Sermon – 09-27-20 – Proper 21 – Cycle A – Harvest Home
Scriptures: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 25:1-9; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32
Sermon Title: “Let Us Bow Before the Lord”
Because Christ was obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross, God highly exalted Christ Jesus so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This is our Epistle lesson today (Epistle meaning letter). Paul wrote many letters. This Philippians letter is sent to the church in Philippi. It is one of my favorite bits of scripture, probably because I know these words sung to music. It is saying that every time we hear the name of Jesus spoken by anyone, we shall bend our knee or some translations use the word “bow.” If your knees are like my knees, we will choose the word “bow.”
Let’s practice, if you will. I will speak and every time I say “Jesus,” consider bowing your head.
We shall have the same mind as Jesus. Jesus was obedient. Jesus put aside his holiness. Jesus allowed himself to be fully human. Jesus humbled himself. Jesus became obedient to the point of death. Jesus actually died on a cross. Seven times we bowed.
Please picture yourself bowing to God in other times and places.. How does it look? Where will you stand? Outside with the flowers and the birds? Or inside near candles and a Bible? Or will you bow when someone is angry and uses the name of Jesus in an unholy way. That may take courage!
You may wonder about the name “Lord.” It is used interchangeably for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Sometimes “Lord” refers to all three at once. In the quiet time we are going to find for ourselves each day, we could find the name “Lord” wherever it is in the Bible and look front and back to determine which Lord is meant. If you have internet, you could go to a Bible search engine such as Bible Gateway and type the word “Lord” to find all the places in scripture where that word is written. If you do that, you may want to notice how many times “Lord” appears in the Bible. Don’t expect to have the same number as your friend unless you are asking for the same translation.
Do we need to wait for a certain word to bow? We bow our heads in thankfulness for whatever we are thankful. We bow our heads when we are ashamed of what we have said or done. This is more like humility than praise. After we have received God’s forgiveness we would bow our heads in praise of God’s mercy or better still, we can lift our heads to the sky, lift our arms to the sky and feel free to dance in praise and honor to God. Singing, also.
How often should we be praising God? When I am driving along the highway and something decides not to work on my car, I turn on my four-way flashing lights. I call God’s name like “Help me, God!” I thankfully have my phone with me. I thankfully have the number for Triple A. I thankfully can afford Triple A. Someone answers immediately in a gracious manner. She or he listens to my feeble opinion of the problem. I give my location if they don’t already know exactly where I am causing a traffic problem. I am given an estimated time for help to arrive. My mind moves to where I am supposed to be next. I use my phone again. Thank God for cell phones. I alert this person and that person that my schedule has become altered. I try to settle in. I pray. I look at my emails and messages. I may close my eyes. But when that Triple A truck arrives, I am praising God and bowing to the person who has come to rescue me. Douglassville Auto Body is usually my rescuer! I think very highly of these people. Often it is the same person. We are almost friends. I know God sends these helpers. It has been a long time since I have locked my keys in my car or had a flat tire, but as you know, these events come without warning so I can never think of these episodes being only in the past.
How good it is to have problems solved! How good it is that God was with us years ago and is with us now and will be with us tomorrow, for as many tomorrows as God grants us.
So today, in Zion United Church of Christ, we celebrate the food that will be given to hungry people because we are giving money as we are able. If we could also find time to volunteer at a food pantry, we may sense that God is bowing to us for doing his work. Some of you may know what it is like to be hungry so that you are not able to sleep easily or do school work or do your work.
When Jesus calls us to do work for him, do we say “yes” eagerly but when the time comes we are not there. Or are we like the other son in our gospel lesson, from Matthew, who said “no” but then actually appeared when it was time.
What about Ezekiel? Our Old Testament lesson is about Ezekiel. My, oh my. What a reading is Ezekiel! In our Bible Study this week we started with Chapter 1, verse 1 and read into Chapter 3. If you like space movies or books, don’t let another day go by without opening your Bible to Ezekiel. If you don’t have a Bible but you have internet, go to biblegateway.com. If you don’t have a Bible or internet, please tell me. I will place a Bible in your hands.
Ezekiel stays in my mind for two scenarios. One is the wheels from the beginning of the book. The other is the dry bone story from Ezekiel 37. Do you know the Dry Bones song? Now I know another neat part. God reached out of the clouds and gave Ezekiel a scroll. At that time, scripture was written on large pieces of paper, wrapped on two round, fancy dowels. The hand opened the scroll and both sides of it were filled with words of sadness, mourning, and grief. The voice of God said, “Eat this and fill up on it.” Ezekiel ate the scroll, and it tasted sweet as honey. Find this in Ezekiel 2:9 through 3:3. Now Ezekiel has the words and the inspiration to proclaim God’s feelings and warnings to God’s people, the Israelites.
In Psalm 119:103, we find very similar words: “How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth” Not only do God’s words live in our hearts and minds but in our mouths also. Psalm 100 gives words to digest and to become part of our whole being. We are led to bow or raise our hands and heads in praise. Listen or say them with me.
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord, he is God. It is he that has made us and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise. Be thankful unto him and bless his name. For the Lord is good. His mercy is everlasting and his truth endureth to all generations.” Are the words sweet in our mouths? Are we bowing yet? Are we lifting our heads and arms in praise? Are we dancing in thankfulness for the Lord’s goodness?