Sermons on gratitude
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church The Rev. Barbara Hutchinson Proper 13 Year B August 5, 2018 In our Epistle this morning, we hear the proclamation and directive to “Live a life worthy of our calling”. Understanding what our calling is, as individuals and as parish members as well as part of the larger Body of Christ, seems to be a necessary first step to doing this. Let’s begin this exploration with Frederick Buechner’s famous line that states “The place God calls…
The story of God asking Abraham to offer his only and beloved son, Isaac, to be sacrificed as a test of his faith reveals the hard truth that salvation is going to be a costly endeavor. It sets the story of God and our salvation on a trajectory we often resist, namely that there are costs to being faithful. It is more comfortable to believe in a God who is predictable, tame and safe, than to believe in a God who actually demands something of us, who asks us to offer back to God that which is most precious to us, who promises us resurrection, but holds up the way of the cross to get there.
There are an infinite number of meanings for it. Faith is the foundation for which everything is built upon. I am sure if I were to go around the church today and asked everyone here what your definition was I would get a different answer from everyone and that’s ok. The question I pose…..does your faith continue to grow…….are you open to other views and definitions of what faith means to others and do you respect them? To me faith means being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. It is knowing that I am loved unconditionally beyond my ability to grasp and comprehend it. Let me explain BEING SURE OF WHAT WE HOPE FOR……. I trust our Father to provide everything I will ever need, I remind myself from time to time that God knows me best and what I need. It has been my experience over the years that when God gives me a gift or answers my prayer it is always far greater than I ever could have imagined.
Whereas it is true that we could never win this case God has brought against us, the exercise was never about winning or losing or justice or punishment. It was always and will only ever be about God’s love for us – about mercy, about opening the pathway for us to be back in right relationship with God. This is what the judgment of God looks like: mercy, love, forgiveness, and an invitation to wholeness. When we declare our Confession of Need today, we will say, “Compassionate God. We confess our weaknesses and our need for your strengthening touch.” Our weaknesses: our forgetfulness of God and each other, and our need for God’s strengthening touch. This is what God desires to give us, to touch us with God’s holy strength, and to make us whole.
Yet, over and over again we learn from the tradition of the church and each other’s experiences that when we keep God at the center of our lives things work better. When we follow the way of Christ, life works better! Things work better because we become more aware of how precious our limited amount of time on earth is. Things work better because we become more aware of those around us and their needs and desires. Things work better as we focus more on God and less on the self-inflicted things that trip us up.
I can’t believe there is no one else in history who has ever been more amazed at what God has asked of them than Mary; although I also believe each of us is asked something from God which would amaze and delight and scare us a bit. Mary was given something exceptional to do, a unique role to play in our salvation story ~ and yet to hold her as an exception, as someone asked of something we could never be asked to do, is to put God back into that temple, which is outside ourselves. Each of us is asked to say yes to God in a very specific and unique way to us.
We got it right last week, and hopefully we do all weeks, because when we are reminded of our baptismal identity and purpose and we receive renewal and strength through the sacrament, we often discover worship becomes the focus of our lives, because it is the source of life-giving energy. The more we are drawn to worship, the deeper we are called to prayer, personal devotions, and scripture study, and the more we may find we desire a life devoted to “Being the Change You wish to see in the world.”
So this morning, I would like to invite us to view this parable as a series of slides, each one become increasingly challenging for us. For that is the purpose of parables. These are not stories intended to comfort us. They are the “afflicting the comfortable” stories of Jesus, meant to be disturbing. So if we find we look at only the slide which makes us feel righteous or just, we need to keep clicking deeper into the parable to find the truth meant for us this day
Jesus begins the process of spiritual transformation of the crowd by directing the disciples’ attention away from what they don’t have, to what they do have, and to invite them to look within themselves for the answer, not to look to others to solve the problem, such as the food markets in everyone’s home town. Jesus said, look at what’s in front of you first, and give thanks.