is the active vitalizing power necessary in Christian living. Jesus’ command to love God is directed primarily to the will rather than the emotions. To regard Him above all else, to give Him unchallenged first place, and to give His claims unquestioned priority. This means to love Him and all that He loves!

The Pharisees also question how He could be the Son of God, when he was born after David. Son of David applied to Jesus but was inadequate to describe the Messiah’s role since Messiah was David’s Master. Messiah was Son of God and provided salvation through death and resurrection, not through military victory.

Back to the story of the little boy and the lady in the big white house, and don’t forget about the policeman, who sent that boy to the house, saying John 3:16. When the lady opened the door, she obviously recognized he was cold and she put in front of the fireplace and let him warm up. She knew he was hungry so the fed him. The boy was dirty, and she prepared him a warm bath with a nice bed to crawl into, covered him up and kissed him on the forehead. The next morning she once again took him into the kitchen and fed him. Then, and only then, did she took him back in front of the fireplace and, set him down, and read the passage from the Bible and helped him to understand the true meaning of the passage. It was then, that he didn’t understand everything, but it did make a lost boy feel safe.

The lady took care of his immediate needs and made him feel special, before she talked to him about the Bible passage. This is the same model we need to follow in our own lives. Amen.

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