I just returned from our annual Deaconess Assembly which was held in Omaha Nebraska. Actually, it was Ashland, a 30-minute drive from Omaha- a place that made me wonder where do people work, or where do they shop? I saw more wildlife than people – and not always in a good way – just ask the passengers in my van when a young deer jumped out in front of me on a dark back road! – Talk about Jesus taking the wheel!
Our theme was Inextricably connected. We all are connected in a variety of ways; impossible to separate. We are all beloved children of God, we all share in the grace of baptism and the Eucharist. As Christians we are connected to this grand biblical story that continues to unfold and will continue to unfold long after we physically leave this earth. We are all players in the story and sometimes we are the hero and sometimes our behavior causes us to be the villain.
This morning, all of our scripture readings are also inextricably connected. In fact, our scriptures are stories of God’s people at work in the world. Our weekly readings are part of a three-year cycle and usually we can find a theme running through them. I am going to weave these pieces together for you. I am going to need 4 volunteers who would be willing to help me this morning with my sermon – you don’t have to speak – just be willing to help with a visual aid. Ok – You are representing the book of Habbakuk – second person is the Psalm – third person is 2 Timothy and the fourth represents our Gospel Reading in Luke – so you need to wear these signs.
Let’s start at the beginning – I am handing the ball of yarn to Habakkuk – when you hear me say another book name – hold onto the end and toss it to the book I mentioned – we will continue this throughout the sermon.
In our OT reading Habakkuk the prophet states in chapter 2 verse 4: Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith. Ok, as Christians we are familiar with the term faith – having complete trust in God. So, it would seem that in order to have faith, you should be righteous. However righteous in the OT also means vindication – that we are vindicated by God – an almost legal term. Vindication meaning that God frees us from sin in order to put us into a right relationship with the Lord.
We then continued to hear the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 37 where he says: He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
The psalm continues the idea of vindication and that when we are vindicated ( or made right) by God, it can be equated with the breaking of a new day.
We continue to the letter that Paul wrote to Timothy in our Epistle reading – that because that we have already been vindicated or(made right with God), We are to hold to the standard of sound teaching (of Jesus) that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. Paul seems to be telling us that having faith includes adhering to the teachings of Jesus.
Finally, our Gospel reading in Luke begins with the Disciples asking for Jesus to increase their faith, in which Jesus responds that you have already been given the faith; you have already been vindicated by your faith in me – and you have heard my preaching and teachings, I have given you all the ammunition you need to be my disciples.
You might be asking yourself – ok, but how does this all connect together?
The Psalmist states that we are vindicated or put into right relationship with God; The Prophet Habakkuk states that God vindicates or makes us righteous through our faith – Paul says in 2nd Timothy because we are made righteous, we are to follow the teachings of Jesus and to have faith in those teachings and Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke that we have already been entrusted with the faith and now we are to put that faith into action.
So now we have demonstrated how all of these readings are woven together, so I guess my work here is done – My volunteers can be relieved of their duties. But I am assuming you may still have questions.
But you are probably all wondering what does this mean for me? Who cares what a 7th century BCE prophet had to say or a letter from Paul to Timothy, his youthful apprentice and fellow missionary?
Or an agriculturally themed poem that really doesn’t make much sense in the 21st century and don’t get me started on the mustard seed analogy or biblical slavery! Maybe you are thinking “it may make sense to you, but it makes about as much sense to me as 90 degrees in October!”
All of these scripture lessons can point us to holding onto our faith, especially when things are not going well. The prophet Habakkuk seems to be having an issue with God. He doesn’t feel as if God is answering his prayers – he has become exasperated. How many of us have ever felt like this? To him, God is not being fair – why is there so much suffering in this world – why do Good people suffer while the wicked seem to get away with exploiting others with their unjust power. Why do the do the rich keep getting richer while the poor become more economically deprived?
The prophet gives us an insight to these questions – God’s time is not our time – God has a plan – the new Jerusalem will come down to earth –God’s kingdom will prevail; but we may not live to see it – Which doesn’t seem like good news. Nevertheless, Faith includes having patience.
The Psalmist is much more hopeful- he tells us that by trusting or having faith in God, God WILL act – maybe not immediately. He goes on to tell us to not get angry and to “stay in our own lanes”, not to worry about what others are doing or not doing – worry about being a disciple – carry out what God commands us to do. Retribution is not our concern- hand it over to God. In one of my New Day sermons I stated that I wished I often had a smite button and every time I see someone exploiting another human, I would just push the button! However, I would probably use that button more than I should – because then I am taking over for God by doling out punishments that are not part of what God asks me to do. We are called to act with justice and mercy and even when we stand up for those on the margins, we do so in love and are to see everyone as beloved children of God- EVERYONE – now I didn’t say that it would be easy!
The Apostle Paul is writing words of encouragement to his protégé because he has been experiencing Suffering because of his belief and faith in Jesus Christ. Having faith doesn’t free us from suffering persecution; but having faith does give us the knowledge that God will never stray from us. God gives us the power to act on behalf of the Gospel – to care for the sick, for the stranger, for those who are imprisoned. God gives us the power to advocate for more human laws and policies, God gives us the power to be caretakers of the earth; God gives us the power to spread the Good news of Jesus Christ to all for whom we meet.
And finally, in our Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that our faith is enough to be the hands and feet of Jesus – our faith is strong enough to speak truth to power, to help the poor, to cast out the demons of greed, power and corruption for the sake of Jesus Christ. We are good enough because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We are all beloved Children of God – inextricably connected through the body and blood of our Lord and Savior. Just as the thread and fabric of our quilts have been lovingly sewn together; just as our personal care kits have been carefully package; both were created by hands that had the faith of a mustard seed. Faith in the knowledge that they are carrying out the command of Christ to love God and love neighbor -not knowing exactly where each will go; not knowing the people who will receive them -it doesn’t matter – because these items which are sent by beloved children of God are also received by beloved children of God.
So, if we could thread together all of our scripture readings for today, we could conclude that we are called to act with justice, even when we may not see the fruits of our labors. We carry out the teachings of Jesus, even when we are persecuted for lifting up and acting out the Gospel – and we have enough faith to be good enough as disciples of Jesus – we are good enough even when our faith seems to be smaller than a mustard seed, it is enough for God.
– And as a faith community, we are connected through our baptisms, together we strive for justice and peace through all the earth, together we proclaim the Good news of Jesus Christ, we come together as a community who is inextricably connected through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.