Sermon for the 17th Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 22, 10-02-2022
Psalm 137; Lamentations 1:1-6; 2nd Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17: 5-10
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” This quote is according to G.K. Chesterton, who found Christians, including himself, did not put their faith into action. He was a journalist, a critic on my subject matters, including art, as he had been in an art school and was then asked to write critical articles for newspapers, and finally a lay theologian. Journalism was his first love, but speaking on any subject was considered a challenge and he excelled at challenges. But even the curmudgeon Chesterton would agree there was a notable exception. Chesterton noted that Francis of Assisi, was the saint who launched a million birdbaths, hundreds of thousands of statues, and the occasional service of Blessing of the Animals was, for Chesterton, the one Christian who actually lived the Gospel. Francis, who came from a new class of people considered “middle class” and they became very wealthy, but when confronted by his father to follow him in the family business or be cut off. Francis stripped every single piece of clothing off and walked out and created his own ministry for the poor, the animals, and yes for birds!
Our Psalm talks about loyalty to God and country caused intense reaction from Jews in Exile when their Babylonian captors taunted them. The people were essentially in mourning, which led to anger, which erupted in vows and curses. The actions described fall fare below anyone’s ethical standards; the feelings in their situation are easy to understand. Prayer helps direct such strong feelings to the only One who can help us deal with their constructively. For my humble opinion, I think that the people simply didn’t realize yet, that they can pray to and worship God anywhere they are, even though they didn’t have all of the seemingly necessary objects with them. More on that.
From Lamentations we learn how the people had been rounded up and taken to Babylonian territory, so they lost family members and an identity of whose people they were. They had forsaken God to become servants to a cruel, oppressive master. People of Jerusalem could only sing sad laments because they had not taken God’s word and covenant seriously. Throughout history, people have lost homes, family, and had to start all over again, maybe in a new environment, new languages and people, and so they remember what they had lost, with no apparent hope to be able to lift their spirits up and find hope to go on again. We now know that faith and hope come from God, and that no matter where we are physically, we can still pray to God and find comfort, solace, hope and reassurance that we will be okay and life will go on to find new friends, loved ones, and begin our lives all over again with His blessing and Presence nearer to us that we might not truly understand.
From 2nd Timothy, we are reminded: that evangelism is our responsibilities as believers of Jesus Christ and that sometimes it’s most effective use, in in small groups; that grace is central to our idea of God and in our idea of the Gospel and Christianity; that Christ trained His disciples for mission work and by their work, we learn to do the same; that salvation is His gift to a holy life and is given by His grace and mercy; that we are to educate others about God, Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit; that we have to be intentional about our faith every day.
From Luke the disciples said to Jesus, “increase our faith.’ He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. A believer is a servant at the Master’s call. Our service is to be done from gratitude for what Christ did, not in expectation of rewards.
Beloved, how do you but a value on eternal salvation with God in the kingdom of Heaven? It is not sold for a monetary price, it is a free gift given to us for our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an honor and responsibility gifted to us, to tell as many others the Good News as we are able once we received Christ into our life and does not stop until we enter Heaven. You cannot purchase this gift any other way. We are expected to grow the kingdom by sharing Christ with them, as someone did for us. It is not a burden; rather it is an honor to share with as many as we possibly can. It is not about turning away from someone, but turning to someone with a smile and the same love that this message was shared with us. So, each day is another opportunity to share the message with whomever we meet and welcome them to worship Jesus too. Are you willing? Amen