Sermon – January 10th, 2016
1st Sunday after Epiphany – Baptism of our Lord
Acts 10: 34-43
By Roland Legge
Have you ever had a quarrel with God? I believe that most of us have, at some time. Thankfully if anybody can handle anger it is God! In our world of today we have lots to quarrel with God. We wonder, how can there be so much violence in our world if God is all powerful? We wonder, why God allows so much evil to happen?
We are living in a time again when it seems that the world has gone into complete madness. Not unlike it was in the time of 1st and 2nd Isaiah. “First Isaiah was written to the Hebrews before they were taken into captivity in Babylon. Second Isaiah comes when the [Hebrews] are about to come home, and the prophet, convinced that they may have forgotten who God is, reminds them.
Our reading today comes from the time of 2nd Isaiah. 2nd Isaiah calls upon Israel to take heart. He promises that at last, Israel’s cries to God have been heard. He proclaims that God is sending a “servant” who will lead the people back.” Do we need to hear that God is still with us and in ultimate control?
“I know that I still need to hear that message. However, we need to be careful in how we interpret the scripture. Taking a passage out of context is idolatrous. 2nd Isaiah felt compelled to refresh his people’s faithful memory. To knock down the false images of God that we create and project upon God, and to irrigate the fields of our religious imagination with the truth of the way God really is in the world.”
So what do we mean when we say that we are called to bring down God’s justice on the world? First I think we often forget that, we are broken and vulnerable.
Secondly, God wants us to remember that God sent Jesus to transform the world through weakness and vulnerability.
None of us are perfect. Each of us has been bruised. But God calls us to be God’s light in the dark no matter how weak or strong the light is. Our calling is to be the light for the world.
Thomas Long in a sermon on this same scripture from Isaiah told a story of from Pierre Von Paso’s book about the rise of the Third Reich. It is a story of a rabbi who refused to give up the light of God no matter how bruised be became. “Von Passo describes a day when a group of Nazi Brown Shirts captured a rabbi in his study as he was preparing his Sabbath sermon. They mocked and humiliated him; they stripped him and flogged him. As they did they laughed and said, “This lash is for Abraham; this one is for Jacob; this one is for Isaac.” When he we numbed with the whipping, they took out scissors and they sheared his locks and his beard and mocked him, “Say something to us; say something in Hebrew; yes, say something in Hebrew; Standing there shivering the rabbi said in Hebrew, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart and mind and soul.” But he didn’t even finish before they interrupted him with more mocking, “you were preparing your sermon, weren’t you? Preach us your sermon…Weren’t you preparing your sermon?
“Yes,” said the rabbi.
“Well then preach it in your synagogue; we burned your synagogue, preach to us now.”
“Give me my hat,” said the rabbi.
“You can’t preach without your hat,” they howled with laughter, “Give him his hat.”
They gave him his hat; he put it on and they laughed all the harder…the sight of a naked man wearing a rabbi’s hat.
“God created man in his image” said the rabbi “in the image of God he created him, that is the text for my sermon this sabbath.”
Long says that all of this destruction that human being commit toward each other is an attack on creation. God will not rest until justice has been established.”
We can also keep the light of God’s love burning by how we choose to LOVE, HONOR and CHERISH our families. This is another story from, master preacher, Tom Long: “Late one spring a former student came by Tom’s office for a cup of coffee. They chatted about this and that and then she said, “I have a secret to tell you.”
“What is it, “Tom said.
“I’m pregnant,” she said.
He was overjoyed. She and her husband had a seven year-old daughter, and they had been trying since their daughter had been born to have another child, but had been unsuccessful and had finally given up. Now she was pregnant.
“That’s wonderful news,” Tom said.
“We just got the test results and we know two things about our child. Our child will be a boy, and will have Down’s syndrome.”
Tom said that he knew she must be a bruised reed and a dimly burning wick.
“I don’t now how we are going to handle it,” she said, “but we are trusting in God to help us.”
A few weeks [later] he had received their Christmas letter and in it she wrote, “After nine long months of unmitigated discomfort, at four in the morning on August 18, I knew the magic moment had come. At last at 10:55 a.m. Timothy Andrew took his first breath and let our a hearty yell, he was whisked off to neo-natal intensive care where he spent the next three days before coming home. He’s strong, alert, beautiful. He has the sweetest disposition. He shatters daily our images of handicapped and special needs. He may need special help, but already he is no slouch in giving a special love. We are blessed. Kate (that’s their eight-year old) is Tim’s champion.
Hearing our concerns about how well Tim might be accepted by other kids, Kate informed the kids on our block, ‘My brother has Down’s syndrome and everybody’s going to play with him or else! One evening we overheard her talking to Tim.
“I’m so glad you’re here, Timothy, I will always love you, I’ll never leave you, I’ll always be nearby.’
“Christ came to identify with us especially those most in need. We know miraculous blessings. We’ve experienced them first hand.”
What has got in the way of shining God’s light in the world? Each of us will continue to discover ourselves, how God is calling us to keep the candle burning. Sometimes, for me, it is no more than being hopeful for our church, our community and world. Hope is such a powerful light in the world dark despair.
Pulpit Resource by William H. Willimon Vol. 30, No.1. Year A January, February, March 2002 Logos Productions Grove Heights MN pg. 10 – 12