“Be Gone, Spirit of Slavery”

Sermon – 07-23-17 – Proper 11 – Cycle A
Scripture: Isaiah 44:6-8; Psalm 86:11-17; Romans 8: 12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Sermon Title: “Be Gone, Spirit of Slavery”
We wrestle with the spirit of slavery, with Satan, with evil.  You say not?  Let us investigate.  Remember Eve succumbing to Satan in the form of a snake in the creation story?  I dare say, she had not learned to wrestle with evil.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil.”  We wonder why would God even think about leading us into temptation.  That stretches our mind but let’s move on.  “But deliver us from evil.”  Aha!  God does not desert us or so we hope.  Is that true?  Do we need some magic words with God so that we can resist evil?  I think we need God’s assistance to recognize evil when it confronts us or when we casually meander into it.  Do we sometimes mistake evil for a good solution only to find that we have walked straight into quicksand?
If God, himself, prepares temptation, it may be a plan to strengthen us.  Life’s experiences provide lessons for us.  Therefore, we are surely wiser at the end of our years than in the beginning.  Do you find yourself saying that you just had a learning experience?  I could write a book based on my “learning experiences!”
Remember how Jacob wrestled with God unbeknownst to Jacob.  This story is found in Genesis 32:19-29.  All night a man wrestled with Jacob.  Jacob did not know the man.  Neither one could get the best of the other until the other man struck Jacob on the hip and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint.  And still Jacob did not let the other man go.  “I will not let you go until you bless me,” said Jacob.  Finally, Jacob realized that this adversary was God himself.  God did bless Jacob.  God had big plans for Jacob from the beginning but Jacob had to wrestle first with Esau, then with his father-in-law, Laban, and now with God himself.  Now Jacob receives the affirmation that his struggles were part of the plan.  Jacob persisted through the struggles.  Jacob has permission and assistance to move ahead; to be part of this big plan that eventually leads to our Lord Jesus Christ being born to a direct descendant of Jacob.
Imagine!  I was always tempted to take the side of Esau, the twin of Jacob.  Esau was tricked, pure and simple, into losing his birthright.  He was the first-born.  What is fair about having your mother help your second-born twin to steal your own birthright?  Is fairness a criteria of God’s plans for us?  Oooh! and Ouch!
Where does humbleness enter the picture?  Are we set on keeping things fair or do we see the light and realize that being humble is God’s recipe rather than “fairness?”  Does being humble feel like being in slavery?  Maybe when we have not seen the rewards of being humble and we still have our sights set on that seat at the head of the table or being in the pulpit on a Sunday morning instead of being on the organ bench; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Bring on the mantle of humility.  Look for the good.  Stop wrestling!  It is God!  Don’t you see, it is God’s plan for our very lives that we are resisting.  And where will that get us!  Absolutely, no where.  It is the grip of evil we are wrestling, but don’t you see – the Lord is waiting, the Lord is hanging on!  Shall we persist until our hip is out of joint?  Ask for the blessing!  Let go!
Resisting is the slavery.  Instead, we shall accept the spirit of adoption from our loving Father, Abba, God!  Paul puts it this way in Romans 8:14-17, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.  When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”  Glory is the gift!  Paul goes on, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”
This wrestling that we are doing now with evil, seems far removed from any shade of glory.  But, it is according to God’s plan.  In Matthew 13, we find the parable of good wheat and weeds growing side by side as they tend to do here on earth, do they not?  The Master explains that an enemy has put the weeds, the evil, alongside the good.  The plan is for the weeds to be gathered first at the time of harvest.  They shall be burned up with fire.  Then the good wheat will be gathered into the Master’s barn.  Jesus explained to his disciples that this parable refers to people.  At the end of the age, the Son of Man, Jesus, will send angels to first gather the evildoers and throw them into a furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  “But the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
How shall we abide until the end of this age – the age of good and evil whose roots are mingling beneath the soil and whose branches are weaving with each other.  Which are we anyway?  Which are we – good or evil?  Which are our children – good or evil?  Whoa!  This touches our nerves, does it not!  Is God going to hold us accountable for our children’s behavior, for our children’s salvation or lack thereof?  First of all, are we to judge our children’s salvation quotient?  Shall we consider ourselves slaves to sin because of our children’s actions and attitudes and seemingly lack of acceptance of Jesus as Savior?  Can we be free, should we allow ourselves to be children of God when our own children outwardly seem to reject that condition?
Shall we be weeping and gnashing our teeth in fear and agony for our own children?  These words of Paul in Romans 8:22-25 help me.  Watch for the word “hope.”  Think “loved ones” and “children,” as well as ourselves, as we read.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  For in hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Let us do our best with ourselves and our loved ones to keep our minds on being wheat and not weeds.  Let us wear the cloak of humility and leave the king’s robe and the seat at the head of the table and the pulpit for whomever else God invites.  Let us shed the chains of slavery for the freedom of being a child of God.  Let us savor the condition of contentment.  It is a gift from God.  Amen

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