Readings: Jeremiah 20:7-20; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:24-30
These aren't exactly uplifting readings are they. In Jeremiah he says, “I have become a laughing stock all day long. Everyone mocks me, for whenever I speak, I must cry out. I hear many whispering, 'terror is all around' Denounce him! Denounce him! All my close friends are watching for me to stumble.”
Then, after this long list of things that are going wrong Jeremiah returns to his faith. He writes, “But the lord is with me like a dread warrior. My persecutors will stumble and they will not prevail. O Lord of hosts, you see the heart and the mind.”
Paul is a little more uplifting in his letter to the Romans. He writes, “Should we continue to sin in order that grace may abound.” There was a school of thought among some Christian circles in the time of Paul that sin should be encouraged because God would increase his grace and through this increase in grace God would be even more glorified. It is a kind of backwards logic.
Paul sees through this and closes his letter with, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” End of discussion.
Then of course we go to the gospel reading. Jesus says in Matthew, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Men will turn against their fathers. Daughters against mothers,”.. and so on. Jesus tells us to love God above all else.
But Jesus does not stop there. He says, “whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
I think what Jesus is saying is that being a Christian is not going to make your life any easier. Bad things are going to continue to happen. It was true two thousand years ago and it is true today. Think about your own lives. People you have loved have been lost. Some of you have had relationships that fell apart. Tragedy has happened to you or your family.
You will be tested. Your faith will be tested. Jesus tells us to not give up. Those who give of themselves have much more to gain. Jesus wants us to live as he lived. He wants us to die to sin and by doing so we will have eternal life.
Having said that I have to also say that he is not doing a very effective job at convincing people to follow him. Becoming Christian sounds like trouble and to some extent it is.
So this begs the question, why are we Christian? Why do we come to church? What do we get out of it?
I was watching the Episcopal channel on TV a few days ago. The channel has these short testimonials given by people who talk about some aspect of their faith. Let me give you a little background of this one lady and what she said.
She lives in a large city and wanted to get her newborn son started in the right direction. Her grandfather was an Episcopal deacon and she asked him to do her son's baptism. She talked about the beauty of the ceremony at the family home and how wonderful it was to have her grandfather dressed in his vestments. She added that a year later her grandfather passed away and that she felt so fortunate to have had him do the ceremony.
And, then she said this: “ As humans we are always going to face these huge challenges as we grow and if we don't have a foundation that's gonna support us, you can lose yourself and I want my boy to have something to live for.”
That is why I'm here today. I need that foundation so that I can face life’s challenges. I need the support from all of you and hopefully I can give you support as well. I look forward to God's promise of eternal life in Him.