Hi, Here is a draft of yesterday's sermon.
Readings: Genesis 22: 1-14; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42
I think sometimes God tests his clergy with these lessons. I know that God was testing Abraham with his order to sacrifice his son. In this day and age we are very skeptical of people who hear the voice of God, especially people whom God tells to go out and kill others. I have no memory of the voice of God nudging me to do anything so violent.
Biblical scholars tell us that the stories in the old testament were not designed for their accuracy but they were a vehicle used to teach a lesson. In this case I believe this story was telling us to have faith in God and trust in him. Abraham made a choice. He chose to follow God's will. In this story God is testing his faith and I am so grateful that it has a good ending.
However, any way I turn it, it seems like kind of a creepy story.
In the reading from Paul, he continues his message that was read last week. He talks about sin. He tells these early Christians, “But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you , having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
Paul is telling them they had a choice. They could have been slaves to sin but they chose to be free from sin and be slaves to God.
In the gospel reading Jesus to some extent is talking about choices too. If you insert the word choose to the sentence it fits very well. For instance, Whoever chooses to welcome you, welcomes me and whoever chooses to welcome me has chosen to welcome the Father. And, in the end he says none of these will lose their reward. I have taken some liberties with this but I believe I have remained true to the theme of this passage.
I can't close this without saying that I believe Jesus is talking about acts of kindness, even the smallest acts of kindness like giving a cup of cold water to a little one. That ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls is what we are called to do. Choose to be kind to others and do it without selfish intent.
There is the old saying, 'no good deed goes unpunished'. So many times I have done something thinking who could possible disagree with this. And then, somebody finds fault with it. An example would be when I was on the city council in Glenrock, Wyoming. We made a decision to restore a pidgeon infested boarded up building that was at the heart of our business district. I was very involved in the project and thought everyone was behind us.
One day the mayor and I were giving a tour to a person from the state historical society and as we were crossing the street, I saw a well known person in the community and greeted him and explained to him what we were doing. He responded by saying, “I could help you out. I could give you a gallon of gas and we can burn it to the ground.” And, there you go.
Sometimes its not easy to feel kindly toward people and that can be a major challenge for us as Christians. Nobody said it was going to be easy.
Eventually we completed the building and it is now something most people in the town are proud of .
I guess what I am trying say is do what in your heart seems like the right thing to do.
There was an Episcopalian who finally decided to read the bible. One day after the Sunday service the priest asked him how he was coming along in his reading. He said, “just fine Father, Ya know I've decided it is a pretty good read. There are a lot of parts in it from the Book of Common Prayer.”