Fr. Philip Sang: The Power of God at Work

Sermon delivered on Sunday, Trinity 5B, July 5, 2015, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of this sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: 2 Samuel 5.1-5, 9-10, Psalm 123.1-5; 2 Corinthians 12.2-10; Mark 6.1-13.

May the words of my mouth and meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you oh Lord  our Rock and our redeemer.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Building on last week’s readings, this week’s Old and New Testament texts offer an opportunity to think about leadership and the way God calls and works through specific individuals. In the OT text and the Gospel reading, we have a “Tale of Two Crowds,” the people who accept David as their king, and the folks in Nazareth who couldn’t take Jesus seriously as a great spiritual leader.

The OT reading may suggest that David was the overwhelming, unquestioned choice of all the people, in the North and the South, and his rise to the throne may seem like a straight line from the time of his anointing by Samuel many years before. That would be a misunderstanding caused by taking small pieces of the larger story of the Bible instead of the whole passage.

In fact, the context of today’s OT reading, the story has not been a pretty one, and blood has been shed repeatedly along the way. There has been division, betrayal, war, and not everyone agrees that there should even be a king over all Israel. In the end, David is acknowledged as God’s choice and is remembered as having led Israel effectively even while Saul was still alive. Perhaps the last line is the most important one, where David grows “greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts was with him.” Whatever path brought David to power, and whatever mistakes he would make as king, it is the power of God that gave him charisma, intelligence, and grace, and made him the enduring symbol of Israel’s deep hope in every generation.

On the other hand, the power of God at work in Jesus, in the Gospel reading, is not something the people of his hometown of Nazareth could wrap their minds around. He’s just returned from a road trip, a fairly successful tour in the area surrounding his hometown, and they’ve undoubtedly heard about the spectacular things he’s been doing. That sort of news travels fast. We wonder, however, if word of the healings and the demons driven out and the life of a little girl restored traveled better than the Word that Jesus preached. Of course, everyone wants to see miracles, but does everyone want to hear about the life-changing but perhaps unsettling good news that those miracles illustrate and announce?

Jesus was a paradox to the people in his time.

His live style, his birth, his death was a paradoxical statement of how God’s power would be manifested on this earth. Jesus himself appeared “weak to many of his contemporaries. They were expecting a kind of Superman. They anticipated spectacular signs and unmistakable evidence of his divinity. They saw only a carpenter’s son, a local boy, a prophet without honor. Yet all the power of God came to expression in that “weakness”.

The weakness of God proved mightier than the strength of men. .

Jesus didn’t fit the image people had of the Messiah. They expected a mighty king after the fashion of king David. A man who would lead a mighty army, a man who would make this small nation of Israel strong and powerful. They expected a man who would throw out the Romans, who would show them mighty signs from God as Moses did.

But they got a babe born in a stable, a carpenter’s son who for approximately 30 years didn’t even make a stir among the people. When Jesus did finally go about his ministry, he walked, he lived with outcasts, he ate with sinners, he made enemies of the priests and the rulers.

He had a band of only twelve men who were uneducated fisherman, or tax collectors, or religious radicals. He didn’t say anything to the Romans but talked to the house of Israel. He didn’t do great at signs, he healed people, he forgave sins, he calmed the sea.

He talked about the love the Father had for his children, and he said he was the Son of God. Jesus died because he didn’t fit the expectation or did not have the value system the people of Israel expected. Jesus came as a servant to men. He came to show that God didn’t want men of superhuman ability, but he wanted men who would believe in God’s power for their lives. He showed that god wanted people who would live in this paradox. He showed that when you are weak, believing in God and not self, then you are really strong.

Jesus lived the ultimate paradox.

For as Paul says: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Jesus lived this truth and Paul understood it and wrote to the church to follow it. God’s grace is all we need in live to get by. Being the people of the cross, the Grace that was given by the paradox of the cross, for out of death came life.

Conclusion

I want to finish with a true story that illustrates the overall application of my sermon today.

The story is told of a 10-year-old boy who decided to study Judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.
The boy began lessons with an old Japanese Judo master.
The boy was doing well, but he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move.
“Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?”
“This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the Sensei replied.
Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.
Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament.
Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches.
The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy used his one move to win the match.
Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.
This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced.
For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched.
Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the Sensei intervened.
“No,” the Sensei insisted, “Let him continue. I assure you, the boy will be fine.”
Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: He dropped his guard.
Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him.
The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.
On the way home, the boy and Sensei reviewed every move in each and every match.
Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind.
“Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”
The Sensei answered, “You won for two reasons.
“First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of Judo.”
“And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left wrist, and you, obviously, don’t have a left wrist.”

As hard as it might be for us to understand, here is one of the most important spiritual lessons God can teach us…
1. Our greatest weakness can turn out to be our greatest strength.
2. Our greatest loss can turn out to be our greatest gain.
3. Our greatest suffering can turn out to be our greatest blessing.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

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About Fr. Maney

Fr. Kevin Maney received his PhD from the University of Toledo in Curriculum and Instruction, majoring in educational technology and minoring in educational leadership. He completed his studies for a Diploma in Anglican Studies at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA, and did his coursework almost entirely online. He was ordained as a transitional deacon in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) on February 9, 2008 and as a priest in CANA on May 1, 2008. He is now the rector of St. Augustine's Anglican Church in Westerville, OH, a suburb of Columbus. St. Augustine’s is part of the Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes (ADGL) and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).