Sermon: Serving God faithfully (9th Sunday after Pentecost Proper 14 Year C)
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God.
I’m not going to pretend. Today’s lessons, they scare me. The Son of Man is coming back at an unexpected hour. People being devoured by the sword. And we’re supposed to serve God faithfully, even when the world is falling apart. What does that mean, to serve God faithfully? Does it mean giving a full 10% of my income to the church? Does it mean memorizing the prayer book, and having a Bible verse ready for every occasion? Does it mean watching the church livestream every week?
The prophet Isaiah says that to serve God faithfully through religious sacrifice and prayer is not enough. God rejects our sacrifices as meaningless. All the time and effort we spend on our religious practice, on sacrifices and gatherings, is unacceptable when there is injustice in the world. God rejects both prayer and sacrifice when the poor and weak are oppressed and treated with cruelty. God does not listen to our prayers that are only words. Our offerings are hypocrisy. Serving God faithfully doesn’t mean rote sacrifices or prayer, when our hands are covered in blood. This scares me. Are our own church services acceptable to God, when there is so much injustice still in the world?
The Hebrews lesson tells the story of Abraham and Sarah. Abraham and Sarah never got to see the abundance of descendents they would have. Abraham and Sarah never got to live as citizens in the cities that would one day be founded. They lived as immigrants, in tents. They were childless into old age. But they served God faithfully, doing what they were told to do, even when they had not yet experienced the fulfillment of God’s promise. I worry that I lose heart sometimes. I worry that I don’t keep going in faith when it seems hopeless. Faith doesn’t mean we will always feel it, or even always witness the good that is promised.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is promised to us. He says that we need to prepare now because we don’t know when the master is coming back. The world is a fearful place. We like to be prepared for anything that could go wrong. We collect supplies and savings in case of disaster. And it seems like disaster is coming more and more frequently anymore. Jesus says that serving God faithfully doesn’t mean contingency plans made in fear. I have so many fears though! I worry that I’m going to do something wrong. I worry that I’m going to do something to hurt someone. I worry that I’m going to get hurt. I worry I’m not doing enough. I worry that the Son of Man is going to come back and find me sleeping when I should have been ready. But faith doesn’t mean cowering in fear of the future.
What really matters, more than our own faith, is that God is faithful to us. Jesus said “do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”
Jesus tells us that faith is preparing this world for the coming kingdom, not because we’re scared of disaster, or God’s wrath, but because preparing for the kingdom of God is good and right. Jesus says that when the master comes and finds that his servants have prepared for him, the master does not saunter in to be waited on hand and foot by those servants. The master will invite *them* to eat. The master will come and serve *them.* When we serve God, God will come and serve us. When we make this world more like the kingdom of God, that is God’s blessing already. We aren’t serving God in fear of punishment, we are serving God faithfully because God is faithful to us.
The letter to the Hebrews tells us that faith is trusting God even when we can’t imagine how to resolve the problem. Even when we are strangers in the place God has called us to be, like Abraham and Sarah, we trust God. Even when it looks like the legacy of our family is ending with us, like Abraham and Sarah, we trust God. God has got this. The world is full of problems. Most of them are too big for us to solve. It might seem hopeless. I’m just one human. How can I solve climate change? How can I end wars? How can I prepare for the kingdom of God? But when we trust in God’s work, nothing can take away the hope that God’s kingdom is coming. We trust God because God is faithful to us.
The prophet Isaiah tells us that faith is learning to do good. God doesn’t want rote religion. God wants us to be seeking justice, rescuing the oppressed, defending the orphan, pleading for the widow. True religion is not sacrifices. True faith is not “thoughts and prayers” in response to tragedy. Faith is doing good, seeking justice. When our sacrifices and prayers become justice, God justifies us. Our sins are washed clean. We are fed with good things, not empty words. Serving God faithfully is doing good, and that goodness is returned to us because God is faithful to us.
The task of doing justice is too big for us, but it is what serving God faithfully means. We won’t always see the result of our faithful service, but that’s not an excuse for doing nothing. Don’t be afraid, little flock. God wants to give us the kingdom. God is faithful to us.
Ahora, una versión del sermón en Español
Las lecciones de hoy me dan miedo. “El Hijo del hombre vendrá cuando menos lo esperen.” “La gente muere sin remedio en la guerra.” ¿¿Y debemos servir a Dios con fe, cuando el mundo tiene tantos problemas?? ¿Qué significa eso? ¿“servir a Dios con fe”? ¿Significa dar un porción de mis ingresos a la iglesia? ¿Significa memorizar el libro de oraciones? ¿Significa ver el video de la iglesia cada semana?
El profeta Isaías nos dice que Dios rechaza el sacrificio *y* la oración cuando los pobres y los débiles son oprimidos. Servir a Dios con fe no significa sacrificios u oración, cuando nuestras manos están cubiertas de sangre.
La carta a los Hebreos cuenta la historia de la fe de Abraham y Sara, aun cuando ya no habían visto el éxito de la promesa de Dios. Servir a Dios con fe no significa que siempre nos sentimos seguros, o que siempre vemos el bien que Dios promete.
En el evangelio de Lucas, la fe no significa planes para imprevistos porque tenemos miedo. Nos gusta estar preparados para cualquier cosa que pueda salir mal. Acumulamos cosas y dinero. Pero la fe no significa esconderse por temor al futuro.
Lo que importa es que Dios es fiel con nosotros. Jesús dijo: “No tengan miedo, ovejas mías; ustedes son pocos, pero el Padre, en su bondad, ha decidido darles el reino.”
Jesús nos dice que la fe está preparando este mundo para el reino que viene. Cuando servimos a Dios, Dios viene y *nos* sirve. Cuando hacemos que este mundo sea más parecido al reino de Dios, eso ya es una bendición de Dios. No servimos a Dios por temor al castigo, servimos a Dios con fe porque Dios es fiel con nosotros.
La carta a los Hebreos nos dice que la fe es confiar en Dios aun cuando no podamos imaginar cómo resolver el problema. Todos los problemas del mundo pueden parecer imposibles. Pero cuando confiamos en la obra de Dios, nada puede quitarnos la esperanza de que el reino de Dios se acerca. Confiamos en Dios porque Dios es fiel con nosotros.
El profeta Isaías nos dice que la fe es aprender a hacer el bien. Buscando la justicia, rescatando al oprimido, defendiendo al huérfano, abogando por la viuda. Cuando nuestros sacrificios y oraciones se convierten en justicia, Dios nos justifica. Servir a Dios con fe es hacer el bien, y ese bien se nos devuelve porque Dios es fiel con nosotros.
La tarea de hacer justicia es demasiado grande, pero es lo que significa servir a Dios con fe. No siempre vemos el resultado de nuestro fe, pero eso no es excusa para no hacer nada. Jesús dijo: No tengan miedo, ovejitas mías. Dios quiere darnos el reino. Dios es fiel con nosotros.