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Bulletin, Aug. 7, 2022 – Pentecost 9
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St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Port Royal, VA
We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.
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Pentecost 9, Aug. 7, 2022(full size gallery)
I. Theme – Understanding our Heritage and Putting our Trust in God
The lectionary readings are here or individually:
First Reading – Genesis 15:1-6
Psalm – Psalm 33:12-22
Epistle – Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Gospel – Luke 12:32-40
This week’s readings help us to understand our heritage of faith and to strengthen our trust in God. In Genesis , Abram puts his faith and his family’s future in God’s promises. The psalmist sings the praises of the sovereign Creator God. The author of Hebrews gives examples from salvation history of the faith that pleases God. There is a sense of urgency about the parables in the gospel for today. Jesus admonished his followers to be ready for action: “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; — Luke 12:35 . Jesus cautions his disciples to live in a manner that reflects the imminent possibility of his unexpected return.
This would have reminded them of the instruction for celebrating the feast of the Passover. At the time of the exodus, when they escaped from slavery in Egypt, they had been told to be ready to move without notice. This urgent readiness was then remembered in the way they celebrated these great events in the Passover every year: so we have the instruction on how the Passover meal was to be eaten hurriedly, in the book of Exodus:
This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. — Exodus 12:11
The Jewish people were used to recalling these directions in scripture every year and would easily have recognized the same idea in the teaching of Jesus about the coming to the Kingdom of God:be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. — Luke 12:36
Today’s readings remind us to seek God’s realm in and beyond our daily responsibilities, and to consider constantly the need to give up certain types of security to be faithful to God’s presence in the persons in front of us and across the globe. We may have an uneasy conscience at times and this is good news, for such uneasiness invites us to mindfulness and intentionality, and reflection on what is truly important in the course of a day and a lifetime.
“See, the eyes of the lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness” (Psalm 33: 18). The Spanish-speaking and Native American peoples have a lovely yarn craft called “Ojos de Dios” or “God’s eyes.” It symbolizes God’s beneficial watchfulness over us.
However, God’s all-seeing, ever-present eye is not a comforting thought to everyone. In order for this to be a soul-warming concept, we must have an understanding of the true nature of God. As the psalmist says, we must be among “those who hope in his kindness.” To those who await only God’s judgment, the thought of God’s eye upon them is threatening rather than comforting.
The opposite of faith is fear. Jesus’ exhortation, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,” is really an appeal to trust God. Trust and love go together. In our human relationships, we know that we trust more where mutual love exists and trust the least where there is no love. We are told that, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (1 John 4:18).
It has been said that every human being responds to God’s existence, either in fear or in love, that is, to judgment or salvation. When we have grasped the good news of God’s steadfast love towards us, the lord becomes our help and our shield. That God’s eye is upon us is our most supportive thought. We can never be lost or alone because God sees us in all times and places. God’s love will provide for us and reward us as we seek God’s will.
We seek God’s will because we are certain that it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. We trust God’s perfect love, and this casts out our fear. We have confidence for the day of judgment. When the lord returns, our lamps will be burning brightly for the celebration that will be like a marriage feast. Hearts that have held the treasure of Jesus’ saving love will tremble with joy at his appearing.
Seeking the kingdom is a tough road and we cannot get caught up in our own world, We are reminded that we may not see the fulfillment of God’s promises in our lifetime. All too often, we put our own worldly hopes and dreams in front of God’s promises, believing that God fulfills promises by blessing people with wealth, health and happiness. This could not be further from the Gospel of Jesus, who told the rich to sell all they had, who told the disciples not to take more than they could carry and to rely on the generosity of others, who told us all to become first we must become last of all and servant of all. This is what Jesus has called us to do—to seek eternity, we must not be wedded to the wealth and success of this world, for it will fall away. Our lives are a witness to the future: did we seek to live for Christ by living for others, or did we seek to live for ourselves?
First Reading – Genesis 15:1-6
At this point in the book of Genesis, the perspective changes from the story of humanity (Genesis 1–11) to the story of a specific man, Abram (Genesis 12–23), and through him and his offspring, to the story of a chosen people.
This is one of several times in this liturgical cycle that we meet both Abraham and God in a discussion about the future of Abraham and his tribe. A couple of Sundays ago it was the vision and visitation at Mamre, and this morning the discussion embraces Abraham’s worry of having no heir. The verse begins with a prophetic cast: “the word of the Lord came to Abram.”
Today’s reading repeats the earlier promise of posterity to Abram (12:1-3, 13:16). Because of his childlessness, Abram was relying upon the custom of adopting a child born of a slave as his heir. He and Sarai are very old, and Abram is concerned about the continuation of his legacy—a common concern of his day and throughout Biblical history, and even in parts of the world still today—how property is passed down becomes the main concern of one’s existence, because it isn’t very long. Abram needs an heir, and it doesn’t appear Sarai will be able to have a child. But God promises Abram and Sarai that their needs will be met, and their descendants will be more numerous than they can count. It is a promise that they did not see fully realized in their lifetime, but were given a glimpse of their future with hope.
In response to God’s promise of descendants, Abram “believed the lord,” that is, trusted God. This put him in the right relationship to God, that of “righteousness.” Abram recognizes God’s promise as valid, and this interaction indeed makes it absolute fact. This attitude and relationship then become the basis for righteous deeds.
Psalm – Psalm 33:12-22
This psalm was probably recited at the great autumn festival of Tabernacles, which celebrated both the creation and the history of Israel. Psalm 33:12-22 is a song of blessing for those who follow and trust in God.
Its opening verses (not read this morning) indicates that this psalm is indeed a hymn, sung with musical instruments. The psalm is stretched between two points of view: a national one “the people he has chosen to be his own” and a more universal view, “he beholds all the people in the world.”
It is introduced by a call to the congregation to praise the lord (vv. 1-5). Then it praises God as Creator (vv. 6-9) and as the lord of history (vv. 10-19). What is contrasted in the poem is the might of God and any potential might on the part of humankind – “no king can be saved by his mighty army.” God’s power is more subtle, not like the sheer power of the horse. God’s power is made manifest by the word that God speaks.
Verses 20-22 are a concluding confession of trust. The breath that makes the word is like unto the “soul” (literally “the life breath”) that awaits God. It is in this connection of life – the Creator to the created – that trust is found.
The psalmist knows that God’s word and works are unchanging (v. 4) and that God delivers the chosen people (vv. 12, 18-19) because of the covenant promises. When we put our trust in worldly powers, they will fail us, but God is faithful. God is the one who made all of creation, why do we look to created beings to save us? God is the one we wait for, who will be faithful in the end.
Epistle- Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Today’s reading begins a four-week sequence of readings from the letter to the Hebrews. Despite its title, very little can be known for sure about the author or the audience. The book is much more like a theological treatise with a strong pastoral emphasis than like a letter. The author calls it “my word of exhortation” (13:22). It may originally have been a sermon or series of sermons put in writing for the benefit of those who should have become leaders and teachers (5:12) of their congregation but who have become discouraged (10:32, 12:12), perhaps by persecution (12:4).
He refers to the Greek version of the Old Testament (called the Septuagint) and employs the terminology of Greek thought as it had been adapted by Jewish philosophers who applied Platonic concepts to Judaism. Both author and audience seem to belong to the generation of believers after the apostles (2:3, 13:7).
The readers were fretting about promises that God seemed to have withdrawn. The readers were Jews (Hebrews) who had come to believe in Jesus as the fulfillment of their Jewish hopes. This got them ostracized from the institutions (sacrifices, priesthood, rituals) of mainline Judaism. To bolster their faith, the author writes a complex treatise showing that their new life in Christ more than compensates for what they have lost, and the promises to which they are now heirs exceed the promises of old.
In the main body of the letter the author has established the superiority of Jesus to the prophets, to angels and to Moses; the superiority of Christ’s priesthood to the Levitical priesthood; and the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice offered for all time in the heavenly sanctuary to the repeated sacrifices offered on earth by the levitical priests. Given that reality, he can exhort his audience to perseverance.
Today’s reading is a roll call of Old Testament examples of faith, particularly those of our ancestors, of Abraham and Sarah. A wealthy but childless pagan in Ur of the Chaldees (modern Iraq), Abraham heard the voice of God summoning him to a different land, where God promised to grant him many descendants. Despite obstacles and setbacks, Abraham stayed obedient, “for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.” (There’s a sentence to emphasize in your proclamation.)
The ancestors are praised for believing unfulfilled promises “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (vs. 1) and we are reminded that Abraham and Sarah did not see the fulfillment of God’s promise to them, but had a glimpse through the birth of their son, Isaac. The narrative of Abraham and Sarah invites us to be risk takers, willing to go forth with only a dream to guide us toward God’s far horizons. This elderly couple gives up everything secure to follow a promise.
Faith is an active attitude that, based upon past experience and outward signs, makes a present and vivid reality out of the future and the unseen. It’s about trust – the trust in the reality of the relationship with, and the promises of, God is especially exemplified by Abraham.
So we must live with this faith: God has promised us a future with hope, God has given us the hope of eternal life through Jesus the Christ. But we may not see the fulfillment in our lifetime, but through our faith, we leave a legacy for future generations. When we are faithful, future generations will look upon our faith and find endurance, and may even see the promises made to us fulfilled. So don’t lose heart.
Gospel – Luke 12:32-40
Today’s sayings and parables are told in the context of imminent crisis. The climax of Jesus’ ministry is approaching and with it the judgment of Israel. Thus the time of trial for his disciples and the time of decision for all is also at hand. The disciples are to trust their welfare to God, who is the source of their security.
Luke 12:32-40 contains a brief parable about being ready and waiting for Christ to come in a new way. Paired with the parable of the Rich Fool from last week, we once again are reminded that living for the ways of the world is foolish.
The parable of the doorkeeper gave the early Church a way to think about the delay of Jesus’ second coming and the need for constant watchfulness because of his unexpected return. The critical point for decision, whether met in Jesus’ ministry, in his death and resurrection, or in the expectation of his return, confronts every listener.
So what shall the faithful Christian do? First of all, “have no fear”. The promise from God is that the kingdom will be given to those who believe. What follows are two images: be properly dressed for action and movement, and take a flashlight, ready to move and to see when the Bridegroom comes. We are called to expect the unexpected. It requires attentiveness, willingness to launch out on a moment’s notice, and the possibility that we have to become downwardly mobile for the sake of following God’s vision
Luke will move in coming chapters to the foreshadows of the Passion and the events that will disturb the disciples. However, for the “Son of Man” to appear, we must be ready to accept the coming at any time. Stuck at the end of the first paragraph of this reading is a pithy bit of advice. Understanding what we really treasure is a clue to what we will be ready and willing to do. If the heart is to guide us, it must be the heart of Christ.
For starters, this text – and the others – calls for an examination of conscience to determine what is truly important to us. The hour and moment of God’s coming may or may not conflict with our other responsibilities. It may not represent a sharp break, but it will call us to perceive our responsibilities from a different perspective
Living for our own gain, our own success, our own wealth leads to ruin. One fault that many Christians have is that we believe in life after death, and so we live this life as if it was completely second from the next. Instead, Christ proclaims eternal life, in that our lives lived now prepare us for eternity. Christ tells us to be last of all and servant of all. Christ tells us to store up treasures in heaven, not worldly pleasures. Unfortunately, many have missed this message, living for the moment, ignoring the ones who need to be served, and instead, expecting to be served ourselves.
2. How Firm a Foundation
3. Gospel from Luke 12:32-40
5. Eucharistic Prayer
Aug.7, 11:00am – Eucharist
15 in house and 10 online. Two of our members have COVID returning from a summer trip.COVID have shifted our events as local numbers are up. Today was a return to masks. Wed for the Village dinner will be take out.
This was first Sunday and coffee hour was all tomatoes. Johnny brought tomatoes from the garden and Cookie made stuffed tomatoes with many delights from the Summer. A summer delight!
The key words this week in the lectionary are “faith” and “waiting.” Faith is about trust in things unseen – the trust in the reality of the relationship with, and the promises of, God is especially exemplified by Abraham.
In the Gospel, we need to be ready and waiting for Christ to come in a new way. Paired with the parable of the Rich Fool from last week, we once again are reminded that living for the ways of the world is foolish.
So what shall the faithful Christian do? First of all, “have no fear”. The promise from God is that the kingdom will be given to those who believe. What follows are two images: be properly dressed for action and movement, and take a flashlight, ready to move and to see when the Bridegroom comes. We are called to expect the unexpected and be ready to act.
Our verses are part of a larger context of “Readiness for the Coming Judgment” from Luke 12:1-13:9. This section started last week with the parable Fool and will last until Aug 25.
Jesus is in the presence both of his disciples and the large crowds (12:1). He appears to be speaking primarily to the disciples, though within earshot of a large number of people. Even though teaching the disciples, “someone in the crowd” is able to interrupt with a question. Though speaking directly to the inner circle of the movement, Jesus’ teachings are also “overheard” by a large number of people.
This week, he follows the parable of the rich fool (12: 13-21) with exhortations to live without anxiety. Worry about food or clothing is unnecessary in light of God’s providence. “The nations” worry about such things–that is to say, people who think and act in light of the dominant culture’s assumptions will find themselves riven with uncertainty and anxiety.
Basic summary – In the declaration of paragraph one, Jesus puts his hearers at ease. God wants to give you the kingdom where he lives, with pleasure. So you can get rid of your possessions and give alms to the poor because your investment is in the kingdom of the heavens. Do this because wherever you invest your life is where your attention will be.
The master is coming soon to celebrate his victory and even his slaves will be blessed in this celebration. The master will serve the slaves the only condition is the slaves must be awake and recognize him when he knocks at the door. It might even be in the middle of the night so vigilance is necessary so as not to fall asleep and miss the arrival of the master. Bill Long in 2007 comes with the key focus of this passage
There are three ever-more-difficult commands that Jesus gives his disciples.
(1) Banish Fear (v.32);
The context in which this passage opens is where Jesus is teaching about worry. He knows the human tendency to be concerned with material goods and the shape of our lives, but Jesus resolutely tells us: “do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you shall wear” (v. 22). Why not? Because the ravens neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them (v. 24). Since we are of much more value than ravens, God will so much more take care of us.
Fear erodes our creativity, occupies our mental space, distracts us from enjoying the true beauties all around us, and ultimately shortchanges us. We tend to be pre-occupied or even obsessed with having “enough” money or resources on which to live. We miss the details around us we don’t recognize the beauty of the lilies of the field, or the arcing flight of a bird. IT grips us
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We are called a “little flock,” a term of endearment also present in Ezek. 34 and other Biblical texts. God’s pleasure is to give us the “kingdom” (i.e., the presence of Jesus), but we are worried about our clothes, our money, our bank account and assuring our future economically
So, how do we get rid of this fear? Find out what your heart says is your true love. Let the sound created by fear (“I need to do X and then Y and then obtain Z and be vigilant on this deal and that investment and that sale”) gradually be subsumed by a greater “sound”–the sound of you listening to the alluring music of love.
What is it that you truly love, that you would give yourself to in a moment if you had the courage to give yourself that moment? Perhaps you don’t even know what this is because you are so wrapped up in the life of fear that you don’t even permit yourself the “luxury” to think of what life would look like without being consumed by “what you should wear” or “what you should eat” (to quote Jesus). But when the noise stops and the glitter fades for the evening, what is it that your heart craves? Does it desire to explore other cultures? To learn a skill? To gain certain knowledge? To serve in some capacity to others? To move to a different region? To put on a different “persona?” Fear keeps us from doing these things
(2) Sell Goods (33-34); It doesn’t say that we should give everything as alms; it just emphasizes the getting rid of the possessions. But the larger point ought to be clear. The disciple’s true treasure trove is in heaven. That is where our “value” is; that is where heart also should be. It also seems quite ironic that we build up a treasure in heaven by giving away money on earth
The proper use of one’s abundance is to give them away or share them (or the money received from selling them) for the common good. in the first century, it was believed that there was a fixed and limited amount of wealth. If someone gained wealth, someone else had to lose it. They didn’t believe that everyone becoming wealthier. Malina and Rohrbaugh (Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels) state: “Acquisition was always considered stealing”. So, if the poor were to escape their poverty, it would have to come from the wealthy sharing their possessions. In essence, the wealthy would have to become poorer if the poor were to gain some wealth.
So this is more than just throwing a donation to the poor, it stems from being merciful to those in need.
Jesus is controversial because he breaks the connection between giving and receiving (that is, you give without expectation of return), so he is controversial here because he suggests that one’s true value in life has little to do with one’s “net worth.”
It is to cut ourselves off from that system of values which dominates the world in which they lived and we live Jesus’ words in v. 34 are memorable–“for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Note that he doesn’t say it the other way around. The actual location of our physical “treasure” is where our heart is. By definition. That is why we need to “sell off” our holdings and give (some of) it away. Because if we keep the treasure, the things that demonstrate our economic wherewithal, that, by definition, will be where our heart is.
(3) Be Alert (v35-40).
The emphasis of the passage is that the master’s coming is certain but the timing of the coming is uncertain. Thus, be always ready.
We are overwhelmed and inundated with loads of information all the time. We are tugged in multiple directions by people and demands on our time and our hearts. But what Jesus’ message about alertness and readiness says to me today is that we need to do all we can to establish and maintain a focus in life. The focus Jesus wants to exhort us to is captured nicely in Matthew’s Gospel: “Seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Mt. 6:33).
As Christians, we have been given a great deal – a lot of it on trust. Our faith is given to us as a treasure for heaven – but we don’t always cherish it as one. We know that our lives – our gifts – our families are all treasures – but, again, we don’t always give them the respect and love they deserve. We don’t spread them to others
Do you enjoy all that you were given? Did you make time for all the good things God wanted you to experience? Did you take it for granted? Did you share the good things I gave you on trust with other people so that they could enjoy them too?
Jesus then used two parables for anticipation: the waiting servants [12:36-38] and the watchful homeowner [12:39]. The parable of waiting servants had two additional images that referred to the heavenly feast. First, the servants waited for the master to return from the wedding banquet. Such a feast had overtones of the Kingdom, when God would dine with his people (see Luke 5:34 and 14:16-24). Second, the master would return to serve the servants a great feast! (The leader as servant model was standard in the Christian movement. After all, Jesus did wash the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper in John 13:1-20.)
Part of our preparation is self-examination — hearing again John’s cry of repentance, to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. Part of our preparation is humility — letting ourselves be served by God — recognizing that we are “seeing God’s salvation, which God has prepared in the presence of all peoples” (2:31). Jesus elevated service to a function of great privilege and honor.
Being prepared for his future coming, means receiving his comings to us through these means in the present. In a sense, being prepared is to let him prepare us for the coming. Refusing these means may be like the Samaritans or the slave in 9:52 and 12:47: Unwilling to receive Jesus on his terms;
Notice, this scenario matched Luke’s world view. After his resurrection, Jesus rose into glory at the Ascension (Luke 24:50-51 and Acts 1:9-10). This was his wedding feast.
The early Christian community expected his return at any moment as King and Great Judge. Then, he would reward the faithful (i.e., he would serve the servants). The heavenly wedding feast and the future feast of the Kingdom were glimpsed in the Eucharist, where the Lord is fully present and received by the faithful, but not as yet clearly seen. In this parable, Luke demonstrated the ideal attitude of those who gathered for fellowship on the Lord’s Day: celebrate his presence (the heavenly banquet) and actively await for his coming (the Kingdom feast) by serving each other. Those who celebrated this way were truly blessed!
“Watchful Servants” – Eugène Burnand (1850-1921)
Sermon, Proper 14, Year C 2022
Genesis 15:1-6; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40
We spend a great deal of our lives waiting. Our lives begin with nine months of waiting to be born, and that’s only the beginning of the waiting we will do throughout our lives.
Today’s scriptures remind us that, as Christians, the most important thing we wait for is for God’s reign to become complete on earth, as it is in heaven.
No wonder that’s the first thing Jesus asks us to pray for in the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth, we are praying for God to make the old destructive death dealing ways of the world into something new and life giving.
Even waiting at a stoplight can take on new meaning if I know that the big thing I am waiting for is for God’s reign of love to come on this earth, and that how I wait, even for a stop light, matters.
Abraham is a faithful waiter. God promises Abraham that Abraham’s old life is going to become a whole new thing—specifically, Abraham will inhabit a new land and have many descendants. God asks Abraham to pick up and go to the land that God will show him. And as the writer of Hebrews tells us, Abraham does what God asks and goes, not knowing where he is going—but he trusts that God will lead him where God wants him to go.
As Oswald Chambers points out, “to wait is not to sit with folded hands, but to learn to do what we are told” by God to do. I like that idea, that waiting is not static, but dynamic. Waiting involves active listening for what God might be calling us to do while we wait for what God is trying to make new in our lives.
So like Abraham, who waited faithfully, we must listen for God’s promise to us, and for the world, (God’s reign coming into reality) and as we wait for that promise, to do what God calls us to do, because God is counting on us to do our parts for God’s coming reign as God makes our lives and the life of the world new.
The next thing we must do is to trust. Because we’re human, we can’t often see how God’s promises are being realized in our lives. So we must trust that even when God seems to be asking us to do something that in our understanding goes against what God has promised, then we should consider doing what God is asking.
Jesus faced this dilemma in the Garden of Gethsemane. How could God’s reign on earth come closer to reality through Jesus dying on the cross? How could death lead to new life? But Jesus trusted God and did end up on the cross. On the other side of death, God resurrected Jesus. And God’s reign on this earth is all about the resurrection of the old into something new.
In her poem, All Things New, Frances Havergal lists some of the gifts God provides when we wait faithfully for God to make all things new, especially when we are dealing with difficulties in our lives.
Light after darkness
Gain after loss
Strength after weakness
Crown after cross
Sweet after bitter
Hope after fears
Home after wandering
Praise after tears
Sight after mystery,
Sun after rain,
Joy after sorrow
Peace after pain
Near after distant
Gleam after gloom
Love after wandering
Life after tomb
Alpha and Omega
Beginning and the end
He is making all things new.
Springs of living water
Will wash away each tear
He is making all things new.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid because God’s good pleasure is to give us the kingdom.
Jesus reminds us that in all the waiting we do in our lives, we will want to do what God has asked us to do, which is to love God with our whole heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. As we care for our neighbors, God will care for us.
Remembering this puts a whole new spin on what we do with our stuff while we wait for God’s reign here on earth to become fully realized—all the way from that duplicate rolling pin I have in my kitchen, and the extra food I’ve saved up for hard times, to any extra money that God provides.
One of the biggest challenges that Jesus lays out for the disciples in today’s gospel is the need to be constantly ready as they wait for Jesus’ return and God’s kingdom fully realized on this earth.
This challenge is even harder for us than it was for the disciples, for we are the current generation of the countless generations of Christians who have waited faithfully for Jesus to return in glory. Along with the Hebrews, who were discouraged because Jesus had not returned after only two generations, we have grown tired of waiting for Jesus to show up in glory and some of us have even given up and left, placing our hopes in our self-sufficiency, or in the material things of this world, even though we say with our fingers crossed each Sunday that we really do expect Jesus to return in glory. We have simply given up and stopped looking for the signs of God’s homecoming.
So today’s gospel brings us up short!
Jesus reminds his disciples and us that we need to get busy and clear out all that extra stuff that clutters up our minds and our spirits to get ready for God to show up!
In our physical lives, we Christians also have the dilemma of too many material things distracting us and keeping us worrying about the things that ultimately don’t matter.
Last week we heard the story that Jesus told about the rich man who was worried about what to do with his excess crops. He went to great expense to build extra barns to store everything in, only to find that he was going to die that night, and that none of the stuff that seemed so important just hours earlier now really mattered at all.
We’ve all got stuff we need to get rid of, both inner and outer stuff, so that we can travel light and to be ready, no matter when Jesus comes. If we have been getting ready, we won’t get caught by surprise. Until we get rid of the old stuff, we will find that waiting for God to make all things new might be a wait that lasts forever because we haven’t done what we need to do.
Which brings us back to the issue of trusting in God instead of in ourselves and what seems like our material self-sufficiency.
But even after we have done what God has asked us to do, and we find ourselves still waiting, we must trust God that God really is making all things new in God’s own, perfect time.
The thoughts of Christopher Davis, who teaches at Memphis Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee, are helpful here.
Davis says in his commentary on today’s Genesis passage that there comes a place in the process of waiting that our trust gets put on trial. “If you’re going to move from frustration to fulfillment, you must develop an intentional life of waiting…the prize isn’t always finally getting what you wanted, it’s what you learned while you waited.” He goes on to say that our job is to go from putting God to the test to simply trusting God, that it’s not just about what we do, but also about who we grow into.
In the waiting, if we wait faithfully, God really does make us new.
What is God trying to make new in my life, and in yours? What is God trying to teach us in the waiting? What is God trying to make new in our church and in our world?
All of us are waiting for something. So let’s remember that as we wait for whatever it is, that all the waiting, for both the small and large things in our lives, must be informed by our expectant waiting for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
So let’s resolve to listen for God, to wait faithfully and obediently and to trust that even if not in our lifetimes, God’s reign of love will someday come to pass on this earth, as it is in heaven.
And in our intentional, faithful, and trusting waiting, our lives can be a sign to the rest of the waiting world that God’s reign of love really is on the way.
Resources: The poem, “All things new” by Frances Havergal
Commentary on Genesis 15:1-6
The Transfiguration is a transformation and emphasizes that the mission of Jesus in the way of the cross. We celebrate this event on Aug. 6
Collect for Aug. 4 O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
From Luke – “Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
In his book, God Has A Dream: A Vision of Home for Our Time, Desmond Tutu tells about a transfiguration experience that he will never forget. It occurred when apartheid was still in full swing. Tutu and other church leaders were preparing for a meeting with the prime minister of South Africa to discuss the troubles that were destroying their nation. They met at a theological college that had closed down because of the white government’s racist policies. During a break from the proceedings, Tutu walked into the college’s garden for some quiet time. In the midst of the garden was a huge wooden cross. As Tutu looked at the barren cross, he realized that it was winter, a time when the grass was pale and dry, a time when almost no one could imagine that in a few short weeks it would be lush, green, and beautiful again. In a few short weeks, the grass and all the surrounding world would be transfigured.
As the archbishop sat there and pondered that, he obtained a new insight into the power of transfiguration, of God’s ability to transform our world. Tutu concluded that transfiguration means that no one and no situation is “untransfigurable.” The time will eventually come when the whole world will be released from its current bondage and brought to share in the glorious liberty that God intends.