Sermon – 09-06-20 – Proper 18 – Cycle A
Scriptures: Ezekial 33:7-11; Psalm 119:33-40; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20
Sermon Title: “The Depth of Love”
The many kinds of love: love for self; love for spouse; love for children; love for other family members; love for our homes maybe, including our yards and gardens; love for relaxation and recreation; love for how we earn a living! After all, this is the Sunday that is attached to Labor Day Monday.
Were you, or are you, so blessed as to love the work you did for a living? Now I love the work I do for a living – serving God with you is the crowning joy of my long years of serving God in other ways. What is your answer? You may have stayed in one job for all of your working years. Now days, we are probably glad just to have a job if we are not yet retired. But to love our job, to get up in the morning looking forward to getting to work! How awesome is that?
Am I correct in thinking that one of the devotions you received this week was called “Cultivating God’s World?” Imagine being Adam and God creates you and sets you in this paradise of a place. You are delighted to be caring for this delightful place. I am assuming that weeds don’t exist in this garden. I am not sure what caring there may be except to gather the food that is growing and enjoy eating it.
But, of course, this thing called sin intervenes with all of us. We tend to blame it on Adam and his wife, Eve, because they ate of the forbidden fruit. If that is true, I happen to think that our inherited sin is not binding. We can be molded by yet another kind of love – God’s love for us and our love for God. This love between God and ourselves is elastic. Picture God’s end of this elastic cord being very strong. Picture the other end, our end. Sometimes strong, sometimes like a worn rubber band, stretched thin.
Think of Ezekiel in our Old Testament reading. Very stretched elastic cord. We find God putting some stern connection into Ezekiel’s weary thread of a connection. God says, “I need you Ezekiel. I need you to warn these people. You are to be the sentinel, the watchman. I need you to strengthen your end of our connection.” God does not seem to care about Ezekiel loving his job.
God is saying, “Turn back, my people. Tighten this elastic connection between us. Don’t go in the opposite direction, stretching this cord to the breaking point. I am near that breaking point with you, my people. Ezekiel, do something! Shout, Turn back! Turn back!
In our morning Bible Study group we each have a different version of the Bible – 8 different versions! There are more versions, but we are 8 in our group. The evening Bible Study group is smaller but again, we use different versions to give flesh to the passage by hearing it said different ways but having the same message imbedded in those words.
The King James Version has the neatest way of writing this “turn back” idea. I read from Ezekiel 33:11, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
Let’s ask ourselves why God’s people would want to turn back. There are flashier gods. There are more interesting gods. Some gods claim they can do this and that but something is missing. First of all, these gods usually cannot fulfill their bragging. Second of all, there is no love, there is no caring! Anything resembling love is just false glitter. Think of the glitter we followed in our lives, mostly when we were younger. But, glitter still catches us – well let’s say attitudes like selfishness are a form of glitter; attitudes like we don’t need to care for our garden, the earth, are false gods.
Adam was created to care for the earth. When he turned his back on God, the care became much too much. Thistles and thorns appeared. Unforgiving weeds appeared and re-appeared. You know how that works. What are the thorns and thistles and regular weeds in our lives? Are they manageable? Do they give us pleasure? Can we love this unending work of clearing the thistles and thorns? Let’s check. Do our lives seems overbearing because we have turned our backs on God? God is waiting to renew the elasticity in our lives. He is saying repent. He is yearning for us to renew our bouncing relationship with himself.
Lest we think we are free of the thorns and thistles, when was the last time that we felt angry and we wasted hours planning revenge? How long did the feeling last? Was it peaceful? Could you sleep like a baby? When was the last time that we felt worried? Our minds went left and right, front and back but not up. We treated our own minds as gods. Turn back! let us say to ourselves! Turn ye, turn ye! Let us renew that elasticity. The elasticity symbolizes the love God has for us but the love gets lost somewhere between God and ourselves because we drift away, little by little or with one big lunge.
The Psalmist helps us in Chapter 119:37. “Turn my eyes from beholding falsehood; give me life in your way.” Paul helps us in Romans 13. He writes that now is the time to turn, to become light for the world. But how can we give and be light for the world if we are not facing the source of light? How can we obey the commandments which speak to our relationship to fellow humans is we do not have love for them? How can we develop that love? How can we overcome the forces of evil in ourselves and in the world if we are not facing the source of love?
Let us lose our stubbornness – another god – and turn to the source of forgiveness. May love flood our souls. May we be bursting with love, wanting the best for the earth itself and every human and creature in it.
Yes, God, thank you for the honor of joining you in your work in the world. Help us to reflect your love, wisdom, and order in our lives and in the places where we work in one way or another.
We turn to you, holy and loving God, we turn to you with hungry hearts, waiting to be filled:
waiting to be filled with the sense of your presence;
waiting to be filled with the touch of your spirit;
waiting to be filled with your powerful yet comforting love;
waiting to be filled with new energy for service. In the name of Jesus, we pray! Amen