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The Sunday Sermon: Forgiveness is Great for Those With Much to Forgive

Posted by on Jun 12, 2016 in Blog Entry, News | Comments Off on The Sunday Sermon: Forgiveness is Great for Those With Much to Forgive

The Sunday Sermon: Forgiveness is Great for Those With Much to Forgive

Sermon for Proper 6 C 2016

The Rev’d Thomas J. Pettigrew

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Gospel this morning is one of those passages which probably sounds familiar to us, but not quite familiar as say the Good Samaritan, or the beatitudes.

Jesus has been invited to the home of a Pharisee for a dinner.  Certainly, he was invited because of his growing renown as a teacher – someone who was making waves in society.  Simon the Pharisee, the host of this formal dinner wanted Jesus there so he could see and hear what everyone was talking about.

As a bit of an aside, it turns out that Luke is the only of the Gospels that tells us that Jesus accepted formal dinner invitations to eat with Pharisees.  And in each instance of these dinners, he turns out to be a scandal to his host.

This is true here, in this dinner party at Simon’s house.  Jesus becomes a scandal to his host when he allows a woman, who was publically a sinner, which is an euphemistic way of saying she is a prostitute.  She comes into the house and anoints Jesus’ feet with ointment, and wipes her tears off his feet with her hair.

First off, lets cover two things – How did she get into the dinner party, and second, how did she get access to Jesus’ feet.  Believe it or not, her access into the house was not a problem at all.  Apparently it was common that at these dinner parties, the public could freely come and go from the house.  It doesn’t really make sense to us – I can’t think of any other equivalent in contemporary society where the public is allowed to come into a dinner and watch the invited guests eat, up close and personal.

As for this woman’s access to Jesus’ feet – Luke tells us that the guests reclined at table.  Since Alexander the Great in the 300’s BC, Israel had become increasingly Hellenized – that is to say they were adopting many customs and courtesies of their Greco-Roman rulers.  If you recall, this is one of the main themes in the Maccabean Period of the Early 1st Century BC.  It was the custom, at formal dinner parties such as this one, for the guests to recline in the Greco-roman fashion in which a short table was in the middle with everyone laying with their heads towards it, while their feet were behind them, like the spokes of a wheel.

Visualizing that will show how easy it is for someone to have access to the feet of Jesus.

As this woman is there at our Lord’s feet, anointing them with oil, and wiping her tears off with her hair, Simon, the host of the dinner party notices, and says to himself “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”  And in a certain ironic twist, Jesus knows what Simon is thinking and so he tells them a parable about two debtors, who owed money to a lender but who’s loan debts were cancelled.  “Which of the two will love the lender more?” asked Jesus. Simon replies, “the one who had the larger debt.”

He then goes on to point out that this woman has done all the things which Simon failed to do as the host of the party when Jesus arrived: “You gave me no water for my feet, but she was we my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.”

Now, to be clear, it’s not that Simon, in not doing all of these things was being a bad host. By failing to do these things he wasn’t being rude. Social convention did not require him to do any of these things.  What it does show, though, is the relationship that Simon had with our Lord, his guest.  Simon treated Jesus properly according to the polite demands that a respectable host would be expected to treat his guest.  That he didn’t go beyond those demands shows us he true attitude toward Jesus.  On the other hand, this woman had to break social convention, and no doubt, over come many mental and emotional barriers in order to show her love for Jesus.

Going back to that question of Jesus- “Which of the two debtors will love the lender more?”  The word that Luke uses for Love is agape.  It’s a word which I have drilled into your heads over the last 5 years as meaning something like “God’s perfect love.” And in this context, that word Agape means a love that expresses thanksgiving.

Think about it this way – the early Christians gathered for worship – and they were accused of some rather bizarre things – because they called their gathering a love feast – and agape meal – overtime that word agape was replaced by Eucharist – which means more directly, thanksgiving.

So Jesus’ question could perhaps better be translated as “Who will be more thankful to the lender for the forgiveness of their debts” – “the one who was forgiven more.”

Simon’s welcome of Jesus followed the prescribed social norms.  But think about how we welcome a great guest into our homes.  If the UPS guy knocks on our door to drop off a package, we follow a set of norms and courtesies – we say good morning, we might ask how the day is going, we say thank you, have a nice day.  These are the social norms and courtesies which keep us above the “your being rude” line.

But if our long lost best friend were to knock on our door unexpectedly, the reaction to their appearing would be tremendously different.  Our reaction would be more like the father of the prodigal son – we’d probably have a big smile, a hug, invite them in, offer them a drink, and just be full of joy at their presence.

Simon’s greeting and welcome of Jesus was perhaps the equivalent of our greeting of the UPS man – while the woman’s greeting of Jesus – well to say it was the greeting of a long lost friend might just be right.

This woman’s actions towards Jesus demonstrated a greater joy and a greater thankfulness and greater love for Jesus’ presence than Simon’s – because she had realized the great gift that Jesus’ had given to her – the forgiveness of her sins.

But in order to show that gratitude, in order to give that thanks, that woman, who was publically and probably notoriously, a sinner had to overcome much within her self in order to greet her Lord with such joy and thanksgiving.  And I want to suggest to you that you and I must go through the same things which this woman did, so that today, as we kneel at communion, we too can give thanks and greet the Lord with love and joy.

She had first to acknowledge her sinfulness.  Everyone probably made it know to her that she was a horrible sinful person – by the way they treated her in the streets; by the way the disrespectfully spoke to her; by what they used her for as a prostitute.  But for you and for me to face our own sinfulness is not something which we like to do.  We become comfortable with our faults and our flaws.  And rather than charging at them head on to allow the grace of God to conquer them, we learn to live around them, to hide them, from ourselves and from others.

Secondly, she had to be willing to come to our Lord for that forgiveness.  She had to be willing to believe that God has the power to forgive her.  Like her, we need to realize that no matter how great our sin – how bad we may think it is, or how long we have been living in it, God is able, and indeed, ready and willing to forgive us for our sins.

Finally, she had to be willing to accept the forgiveness within herself.  Forgiving others for what they have done is hard enough.  But forgiving ourselves for our faults and imperfections is, I think, even harder.  Once we acknowledge our sinfulness, we have to acknowledge that we are infact the person who did that sort of thing.  And we don’t like to admit to ourselves that we’ve done wrong, let alone the type of person who would do that sort of wrong in the first place.

Why don’t we like to do that? I want to suggest that it’s because when we’ve discovered that we’re the kind of person who sins – indeed, does that one particular kind of thing – and you can name your own fault – we begin to feel that our value, our worth, our self-respect, and perhaps even our integrity as a human being has been utterly and completely destroyed.  We might even say that we feel that something within us, or who we thought we were, was dying or had suddenly died.

What I want to say this morning is that it’s okay to feel that way.  Indeed, there is a sense in which we must feel that way.  And the reason is that because those feelings come because we have had the source of our value, worth, respectability, and dignity all wrong.

They don’t come from within us, though they do exist within us.

When we realize, like the woman weeping at our Lords feet that our value, our worth, and our dignity come to us from God, and from God alone… When we realize that – when we realize that our value and worth as people come from God, who sent his only Son to die for us on the cross, then greeting which we give to our Lord will be the same greeting that the Sinful woman gave Jesus, instead of the customary platitudes given by Simon.

When we realize that our sins can be forgiven, our value and dignity, not only restored but given from the true source they were supposed to come from all along, then how could we not with Joy and Love, and thanksgiving, greet our Lord as we would greet a friend who has returned to us.

Yet, in a certain twist, in greeting our Lord this way, we realize that it’s not we who have given the greeting, but indeed it is our Lord who greets us at his door with joy and love as one greeting a long lost friend who has returned.

The Sunday Sermon: Jesus Gave Him to His Mother

Posted by on Jun 8, 2016 in Blog Entry, News | Comments Off on The Sunday Sermon: Jesus Gave Him to His Mother

The Sunday Sermon: Jesus Gave Him to His Mother

Rev’d Thomas J. Pettigrew
Proper 5-C 2016
Luke 7:11-17 (Jesus Raises the Widow’s Son)

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Over the last six months, basically from Advent through the end of Easter, we’ve been on a track of readings which focus our attention on seasonal themes: During Advent we read about the first and second coming of the Christ; Christmas was about birth of Christ and the revelation of Christ to the world; in Lent we focused our attention on the Lenten themes of repentance and preparation for the Paschal Feast; during Easter, we turned out attention to the appearances of Jesus, among other things.  Then there was Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and just last week, Corpus Christi.

This morning, we change gears as we head off into the Summer months, to a more systematic reading through of Luke’s Gospel.

This morning we pick up in the midst of the Seventh Chapter of Luke, to the account of the Raising of the Widow of Nain’s Son.

Let me give you a little background first.  Early the day before, Jesus had gone up a mountain with his disciples, and from among them, he had chosen the Twelve men who would be his closest companions for the rest of his ministry – we call them the Apostles.  That afternoon he came down from the mountain, and he gave what is in Luke’s gospel, the equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount – sometimes referred to the sermon on the plain.   When he had finished speaking, he went to Capernaum, on the Shore of the Sea, and he heals the servant of a centurion.

The next day, Jesus moves out from Capernaum, and was going to a town called Nain, which was southeast of his home town of Nazareth.  Ther was a large crowd with Jesus and as he came to the walls of the city, to one of the gates which one had to pass through to enter, he met a funeral cortege.  Luke tells us “a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her.”

It’s here, in the midst of two large crowds – one full of weeping, mourning, and sadness, at the death of their fellow citizen, and another, full of wonder as the thought about all the things which Jesus had taught about the day before – in the midst of these two crowds, the Lord sees the grieving mother, and he has compassion on her.  And speaking only the words “Do not weep” he approaches the bier and touches it, a silent indication to the pall bearers to stop.  “Young man, I say to you, arise.”  Luke tells us that at those words, “the dead man sat up, and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.”

There are two other accounts of Jesus raising someone from the dead in the Gospels: Jarius’ Daughter, and Lazareth, the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany.

We may be tempted to think that the miracle which Jesus wrought in raising the son was for the benefit of the Son – to save him from death, perhaps.  But Luke’s telling of the story tell us different.

Jesus compassion wasn’t for the boy on the bier.  Rather, the one who Jesus had compassion upon, the one he sought to comfort was the mother.  Luke tells us “he had compassion on her and said to her ‘do not weep’”.

Rather than the focus being on the dead man, Jesus draws out attention to the living woman – the one who suffered the most from the loss, first of her husband, and now of her only Son.

We could think about why Jesus had such compassion on her over the loss of her son – on her grief, but rather I want us to focus on something more.

In response to her grief, Jesus gave her back her son.  Luke says “he came forward and touched the beir…” and said “Young man I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.”

Jesus gave him to his mother.

That’s what struck me about our passage this morning.

There is something here which tells us that our life is not our own.  It does not belong to us, and we do not live it for ourselves.

Jesus did not raise the dead man for the dead man’s sake.  Rather, he raised the dead man for the sake of someone else.  The life he gave back to the Son was not meant for the son, but rather for others.

There’s something here that we learn about Jesus’ own resurrection – he was not resurrected for himself, but rather, he was raised for the life of the world – he was raised for someone else- for you and for me – that we might not grieve death, that we might indeed have life and have it abundantly in him.

And finally, there is something in this short little story that reminds us that the life which Christ has won for us – which he has given us in our baptism, which he nourishes with his own Sacramental Body and Blood on the altar – that life we have is not for our own sake.

It is for the sake of others – our life is a gift that has been given, not to us, but to the world.

The world around us is full of self-centered, self-aggrandizing, self-infatuated people, who are only interested in three people: me, myself, and I.

But our lives as Christians are meant to be markedly different than the world around us.  Our lives are not for ourselves, but are a gift to those around us.

Our Lord himself said “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

More than anything else, everyone who looks at us should know that we are Christians by the way that we love one another.

Love is never about me – it’s not about my own ego, but rather, it’s about me reaching out into the world.

Jesus gave the Son to his mother.

Our heavenly Father, gave Jesus to you and to me.

Jesus gave us life – his life

And that life we have been given, which Is not our own, is meant to be given to others in and which the same love which it has been given to us.

Holy Cross Serves: Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth

Posted by on Apr 5, 2016 in Blog Entry, News | Comments Off on Holy Cross Serves: Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth

Holy Cross Serves: Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth

HUDSON FALLS—The women’s group at Church of the Holy Cross in Warrensburg donated five handmade quilts, stuffed animals and toys to our children in foster care. The groups looks forward to finding new ways to give to the children at Berkshire and encourages others to give when they can. Thank you to Barbara and Church of the Holy Cross for their thoughtful gift to our children in care. We truly value the meaningful friendships we build with our local community members and love seeing the creative ways they give to our children and families.

Source: News & Events | Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth

 

The Holy Cross Knitting Circle meets the Second Saturday of the Month.  Please contact Barb Kelly through the Church Office (623-3066) with questions! Everyone is welcome, even if you are not a member of Holy Cross Church!

Easter Day – Giving up Death

Posted by on Mar 29, 2016 in Blog Entry, News | Comments Off on Easter Day – Giving up Death

Easter Day – Giving up Death

Easter Day 2016

TJP+

Lent’s long shadows have departed!
All our woes are over now!
Death is conquered, man is free,
Christ has won the victory!

Today is the day the lord has made!

Let us be glad and rejoice in it! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Today really is a day to rejoice. Setting all else aside, counting it as nothing, we rejoice for many reasons, all of which are the result of Christ’s victory over death.

And so today, we have one last and final thing to give up, one last thing to set aside to the greater glory of God and the building up of his Kingdom.

We have been working on giving up popularity, our lives, our enemies, superiority, expectations, and control throughout the forty days of Lent.

And now we come to one final thing which we must all give up in order to imitate Christ in his life, death, and resurrection so that we may receive the fullest benefits of our adoption as Children of God, heirs with Christ, of the Glorious and great kingdom of God our heavenly Father.

The psalmist says “Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me for your mercy’s sake. For in death no one remembers you; and who will give you thanks in the grave?”

Today, on the day when Christ has won the victory for you and for me over sin, we are called to give up Death and to accept that wonderful and powerful gift of the resurrection into the very center of our lives and our beings.

Now, from a human point of view, death is a natural part of living, you might say. Each of us, save for the second coming of Christ which we must all be awaiting with eagerness and a blessed hope, will face the death of this body, this jar of clay.

But nonetheless, we must be willing in our hearts and minds, to give up the belief that death has the final say in our lives and indeed, the lives of those whom we love, and who have passed on from this life, and await the glorious coming of our Lord.

I also do not mean, dear brothers and sisters, that we might somehow keep this body from dying. I’m not suggesting that we be modern day Ponce de Leons scouring the everglades of Florida for the fountain of Youth.

No. Rather, we must allow the treasure that is within these jars of clay to be made alive by the power of Christ’s Resurrection. That treasure – its not our hearts or minds – and yet that treasure is in them – that treasure is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God – in the face of Jesus Christ.

The kind of death that we are called to give up, in addition to this idea that the death of this body is the final say in the world, are those thousands of little deaths we face week by week, day by day, hour by hour as we live our lives in this world.

A dear colleague of mine, imparting his knowledge and wisdom of the Church’s liturgy and worship said to me once “You have to be careful not to interject too much of your own personality in the liturgy of the Church. It’s not about you. Your job is to lead God’s people in worship. The one place where your own experience and personality can come through however, is when you preach.”

I can only talk to you today about my own experience of giving up, or, rather, attempting to give up death.

Each of us, no doubt can recall moments of great despair, moments of suffering, moments of great turmoil brought about by forces external to us.

And I have found that, in my weakness, in my frailty, in my finiteness as a human being, I have allowed my self, who I am, or perhaps, who I think I am, to be turned over to those thoughts and feelings.

And in those moments, perhaps if you are anything like me, we have found ourselves spiritually dead. And in that death, that darkness, that place of unhappiness and despair, perhaps you, like me, have found that you wanted to remain there. To remain unmoved, unchanged, by anything or anyone.

This death that we face in those moments is a sort of dying to self. Like as we must all eventually face the death of our bodies, that death too, that death to self, is one which we must all go through.

I am reminded of the 18th chapter of the Book of Jeremiah. God calls Jeremiah to go down to the local potters shop.

“go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.”

You see, you and I and all of us, are clay in the hands of our potter, our heavenly father. And the promise that Easter brings, is that no matter what, in the end, there will be a resurrection. There will be, when God is done with us, a perfectly crafted, beautiful vessel.

Our lives are like the clay. When it arrives on the wheel, it is formless and full of imperfection. But as the potter shapes the clay, he turns it into something useful, something beautiful.

But from time to time, the potter notices an imperfection in that clay. It’s too thick on one side, a sidewall out of shape.

And rather than trying to make something good out of something flawed, he starts over. He collapses the clay into a lump on the wheel, and begins to fashion it all over again.

The promise of this day, is that we shall be made into beautiful vessels in the hands of our Potter.

But that process of being pushed back into a lump. That process is a painful one. We’re okay with out imperfections, we can live with them. We learn to cope, we learn to live with them.

And so when we pushed down in to that lump again, so we can be reshaped and reformed into the beautiful vessel God wants us to be, we must give up the temptation to become bitter, angry, and resentful of that process.   We must give up the old vessel we were. And we must accept that this lump we are in is not the final word of who God will shape us to be.

We face these little collapses, these reformations, day by day, week by week. Some, we hardly notice, and some are the most painful experiences of our lives.

We must give up the thought and belief that the collapse is the final word in our lives.

The final word is our lives is the Word of God, made flesh for you and for me, and having suffered and Died like you and I, gives us his life, the knowledge of the glory of God, in these earthen vessels.

On that day the Disciples found the tomb empty! The empty tomb is the mark of our Faith. And so we too must take up the life we have been given, Christ’s life, the Resurrection life and power, and live, leaving the tomb empty behind us as we move forward toward the fullness of life which the lord has given to you and to me – His life.

Today is the day the Lord has made. Let us set death behind us. Let us take the life he gives us, day by day hour by hour, moment by moment and live it in love and thanksgiving and adoration.

O Risen Lord we look to you
For light and understanding
Be with us now to guide our way
In life and love commanding
Foil our fears and wipe our tears
Each of life moments demanding
Till at last a life time is past
And its your life we see we’ve been living.

Palm Sunday Sermon – Giving it up: Popularity

Posted by on Mar 23, 2016 in Blog Entry, News | Comments Off on Palm Sunday Sermon – Giving it up: Popularity

Palm Sunday Sermon – Giving it up: Popularity

Giving Up Popularity

Palm Sunday 2016

TJP+

 

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Throughout these days of lent, we have been considering that old Lenten discipline of “Giving something up” for Lent. Each of us as individuals has probably tried giving something we like as a matter of self-discipline. Something that we like: chocolate, beer, gin. Maybe we even tried to give up something about ourselves which we didn’t like.

Together, we have been considering those things which God is calling us to give up, not just for Lent, but for the whole of our lives: Control, Expectations, Superiority, Enemies, and even our Lives.

Today we consider giving up popularity, which Merriam-Webster says is the “state of being liked, enjoyed, accepted, or done by a large number of people.” The Oxford Dictionary adds “or by a specific group of people.”

Its very appropriate that we consider this theme today, Palm Sunday.

For it was on that day that Jesus was welcomed into the Holy City Jerusalem by the crowds who shouted “Hosannah to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” In a few moments, we will join with the crowds who welcomed Jesus into the Holy City of Jerusalem to the popular shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and we too will carry with us palm branches to spread in his path.

But what really happened that day?

We have heard the story, we know it by heart.

Jesus enters Jerusalem not on the valiant white steed of some great earthly King, but on a donkey, the foal of a beast of burden. I’m always reminded this day of G.K. Chesterton’s poem “the Donkey”.

When fishes flew and forests walked  

   And figs grew upon thorn,  

Some moment when the moon was blood  

   Then surely I was born.

 

With monstrous head and sickening cry

   And ears like errant wings,  

The devil’s walking parody  

   On all four-footed things.

 

The tattered outlaw of the earth,

   Of ancient crooked will;

Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,  

   I keep my secret still.

 

Fools! For I also had my hour;

   One far fierce hour and sweet:  

There was a shout about my ears,

   And palms before my feet.

The honor of carrying the Son of God into his Holy City was not given to the greatest specimen of horses the world could provide. But to that creature which would know the great honor given to it. And so it is, too, with you and me as we carry Jesus our into the world.

We know the story by heart. But what lies behind it?

The prophet Zechariah foretold this event. IT was an event that was part of the Restoration of Israel, when Isreal’s enemies would be defeated, and her King would triumphantly return to his City.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your king is coming to you;

righteous and having salvation is he,

humble and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim

and the war horse from Jerusalem;

and the battle bow shall be cut off,

and he shall speak peace to the nations;

his rule shall be from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;

today I declare that I will restore to you double.

The crowds no doubt saw the donkey, knew the significance. The knew this was the one whom Zechariah had prophesied about. And seeing the great event they gave the festal shout “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

They quoted Psalm 118.

Save us, we pray, O Lord!

O Lord, we pray, give us success!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

We bless you from the house of the Lord.

The Lord is God,

and he has made his light to shine upon us.

Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,

up to the horns of the altar!

Where else would the King go but up to the Temple? They knew where he was going. They knew what was happening. It unfolded right before their eyes. Lift up your heads you mighty gates and the King of Glory will come in. And to the Temple he went.

And that’s where our Gospel lesson this morning ends.

Jesus, welcomed in popular acclaim by the crowds in Jerusalem. The Pharisees telling him to stop them and he replying if they do not cry out the very stones will shout for joy to proclaim the victory of the King.

Do you remember what happens next, according to Mark’s gospel?

What does he find?

He finds nothing. The temple was empty. The crowds that shouted with acclaim had left him. Popularity is a fleeting thing. Here one minute gone the next.

Did Jesus allow this event to happen because he wanted to feel popular? Did he do it to feel good about himself?

No, he didn’t. He allowed it to happen in order that the prophecy might be fulfilled.

But it also gives us pause to reflect on the crowd and it’s reaction to our Lord.

As we gather here this morning, will we too allow our Lord to find the temple in which he truly wishes to enter, the temple of the Holy Spirit, our selves, our souls and bodies, will we allow him to find that empty?

Jesus enters again into the Holy Temple today. Not seeking us to acclaim him with popular fervor.
Rather, he comes to us, yes, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but also as the one who said “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”

As we make this procession today, we lead Jesus, not the popular prophet that the crowds saw that day into the city to find the temple empty.

Rather, we lead in our King and our friend, who paid that ultimate sacrifice for you and for me. Greater love hath no man, he said, then to lay down his life for his friends. That’s what he did for you and for me in that Holy Week so long ago. And for that we rejoice and give thanks to him, our friend, whose life now lives in us and through us, to the glory of his Father and our Father. Amen.

Lenten Sermon Series: Giving it up – Our Lives

Posted by on Mar 23, 2016 in Blog Entry, News | Comments Off on Lenten Sermon Series: Giving it up – Our Lives

Lenten Sermon Series: Giving it up – Our Lives

Giving Up our Lives

Lent 5 2016

TJP+

 

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Lenten Sermon Series topic this morning is “Giving up our Lives.”

Let me start by reading the little teaser paragraph that the outline I’ve been working off gives:

“God creates life from death, nothingness, and hopelessness. The Bible is full of such paradoxes, as Jesus tells us that those who try to keep their lives will die, but those who give up their lives for others will live. We are used to thinking of life in terms of fixed beginnings and ends, but the story of Jesus calls us to throw away our old categories and embrace God’s larger vision of eternal life that begins here and now.”

My mentor, Father Parke, used to counsel couples prepping for marriage by saying to the man that one of the hardest things for a man to do is to just listen to his wife. What a man wants to do is fix things. When the car breaks down, he wants to fix it. When the pipe leaks he wants to fix it. And when his wife tells him about all the problems and all the little things that went on throughout the day, what he really wants to do is to fix them. What she wants, though, is just for him to listen, uninterruptedly to what she is saying. She doesn’t want him to fix it. She just wants him to hear what she is saying and in some sense, just be present with her.

For a man, to be presented with a problem that he cannot fix is one of the most gut wrenching and frustrating events in life, let alone being presented with a problem he’s not supposed to fix.

When I was doing my Clinical Pastoral Experience at a nursing home in Wisconsin, we used to get together with the instructor daily to talk. One of the things that he said in several conversations with us students was that our role in ministering to people is not about having all the answers. You see, we were all guys in our group. He said our role is not to have the answer but to help people to “live with the question.”

I’m a guy. I hated that statement. I thought to my self “no no no. I’m here at seminary to get the answers to the questions that people are asking about life and God and religion and morals and any other sort of thing that someone might ask a priest short of directions to the next church.”

But I’ve come to realize that what he said is true.

My job as your priest is not have all the answers. I would like to. God knows I would.

My role here, is to share with you the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And to point you to him at every opportunity I can. Sometimes, I fail, because like you, I’m human, and I want to be able to help you and give you the answer to your question.

You and I both need to learn to live with the questions. The whys, the what ifs, the what could have beens, the what happens now questions.

Those are hard questions to live with. They’re hard because we feel, in an inexplicable sense, that life can only happen when we’ve answered those questions. We try to cope with those questions with false answers.

IN the ancient world, they thought that so and so got sick and died because they had done some terrible sin. Sin was the explanation of everything from leprosy to the common cold. So and so was born blind because his parents had sinned.

In our modern world, we think we’ve moved on from such trite responses to difficult questions. But in truth, the secular world has some of the same silly attempts to answer those difficult questions.

Doris day Sang: When I was just a little girl / I asked my mother / What will I be / Will I be pretty / Will I be rich / Here’s what she said to me / Que sera, sera / Whatever will be, will be / The future’s not ours to see / Que sera, sera / What will be, will be.

In our own day, we don’t have songs but we have little quips like “It is what it is.”

And Here’s the “So What” of what I’ve been saying.

We use these answers because we are more comfortable about life with them then living life with out them. We use these little quips, these trite answers, because without answers to these difficult questions we feel lifeless.

The Gospel’s response to these difficult questions is not to some trite answer to numb the question.

In fact, the way that our Lord wants us to answer those questions is the perhaps the most difficult part of being a Christian. It may be in fact why so many people who call themselves Christian really fall short of the mark of living faithfully.

The answer to the question lies in Christ. Not having an answer to life’s most difficult question leaves us feeling lifeless, it leaves us dead.

Paul in his letter to the Colossians Chapter 3, however, reminds us of this: “…you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Attempting to answer the questions which we cannot answer in this world is an attempt to have life. But that life is not the true life which is ours in Christ.

IN order to have that life, we must give up trying to fix the problems we face, and instead turn to God.

Why? Because as I started out this morning saying “God creates life from death, nothingness, and hopelessness. The Bible is full of such paradoxes, as Jesus tells us that those who try to keep their lives will die, but those who give up their lives for others will live.”

It’s ok not to have an answer to every question. It’s okay to hurt and suffer because we don’t have the answers. Men, especially need to hear that. IT’s only when we have died, that our true life, Christ’s life, can truly begin to grow in us.

That’s not easy. No for you, not for me, not for any of us. But it’s what we must do to live faithfully in the Kingdom of God. In order to truly have life, we must give up this old thing we think is our life, so that Christ may live in us.

TO him be the glory, now and forever. Amen.

Lenten Sermon Series – Giving it up: Enemies

Posted by on Mar 23, 2016 in Blog Entry, News | Comments Off on Lenten Sermon Series – Giving it up: Enemies

Lenten Sermon Series – Giving it up: Enemies

This morning we turn in our Lenten Series of “Giving things up” to the topic of Enemies. God calls us to give up our enemies.

And if you were clever person you could say, “Ah! Easy father, I have given up all my enemies! I don’t ever have to deal with them. Anyone who is an ‘enemy’ I just wipe them out of my life. I delete them off facebook, I erase their number on the caller ID. I forget about them.”

But, I would, in response, tell you, that what God really means for us is that we need to give up being the kind of people that have enemies. At its core, the Gospel is about reconciling the whole world to God. And that means that all the people of the earth will one day need to be reconciled with one another.

The locus classicus for the moral teaching of our Lord regarding “Enemies” is probably found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew Chapter 5.

(Jesus said) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”

If someone is our enemy, because we have made them so, or they have made us their enemy, Jesus tells us that rather than letting our hatred towards them fester is our hearts, we need to pray for them. Ask of God good things for them. It’s amazing how your attitude changes for someone when you ask God to have mercy and love on them.

IN the same place Jesus tells us that we ought not be the sorts of people who retaliate when wronged. He says:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Jesus’ message to us is to do the opposite of what our emotions want to do. When someone hits us, we want to hit them back. When they steal from us, we want to get our stuff back and more. But he says no – don’t reflect that negative energy. Don’t be like them. Be more like our Lord, who prayed for the nailers as they put him on the cross.

Giving up enemies and not retaliating against those who wrong us, is a hard pill to swallow. Some of those people whom we call our “enemies” are people who have hurt us in the most terrible ways. They’ve left scars in our hearts.

But giving up enemies is one of the most important things we can do, not just for them, not just for God and the Kingdom, but for ourselves. We can’t control what others feel or think. But if we allow them to remain in our hearts as enemies, by refusing to forgive them for the hurt they have done to us, the sins the have committed against us; if we refuse to leave anger alone and not retaliate when wronged; then what we really are doing is allowing those people to do is have power over us.   We are allowing them to have control over us.

We need to forgive them – they may not forgive us – but we need to forgive them and refuse to let them have that power and dominion over us.

Last week I said that the great thing about our God is that he doesn’t ask us to walk any path that he himself has not walked. And that is true of giving up enemies. God is the great exemplar of forgiving his enemies.

Paul writes in Romans 5:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

“While we were still sinners and enemies of God”, Paul tells us, God sent his son into the world to die for us.

Think about the people who you have not been reconciled to. Those people in your life who’ve done wrong by you – would you die for them? Probably not – we would have trouble dying for a good person, but that’s exactly what God did- he died for us when we were still sinners.

Why? Because he loves us. And although we turn our hearts from him by sinning – making ourselves enemies of his goodness and love, he still reaches out for us, calling us back.

In our gospel this morning, we read the parable of the Prodigal Son. We all know the story of the younger son anxious to get his inheritance and head out into the world. He’s had enough of his father’s house and he wants to make his own way in the world. He squanders his inheritance; he loses all his money on the horses in Saratoga. Rather than facing the shame of what he’s done and going back to his father penniless, he hires himself out as a laborer.

But at some point, the text tells us “he came to himself”. I love that line. The Prodigal son came to himself. And he said – how many of my father’s hired hands have better than I’ve got?” I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”‘

You see the prodigal son saw himself as an enemy of his Father. He must have thought to himself – I’ve done so much damage to our relationship that he’ll never love me again, at least not as a son. But if he would hire me as a laborer I would do better than I am now.

But what does the parable say?

It says that while the son was still far off, the father saw him coming – and had compassion on him- and he rejoiced so much that his son, who was dead and was now alive was returning home to him that he threw a party and invited everyone in the neighborhood to rejoice.

You see the father was willing all along to reconcile the son back to himself. Just as God is always willing to reconcile us to himself when we “come to ourselves” and return to him.

But you know, I think I’ve told you this before, the Parable of the Prodigal Son really isn’t about the prodigal son.

The parable of the prodigal son is about the son who had made his father his enemy and didn’t realize it. The parable of the prodigal son is about the son who took the father’s love for him for granted, the older son. He took the father’s love for him for granted so much that he refused to rejoice with him when his brother came home.

We can make enemies with the people around us and not even realize what we’ve done.

We can take things for granted, like the older son.

Our enemies are those with whom we are not reconciled. The Father loved his sons, always and invariably. But both sons failed to recognize that love. The younger because of what he had done, the older because he never saw what the father really did for him.

Who is your life do you have something with whom you need to work on? God calls us to be the kind of people who don’t have enemies. The kind of people who work for reconciliation.

That process is an active one. One which we need to work on, and not let “just happen” – it never works that way.

We may not always know the way forward, or the best way to reconcile, but God calls us to be people who seek to reconcile, who seek to be the kind of people who don’t have enemies. If we come to him, he will show us the way.

For his Glory and his kingdom.

Amen.

 

 

Lenten Sermon Series: Giving it up – Superiority

Posted by on Mar 3, 2016 in Blog Entry, News | Comments Off on Lenten Sermon Series: Giving it up – Superiority

Lenten Sermon Series: Giving it up – Superiority

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We continue our Lenten Sermon series the discipline of “giving things up”, and we turn this morning to the tope of “giving up superiority.” Now, for the first two sermons, I’ve been able tie in the readings in some way, but this morning, unfortunately, I’m stumped to try to do that.

So as the central text of scripture, this morning, I am taking the story of Jesus and the Woman of Samaria. You recall that in this encounter in the Fourth Chapter of St. John, Jesus is travelling through Samaria, a mountainous region that lies between Judea, to the south, and Galilee to the north. It was at about noon, and Jesus had sent his disciples into town to get some food from the local Tops, while he remained outside of town – perhaps because he didn’t want to create a ruckus in town by his presence, or perhaps because, as the text tells us, he was simply tired and didn’t feel like walking all the way into town. So he sat down next to a well in a field outside of the town. And while he was sitting there a woman came to draw water. And while she was there, Jesus asked her for a drink. The woman retorted, “how is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus replied, if you knew who was asking, and the gift of God, you would have asked me for a drink, and I would have given you living water. The exchanged continues, back and forth, eliciting from our Blessed Lord memorable and powerful phrases such as “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

We can’t look at this passage without considering how this seemingly innocent little interaction between two people about water is really a very profound and dynamic-changing event that breaks down some very tall barriers.

First of all, there is the fact that she is a woman and he is man. It was culturally inappropriate for these two people to be conversing with one another on that basis alone.

But there was another issue. He was a Jew and she was a Samaritan. We probably all know, because of the parable of the Good Samaritan, that Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. The history of how the Samaritans came to exist is too long and too nuanced for our sermon this morning, but what we can say is that these two groups, Jews and Samaritans, disagreed over at least two profound issues.

The first issue, was over the true place of the true worship of God. The Jews believed that it was in the Temple at Jerusalem. The Samaritans believed it was at a different site, on Mount Gerizim.

The second issue was over Scripture and which version was correct. The Samaritans argued that their version of the Bible was the true word of God and that the text that the Jews were using was corrupted during the Babylonian Exile nearly 600 years before Jesus met this woman at the well.

Both groups had agreed on three things, independently of each other: One, there should be no contact with the other group. Two, members of the one group shouldn’t talk with one another, and three, neither should enter the territories of the other.

Arguments over who was truly the people of God had isolated the one group from the other, totally and completely. What was the root cause? What really lay at the center of this division?

I would submit to you that it was the feeling by each group that the one was superior to the other. That the one was right and the other was wrong. In their independent claims to be the true people of God, the very people whom God had chosen out of the world to be his people to eventually use in order to reconcile the world to himself, they had alienated themselves from one another. And in a real and sad way, by each claiming to be superior to the other, they had in fact alientated themselves from the very purpose

Enter Jesus into the scene. He breaks all the rules, rules that probably shouldn’t have even been there. He goes into Samaria, he talks to a woman, he asks her for a drink.

And in his conversation with her, he shows how the very reasons that these two groups feel superior to one another are totally bunk.

First, he points out that in the Kingdom of God, true worship will not be concerned with Jerusalem or Gerezim, but rather, it will be in spirit and truth.   The worship of the true God will not be in a temple made of stone, but in the heart of those who have faith in him.

And secondly, regarding the true word of God, there is a certain irony as we look at this scene. Two groups at odds over the true Word of God, and there he stands, wearied, asking for a drink of water to cool his parched throat, offering all the while, living water, which whereof we drink, and never thirst again!

The need to feel or be superior to others comes from the very heart of our fallen nature.

First, because of the existing, worldly competition for resources. Darwinian theory states that out in the world, it is a matter of “survival of the fittest.” The fittest are, of course, the most superior. They therefore have access to more resources need to survive: food, shelter, money, even the opportunity to procreate. We want, at a very primal level, to be the fittest, have the most, and be more likely to survive than our neighbor.

Secondly, we want to be superior to others because of our pride, which always wants to be right, always on top, always have the last word, and always be in control. Our pride and our ego want to not simply excel and achieve, to grow and develop, but want to be number one, king of the hill, top of the list. And it wants to do so, not for some benevolent reason such as serving in a leadership position as a servant, or helping others by using my knowledge and skill, or to better an organization by good solid leadership. No, my pride want to be, needs to be superior simply for the sake of being superior.

On the contrary, God’s call to us on how to live our lives seems to focus our attention on overcoming those very urges to live in a “survival of the fittest” world dominated by pride and ego, which lead ultimately, not to the common good, building up of the kingdom of God, but to the destruction of our relationships, communities, and eventually, if not before, our selves.

Scripture repeatedly tells us that in place of pride, we need humility.

2nd Chronicles 7:14 – “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

1 Peter 5: 6-7- “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Matthew 18:4 – “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Luke 14:11 – “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

James 4:10 – “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

And I could go on for hours.

But I want to finish with this final scripture. God does not lead us down any path which he himself has not trodden before us. That’s the awesomeness of our Lord. His call for us to give up control, to give up expectations, to give up superiority, is not a call which he himself has not heeded for our life and our salvation.

I leave you this morning with this passage from Philippians chapter 2.   It is probably not something that Paul wrote himself. It is, scholars argue, probably an early Christian Hymn which is familiar to his audience, and which he is quoting to them in letter form so they hear not just whatever it may have sounded like in the beauty of the voice of song, but so that they, and we, might hear the wonderful, powerful truth which it contains.

It goes like this:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a]
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, by taking the form of aservant,[b]
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”

Giving it Up: Giving up Expectations

Posted by on Feb 21, 2016 in Blog Entry, News | Comments Off on Giving it Up: Giving up Expectations

Giving it Up: Giving up Expectations

Giving It Up: Expectations

Genesis 12:1-4a, Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, John 3:1-17

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The second topic in our Lenten Sermon Series, entitled “Giving It Up” is, for me at least, an unexpected one. The topic is “expectations.” So this morning, we want to consider “Giving up expectations.”

As I mentioned last week, these topics are ones I found in an outline, online, and not of my own imagining. So when I discovered that I would be preaching on “giving up expectations,” I really struggled with why we as Christians, who are called to live our lives in a blessed hope and expectation of the Victory of Christ over the world, the flesh, and the devil should need to give up “expectations”, the very thing which we seem to base our living here on earth.

As I did some reading and thinking on this, it became apparent that when it comes to expectations there are two motivations which lead us to have expectations. First is what we might call “motivations of the flesh” that lead or rather mislead us to worldly expectations. The second motivation is that of the spirit of God which leads us to good expectations, heavenly ones.

A spoiled child expects to have everything given to them. They’re spoiled, so they have been conditioned to expect to not have to work for anything. Nor do these spoiled kids expect to have to take responsibility for anything, including their own actions.

Take the case of Ethan Couch, an 18 year old who, three years ago, was charged as a teen in a juvenile court of intoxication manslaughter. At his sentencing hearing, the defense lawyer argued that Couch’s wealthy parents never held him accountable for his actions, and he therefore didn’t know right from wrong. It was, therefore, the expectation of this spoiled rich kid, who killed four and permanently injured three others, that he would be treated leniently.

This is a worldly example, a type of bad expectations. But there’s also the idea in psychology, that tells that our expectations limit what we see in the world around us, and others. Expectations based on assumptions about another person, lead us to see only what we expect in that person.   If we think a person is a “bad person” or perhaps, “Unchristian”, we will tend to see in them those traits or qualities that we expect.

IN a sense, worldly, bad expectations, about ourselves, and about others, become self fulfilling prophecies.   In one study, a group was told they would do badly on a math exam. And they did. Another study found that when adults were given a complex maze to solve, but told that they were based on grade-school difficulty, they solved the maze faster.

Perhaps the best way to give up worldly expectations, is to think about our forbearers in faith, who have turned from worldly expectation to heavenly ones.

Perhaps the best known of all of these is Abram, whom we read about in our first lesson today.

In Genesis 12, Abram was called by God to leave his own country, his family, his inheritance from his father, and to go to a place that God would show him. That promise was that God would make Abram a great nation. But in order to do that, he had to do the unexpected. He had to give up everything he had, then, in order to follow God’s call to him. Abram had to be willing to trust God. That God had a plan for him, and that God would bring his promise to fulfillment.

In our reading this morning, from genesis 15, Abram again hears the promise of God, and God makes a covenant with him, promising that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in heaven. But Abram was an old man, then, and had no children of his own.

He expected that when he died, so would his family line. But God is faithful. God keeps his promises. And if Abram was willing to give up his own expectations, God would bless him, and make him a blessing.

For Abram to follow God it took trust, courage, patients, but most especially, faith. It was by faith that Abram was able to believe God was faithful to his promise.

The Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 11 sums up the story of Abram and God like this:

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

But the letter goes on to remind us:

“13 [Abraham] died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

Our challenge this morning is to give up our worldy expectations, and to live as Abraham did – by Faith. In Christ, God has a plan for our salvation. He has won the victory for us already, and he has given us new life, even now, to partake here on earth in his heavenly Kingdom.

The journey of our faith, each of us as individuals, is fraught with ups and downs, of doubts, confusions, of moments of despair, anxiety, and feelings of utter emptiness. And in those moments, we can lose sight of the right expectations we are called to have in faith: that God is faithful, and no matter how bad things may seem, he has called us to where we are, and will give us the grace to endure the sufferings of this present world. They are temporary, but the promise of God is eternal.

So let us, today, give up worldy expectations, like the spoiled brats who expect everything to be handed to them, and let us turn our hearts and minds to God – through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, and remember what Paul tells us this day:

“…our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.”

Lent Sermon Series – Giving it up: Control

Posted by on Feb 14, 2016 in Blog Entry, News | Comments Off on Lent Sermon Series – Giving it up: Control

Lent Sermon Series – Giving it up: Control

Giving up Control

Luke 4:1-13 (The Temptation of Jesus)

This Lent, I’ve decided to try something new. New for me, at least. I’m going to be doing a Sermon Series entitled “Giving it up”. Giving things up for Lent as a means of practicing personal sacrifice, is a time honored tradition of the Church. Through the next several weeks of Lent, we’ll be considering somethings which we might “give up” not just for Lent, but indeed, things which we need to constantly be giving up in our lives, in order to turn our lives over to God.

This week, the title of the sermon is “Giving up Control.”

Power, influence, authority; the need to be right, to have the last word; anger, intemperance, stubbornness; sarcastic remarks, passive aggression. These are all words which come to mind when we think of control.

The human attempt to be the masters of our own destiny, controllers of our own fate, cuts to the quick of who we are as human beings, and goes back to the very beginning of the bible. Indeed, it goes to the very beginning of human life on earth, to Adam and Eve.

You recall the story of of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve took the apple from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil when tempted to do so by the serpent.   They knew right from wrong. They knew they should not have eaten the apple, they knew what it meant that God told them not do eat it. They knew what would happen if they die, and they knew that was bad. But the serpent lied to them. He told them they wouldn’t die from eating the apple. The serpent, the devil promised that the apple would actually make them more like God.

They chose to take a chance. A chance, you might say, to be in control of their own lives. Up until then, God was in charge, but if they ate the apple, they would take God’s place. In eating that forbidden fruit, they, and we along with them, lost the innocence in which we were created. Their eyes were open, and they knew they were naked.

When we try to take control of our lives rather than turning ourselves over to God, allowing him to be in control, what we’re really trying to do is to take over his place, just like Adam and Eve tried, when they believed the lie that eating the forbidden fruit would make them like god.

I wanted to include a quote about control in my sermon, so I did a Google search on “words about control.” I found a website with quotes about control. Sadly, what I found was that most quotes that well known people make about “control” are in fact that opposite of what I believe God wants us to do.

Every quote talked about taking control of our lives, mastering our own destinies. In a secular world, as it is, filled with humanity in its fallen state, a world drifting further and further from its creator in heart and mind, its really no wonder that quotes about control and power would be self-centered.   I’m the one that needs to be in control of my own life. I’m the one who needs to decide who I am and where I’m going.

As Christian believers holding to the catholic and apostolic faith, we believe in something much different. We believe our goal is to turn control of our lives over to God, so that he may be glorified, his kingdom increased, and finally, in a sure and certain hope, we may dwell with him in house forever.

The one quote I did find on that website was from the grandson of Billy Graham. He said this: “Grace is thickly counter-intuitive. It feels risky and unfair. It’s dangerous and disorderly. It wrestles control out of our hands. It is wild and unsettling. It turns everything that makes sense to us upside-down and inside-out.”
(Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/control.html#1KjZfGpPgAuAwozy.99)

The opposite of control, power, authority, being in charge of my own life, is a life turned over to God. As Christians, we call that a life of Grace.

Surrendering ourselves to the grace of God in Christ is perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face as Christians. One wonders if one can even call oneself Christian without doing it. In theory, we want to do it, we want to be led by Christ in all aspects of our life. But in practice, it’s the most difficult thing to do. Why? Because we’re sinners.

And the truth of the matter is, what we need in order to turn ourselves over to the life of grace, is the grace of God. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. It’s only by God’s grace that we can turn ourselves over. So our challenge, then, is to ask God to give us that grace to turn our hearts fully to him, to help us give him the control which we so desperately want to keep, but know we need to turn over.

Perhaps the best way to test our turning over control to God is by asking ourselves “is this my will or is the God’s will?”. Is this me being stubborn or angry? IS this me seeking to be in charge of this situation? Is this me being jealous, controlling, or conceited?” Or by this choice I make, will I bring glory to God? Will I reflect the light of Christ in the world? Will God’s love be known through me in this decision I make.

As I thought of a scripture which illustrates why we ought to turn control of our lives over to God, the scripture that stood out was from Romans 8:28- “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” Here Paul tells us that when we turn our lives over to our creator, and allow him to guide us and lead us, all things will work out for the good. Indeed, what more could we ask for?   But I want to finish this morning by reading through to the end of the chapter. Because what Paul tells us is that when we turn our life over to God, when we are his, nothing can separate us from him and his love for us.

“…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j]35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen.