Hope in the Midst of Despair

Sermon delivered on Trinity 18C, Sunday, September 29, 2013, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

If you would like to listen to the audio podcast of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Jeremiah 32.1-3, 6-15; Psalm 91.1-6, 14-16; 1 Timothy 6.6-19; Luke 16.19-31.

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

I want you to picture the following scenarios in your mind. Work hard at placing yourself in the midst of them. In the first scenario, you live in a city that is fortified by thick walls but which is surrounded by enemies bent on your destruction. You know if they breach your walls, they will destroy everything and everyone near and dear to you. They have cut off your food supplies so that you’ve seen parents eating their children to survive. Gold and silver are worthless because there is no food to buy and your savings have been destroyed as a result. To make matters worse, you have been thrown into prison, accused of being a traitor to your country by advocating surrender to the enemy laying siege to your city. How would you feel? Hopeless? In despair? Fearful? Angry? Numb? All of the above? None of the above?

The next scenario is closer to home. You are in a hospital room watching your loved one actively dying. The doctors have told you there is nothing more they can do and now you are engaged in a death vigil, helplessly watching your loved one die. How do you feel? Hopeless? Fearful? Angry? Guilty? In despair? Numb? All of the above? None of the above?

Finally, you have worked hard all your life and have carefully planned for and saved up a nice nest egg for your retirement. You are nearing retirement and look forward to enjoying life before you get too old and infirm to do the things you want to do in retirement. Then the stock market crashes and you lose much of your retirement savings and investments. Your nest egg is no longer sufficient for you to do the things you planned to do and you will have to work at least another 10 years just to have a retirement income on which to live. How do you feel? Angry? In despair? Betrayed? Hopeless? Fearful? Numb? All of the above? None of the above?

Have I managed to make you sufficiently depressed? Of course that is not my intention. Rather, I am simply reminding us what we know so well. We live in a good world corrupted by human sin and evil and things like this (and much, much more) happen to all kinds of people every day so that it should not surprise us when catastrophe strikes (but often it does). There is not a person in this room, if we have lived long enough (and sadly some don’t have to live very long), who has not been afflicted by some kind of evil. If I didn’t hit your particular affliction, you can surely fill in the blank quickly. Now to be certain, there are great joys and happiness in this life. We don’t live in a world gone totally bad. But irrespective of who we are, we all must endure affliction and sorrow in our life. So how do we as Christians do that and yet have some modicum of hope? It is this question I want us to look at briefly this morning.

Everyone needs hope, of course, because without hope we will die. The problem is that we tend to look for hope in all the wrong places. This is what Paul is talking about in our epistle lesson and it serves as a solemn indictment of what our culture has become. We tend to put our hope in things that are transient rather than permanent, things that make our material existence easier or more comfortable, the chief thing being money. As Paul reminds us, money itself is not an evil. However, love of money is the root of all kinds of evil because it inevitably leads to all kinds of corrupting behavior, the kind of behavior that afflicts the rich man in Jesus’ parable.

Money, of course, isn’t the only false thing in which we put our hope. We are also fond of power, security, fame, sex, etc., and of course money is closely connected to many of these things. But the point Paul is making is that when we relentlessly pursue money (or power or security or sex or fame or whatever else is our elixir), we are pursuing things that cannot possibly give life or rescue us from evil, sin, and death. As Paul reminds us, only God is immortal (so much for the mistaken notion of the immortality of the human soul) and therefore only God can give life and rescue us from evil, sin, and death (cf. Genesis 1.1-2.24; Romans 4.17).

And perhaps as importantly (if not more so), when we put our hope in money et al., it tends to make us myopic, both to the needs of others and to the bigger picture of God’s creation and his rescue plan for it and us. This too is tragically illustrated in Jesus’ parable. Despite having the teachings of the law and the prophets—i.e., having the knowledge of how God intends for us to live our lives so that we can cooperate with his rescue plan—the rich man spent a life pursuing wealth and opulence and as a result, it made him blind to both the poor beggar at his gate and to the fact that life is vastly greater than the pittance of time that is our lifespan on earth. Not only that, as Jesus and Paul both warn us, there are also eternal consequences, both good and bad, that accompany the lifestyle we choose to live right here and now.

So what is the answer? How can we have real hope in the midst of life’s trials and tribulations? The first thing we have to do is to remember that God has implemented a rescue plan for his good but fallen creation that is not yet completed. We are active participants living in the midst of it. If we do not keep this at the front of our minds, we will surely lose all hope. As Paul reminds us, doing so requires faith on our part, precisely because God’s rescue plan has not reached its culmination. We believe that in and through the cross of Jesus, who was the very embodiment of God, God has defeated the dark forces of evil and rescued us from the power of sin and death (Colossians 1.19-22; 2.15). We further believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, thereby launching his promised new creation, albeit only partially. Jesus is the first-fruit of God’s new creation and his resurrection gives us a preview of coming attractions when Jesus returns to complete the rescue plan his death and resurrection launched. This is what Paul is talking about when he tells us to fight the good fight until Jesus appears. This all takes faith, first because God has not fully vanquished evil, sin, and death from our midst so that we are still plagued by trials and tribulations, and second because we are finite and mortal so that we do not understand fully how God’s rescue works (cf. Isaiah 55.6-11).

But if we study the Scriptures and by God’s grace become convinced that God does indeed have a rescue plan for his creation and us, and that we are living in the outworking of that plan, i.e., if we have faith, then we can have hope. We see an example of how this works in real life in our OT lesson this morning (which was the first scenario I painted for you, BTW). How else do we explain Jeremiah’s behavior? His situation seemed hopeless. He was imprisoned in Jerusalem as a traitor for telling the people living there to surrender to the Babylonians. Judah and Jerusalem were being overrun by a fierce and deadly enemy who would rend the land and destroy both Jerusalem and its Temple, the very place where Jews believed God chose to dwell with his people on earth. Jeremiah witnessed unspeakable suffering and savagery, including cannibalism. There was no rescue coming from any Ally. There was no hope. And yet in the midst of this hopelessness, God’s word came to Jeremiah, telling him to buy property in his hometown! If the situation were completely hopeless as it surely appeared, such an act would be utterly foolish. The land would either not be his to own because of the presence of foreign occupiers or it would be totally worthless because of its destruction. But here we see God asking Jeremiah to put his money where his mouth was and Jeremiah complied (cf. Jeremiah 29.1-11).

And let’s be clear about all this. Do you think that when Jeremiah bought the property he and his situation were suddenly and magically transformed? If you do, you might want to increase your dosage of anti-naiveté meds. Of course things didn’t change immediately. Jeremiah remained in prison and Jerusalem eventually was overrun and burnt to the ground. Jeremiah himself was later taken to Egypt against his will where tradition has it he was stoned to death by his own people there. This is hardly a happy ending (cf. Hebrews 11.29-40). So what might explain why Jeremiah bought the land? Because he had hope in the Lord and trusted God to deliver him from evil, just like we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. To have this kind of hope, surely Jeremiah had to have the Big Picture perspective of what God was doing to rescue his world from all that bedevils it. After all, Jeremiah was God’s prophet. But this didn’t make Jeremiah immune from the hurts, heartaches, and suffering we all experience. However, Jeremiah knew the love and faithfulness of God and therefore he trusted in God to deliver both him and his people as God promised he would, despite everything around him that suggested otherwise, and therefore Jeremiah had real hope. You see, like us, Jeremiah was also living in the midst of God’s rescue plan for his creation. Do you have this kind of faith that produces real hope?

This helps us better understand and appreciate Paul’s use of words like “fight the good fight.” This having faith business is not for the faint of heart. But it is not about us. It is about the power of God made available to us through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. If we read Paul’s admonitions to us simply as advice for us to try to live a better life, we miss much of what Paul wants us to learn. Of course living a better life is good advice. But Paul has bigger fish to fry here. He is talking about Jesus the Messiah being the real King of kings and Lord of lords, who has conquered evil, sin, and death, who has ushered in God’s promised new creation, and who will return to complete God’s rescue plan for his world and us. Paul wants us to keep our eyes on that prize so that we don’t get distracted with all life throws our way and lose heart and hope. Otherwise, given our weakness, we will surely chase after false gods and idols like money, power, and security, and we will be ruined because none of them has life in them or the power to deliver us from evil. That was the plight of the rich man who refused to help Lazarus and it sadly will be the plight for any who do not heed this lesson.

So how do we avoid becoming like the rich man who was myopic and without real hope? We learn to develop a lifestyle that is characterized by a healthy outlook on life and based on the hope that God is at work right now rescuing his world and us from all the evil that besets us. This means we resolve to abandon our pursuit of false gods and idols and instead develop the habits of character and heart that will allow God to use us as part of his rescue plan to bring the kingdom on earth as in heaven. But here’s the problem. We do not innately have these needed character traits, traits like faith, love, endurance, righteousness, godliness, and gentleness. We therefore must spend a lot of time and effort to develop these habits with the help of the Spirit so that they eventually will become second nature to us. Of course there will be setbacks as well as successes and this does not make us immune from further trials and tribulations. But again Paul is essentially reminding us to keep our eyes on the bigger prize. He is reminding us that if we want to live in God’s promised new creation, we must train to be good citizens there.

Think of it this way. As we train to develop the character habits of the heart that we will need to live in the new creation, we are not unlike a runner preparing for a marathon. When we first work on developing character traits of faith, love, endurance, etc., it will feel awkward and we may be tempted to stop trying. But just as runners get conditioned when they keep on training, developing character for the kingdom, which can only be developed by doing, gets easier over time and sooner or later we discover that we come to value these new traits we are learning in the power of the Spirit. Just as veteran runners love running, so we too learn to love righteousness et al. and when that happens we discover that we really do abhor our old former selfish lifestyle, just like a runner would abhor abandoning his running.

Make no mistake. I am not talking about earning our way into the kingdom. We enter the kingdom through Jesus’ blood shed for us, which also requires faith on our part. What I am talking about is the logical outworking of our faith in the power of the Spirit to equip us to take our place in God’s new creation so that we can live with hope in the midst of despair in this life. This isn’t about following the rules; it is about developing a lifestyle that equips us to live in God’s kingdom starting right now. If you don’t long for goodness, kindness, love, gentleness, faithfulness, and all the rest, why would you want to live in a place where these things, and only these things, will be the order of the day? Does not compute.

And as we develop the needed habits of the heart in the power of the Spirit, we will also discover that we know how to use the things of this world properly—to the glory of God and the benefit of others. Our selfishness turns into a generous love for even the least and most lost among us and along the way we also discover we have a newfound hope despite everything around us and within us that screams we should have none. We have this hope because we believe Jesus really is Lord, which reminds us, of course, that we have Good News, now and for all eternity.

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

Fox News: Grave Injustice: Group Fights to Reclaim Cemetery’s Lost Medal of Honor Recipients

Good on them and shame on those who abandoned this cemetery.

“This is the heritage of our country,” Ricks told MountMoriah1FoxNews.com. “These stones — they’re not high-ranking officials or generals — these are the enlisted men who fought the battles. And we’re trying to tell their story.

“These guys didn’t write history, they made it,” he said.

Read it all.

Lancelot Andrewes

Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), Bishop of Winchester, was on the committee of scholars that produced the King James Translation of the Bible, and probably contributed more to that work than any other single person. It is accordingly no surprise to find him not only a devout writer but a learned and eloquent one, a master of English prose, and learned in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and eighteen other languages. His sermons were popular in his own day, but are perhaps too academic for most modern readers. He prepared for his own use a manuscript notebook of Private Prayers, which was published after his death. The material was apparently intended, not to be read aloud, but to serve as a guide and stimulus to devout meditation.

Read it all.

Fox News: Ultrarare Photo of Abraham Lincoln Discovered

Will the real Abe Lincoln please stand up?

newlincolnphotoHistorians rejoiced at the discovery of the second photo ever found of Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg address six years ago. The blurry photo was found by amateur historian John Richter who picked out the president on horseback saluting the troops from among a sea of faces.

Tuesday morning, with the help of improved technology, former Disney animator Christopher Oakley announced he had found Lincoln in the same crowd — only his Lincoln is a few yards to the right in front of the speaker’s stand. Richter’s Lincoln is just a top-hat-wearing doppelganger, Oakley says.

Always a joyful occasion when we find pictures of my favorite president, especially at Gettysburg, where he gave one of the speeches that defined him. Read it all.

Karen Swallow Prior: The Prodigal in All of Us

A thought-provoking and challenging reflection. Read it all.

Steven* (*not real name), also a freshman, was immersed in all that life at a Christian college offered. His charisma, activism, and faith were infectious to others—including Smith. “We bonded over our bookish pretensions and freshman philosophizing. The world was in our pockets, and we were like brothers,” Smith says. The two decided to room together sophomore year.

Early that year, Steven’s mother began having health problems. Soon she was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. Before school was out, she was dead. During her illness, Steven grew frustrated with Christians’ trite responses to his mother’s suffering. He was angry at God. By the time she died, Steven had turned to meditation and Eastern mysticism for solace. By senior year, he had come out as gay and walked away from the faith. Steven’s journey gave Smith a lot to think about.

When Lee,* Michele Sterlace-Accorsi’s husband of 24 years, walked away from Christianity, he walked away from his family, too. Much of their marriage had been difficult, says Sterlace-Accorsi, but the years of raising their four children were mostly good. The couple built a large home in upstate New York on a plot of land with woods and a pond. The family went to church each Sunday, the children attended Christian schools, and prayer began and ended the days and preceded family meals.

…At some point in their lives, one of every three Americans will leave Christianity, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Religion and Society. Called “leavers,” “deconverts,” or “ex-Christians,” they are targets of fresh concern among church denominations watching their numbers shrink. Pollsters and bloggers tick off reasons why so many are leaving, such as intellectual hurdles to belief, immoral or intolerant church leaders, and profound suffering. But the leavers phenomenon is nothing new. It goes back at least to the parable of the Prodigal Son, told by Jesus and recorded in Luke 15:11–32.

What about the people whom the prodigals leave behind? The ones who love the leavers? The ones left to hold down the forts of remaining families and faith communities? Few theological and practical resources exist for the two out of every three Christians who remain with the Father while they watch their “younger brother” leave.

Columbus Dispatch: Family of Victim Gave Killer Bible for Comfort

Unlike the family of the victim whom Matthew Cordle killed–who by all appearances have not been able to forgive Cordle–there will be closure for this family (if there isn’t already) because they have forgiven. This is what makes forgiveness so terribly costly. We do not forgive and forget. We forgive, by the grace of God, despite the terrible pain and damage inflicted on us. We must acknowledge our terrible hurt and loss and then choose to forgive despite what has been done to us. Apparently this family has done precisely that.

Only when we can forgive can we truly be free–free of the perpetrator having any more claim on us and free from the desire for anger and revenge that will surely destroy us if left unchecked. Good for all involved. May Mitts’ murder victims rest in peace and may the Lord bring his comfort, consolation, and healing to the victims’ families.

If Ohio executes Harry Mitts Jr. on Wednesday as scheduled, the condemned man will leave behind a tattered, worn Bible he received in 1994 from an unlikely source.

Mitts said his eyes filled with tears and he nearly collapsed when he learned that the Bible, inscribed with his name, was a gift from the mother and sister of Sgt. Dennis Glivar, the 44-year-old Garfield Heights police officer he had killed about three months earlier.

Though Mitts had not thought about religion for most of his life, the gift helped point him toward Christianity, said Jeff Kelleher, his attorney. “It affected him deeply.”

Mitts received the Bible through a jail chaplain on the day his death sentence was handed down in Cuyahoga County in 1994. He also received a letter from Glivar’s sister, Cheryl Janoviak, telling him that she and her mother had forgiven him.

“What my mom and I did was only a portion of what God desired to draw Mr. Mitts to the cross and the saving, redeeming, wonderful, cleansing grace that is available to all,” Janoviak, of Newbury in Geauga County, said last week.

Read it all.

Scot McKnight: “Any that pisseth against the wall”

From the Jesus Creed. You want real? Check out the Bible sometime. But please do read what Scot has to say so you don’t miss the point of his post.

There you have the “unseemly clause” in the Old Testament, at least according to the KJV, a number of times:

1 Sam 25:22 So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all thatpertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.

CT: What You Should Know About the Pope’s New Interview

Many readers have focused on Francis’s comments on homosexuality, abortion, and contraception. He said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” He explained that the dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. Instead of focusing on controversial issues all the time, he wants to give primacy to the preaching of the gospel: “A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation.

Read it all (and check out today’s sermon to see what you think).

God Wants Everyone to be Saved. Do You?

Sermon delivered on Sunday, September 22, Trinity 17C, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

If you prefer to hear the audio podcast of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Jeremiah 8.18-9.1; Psalm 79.1-9; 1 Timothy 2.1-7; Luke 16.1-13.

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

Today’s gospel lesson has vexed commentators, preachers, and readers of it for a long time. What on earth is the point of this parable and how does it possibly relate to our other lessons this morning? It is these questions I want us to look at briefly this morning.

To help us understand what is going on in our gospel lesson, we must remember that Jesus is telling his disciples a parable. Whenever we have parables about a master and stewards in Jesus’ day, they are about God (the master) and Israel (the stewards). As we have seen over the last several weeks, God called his people Israel into existence to be his light to the world, to bring his healing love to the nations. But Israel had failed to be God’s light, keeping it to themselves and turning it into darkness. This is what’s going on in our OT lesson. God’s people Israel have reached the point of no return and judgment is imminent, the terrible judgment that our psalm laments, in which God finally sent his people into exile for failing to bring his light and love to the world. Commentators disagree over whose voice of lament we are hearing in our OT lesson. Is it Jeremiah’s or God’s? Perhaps it is both. After all, prophets did serve as God’s mouthpiece. Regardless of whose voice we are hearing, the point remains that God takes no pleasure in pronouncing judgment on his people. As Paul notes in our epistle lesson, God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, not just a few. How much more so for God’s desire for his own people’s salvation?

But as we have seen, Israel was remarkably stubborn and hard-hearted, and this is what Jesus is addressing in his parable this morning. Israel is under the imminent threat of being dismissed by God (once again) for failing to be the people God called them to be. So what should God’s people do? The Pharisees’ answer was to pile on new rules and regulations to ensure people’s holiness. But as we saw last week, Jesus took them to task over this approach because more rules and regulations had the effect of adding more burdens to people’s lives rather than helping them be God’s light to the world. These additional rules and regulations also implied that God’s saving love was reserved only for the holiest among Israel, those most “deserving,” with deserving of course being defined by the Pharisees and their rules.

And here we see Jesus warning his disciples that the way of the Pharisees and their allies is not the way they should go. Instead of imposing more rules, which would ultimately prove to be ineffectual in helping God’s people be true to their calling, they should take their cue from worldly folks who were not God’s called-out people to make friends for themselves wherever and with whomever they could. After all, judgment was coming on Israel and those who cared at all about their relationship with God and his people (the children of light) had better act shrewdly like the dishonest manager had in the parable to preserve themselves so that they could serve their heavenly Master and be the people God called them to be. Jesus may be suggesting that perhaps the dishonest steward acted shrewdly by canceling interest the master charged his debtors, which of course was illegal for the master to do. This would have prevented the master from charging him with fraud and reducing the debt owed obviously delighted the debtors. Of course, we must be careful not to take the parable too far. Jesus was surely not suggesting that God had acted unethically toward his people Israel as the master may have done in the parable. The point rather is the shrewdness of the steward to ensure his future.

Given all that Jesus did and said up to this point, there is little doubt he believed that the people who heard the warning contained in his parable and acted accordingly would be his own followers who would serve as the reconstituted Israel. After all, Jesus told this parable on his way to Jerusalem where he would do and be for Israel what Israel failed to do and be for the world. Jesus would die on a cross for the sins of the world and accomplish healing and reconciliation to God for all who had the good sense to accept the gift freely offered. And if we are wondering why Jesus used parables to warn his disciples instead of coming right out and telling them these things, we must remember that he was also surrounded by his enemies and Jesus knew he could not die outside of Jerusalem (cf. Luke 13.33). Consequently, he had to be careful in how he taught his disciples so as to avoid arrest and/or death prematurely.

So here is a parable that appears to be directly related to the situation of Jesus’ own hearers. God’s judgment on Israel was imminent and that judgment would be thorough. Therefore Jesus’ followers needed to act wisely, even shrewdly, to avoid being caught up in the coming holocaust. “That’s all well and good,” you say, “but what in the world does it have to do with us who follow Jesus in the 21st century?” Just this. Jesus is the light of the world and as his followers he calls us to be beacons of his light and healing love to others, to a world living in sin, despair, and darkness. We are not likely to do this well if we take the approach of the Pharisees so that we preach a gospel of salvation only for an elite few who manage to follow all the rules. Don’t misunderstand. Rules are important, but they are only a means to a greater end and too often we as Christians get confused and want to make following the rules an end, rather than a means.

Moreover, we probably will not be very bright lights to people who are lost if we call them miserable sinners and condemn them to hell right out of the blocks. We cannot help people develop a relationship with Jesus if we give them the impression by how we behave toward them that Jesus hates them for who they are and is just waiting for the chance to punish them for their wickedness. This does not embody the love that God has for his broken and wayward creatures, a love that Jesus embodied and most powerfully demonstrated on the cross.

No, we are to use worldly wealth and methods to reach out to people and meet them where they are, not where we want them to be. There are many examples of this but I want to focus on what Paul is talking about in our epistle lesson—prayer. Of course prayer does not represent dishonest wealth. But as Jesus’ followers, Paul reminds us we are to use prayer for the welfare of the world, not to condemn it. Our ultimate loyalty is to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But we are to pray for leaders of all kinds, whether they are believers or not, whether we like them or not, or whether we agree with their political agendas. In praying for our leaders, we are asking God to help them rule wisely so as to establish peace, justice, and order, all things desirable in God’s sight (cf. Jeremiah 29.4-7; Romans 13.1-4). When we pray for our leaders, especially those with whom we disagree, we are acting not only for their welfare but also for ours and for the sake of the gospel. While the gospel has the proven ability to spread despite persecution and hostility against it and God’s people, living in a peaceable and orderly society provides much better conditions for the gospel to spread. When we don’t have to worry about getting arrested or our churches getting shut down, we are less distracted and better able to keep our focus on the main thing—being God’s wise stewards who work to bring God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven. And of course we are to pray regularly for the conversion of the nations and their leaders because we remember it is God’s desire that all should be saved. Just think how greatly the kingdom would be advanced if all the world’s leaders were transformed by the love of Christ for them!

Likewise, when we meet people on their own terms and embody the love of God to them through our prayers and how we treat them, we show God that we really do believe that God wants everyone to be saved, not just a select few or those whom we happen to like better than others. This allows us to use our jobs, our wealth, our worldly skills, and our interactions with others to reach out to those who do not know God in Christ and embody God’s love to them in how we conduct ourselves and treat others. And just as we pray for the leaders of the nations, so we are to pray for all those in our daily lives, especially the unbelievers, that God will bless our use of dishonest wealth so that everyone might know God’s healing love in Jesus and be saved. It seems to me that this is a good part of what Pope Francis had to say in his recent interview that is causing such an uproar in some circles.

And of course, charity starts at home. When the world sees Christ’s body, the Church, sniping at each other and imposing all kinds of non-essential requirements on each other that are really superfluous to the gospel, this can only hurt our ability to be Jesus’ light and love to them. When outsiders and unbelievers see us behaving like they do instead of celebrating and rejoicing in the love of God that is ours in Jesus Christ, is it any wonder why they turn away? Of course, there are those who do not want anything to do with God and we must acknowledge that with great sadness. But that is not God’s desire and as his people we must use any and all means at our disposal to bring God’s love in Jesus to others, resting content in the knowledge that God in his mercy and through the power of his Spirit will finish the task we start.

All this invites us to think carefully about who God is as well as our role as his light-bearers. It invites us to look at how we use (or don’t use) the things in our life—from our career aspirations to our relationship with others to how we manage our money—for the glory of God and the spread of the gospel. So how are you doing in managing your dishonest wealth? Are you embodying the welcoming love of God to others and inviting them to join you or are you holding them off at arm’s length? How you answer, of course, will be directly proportional to the kind of relationship you enjoy (or don’t enjoy) with Jesus. If you really do know God’s crazy, wild love for you in Christ despite who you are or can sometimes be, you will doubtless think of new ways in the power of the Spirit to use all the gifts with which God blesses you—both worldly and spiritual—to share that crazy, wild love with others. We can do so because we know there is plenty of room at the foot of the cross. This reminds us, of course, that because we know what it means to have Good News, we are willing to share it with others, both now and for all eternity.

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

Would you like to respond to this sermon? Use the form below. Please keep it clean and address its points, not the perceived shortcomings of the writer.

FoxNews: ‘Mystery Priest’ to Reunite with ‘Miracle’ Car Crash Survivor Katie Lentz

A follow-up to previous posts.

The Rev. Patrick Dowling is flesh and blood, but to an Illinois woman whom the priest mysteriously ministered to priestvicas she lay trapped in the mangled wreckage of a car crash last month, he will always be an angel.

Today, on her twentieth birthday, Katie Lentz will meet the “miracle” priest, who left police baffled after appearing behind a police line at the Missouri crash scene to pray with her, then disappeared into the night. Lentz has endured a long recovery after the accident, in which her car was hit head-on by an alleged drunk driver, but she counts herself lucky that Dowling, who stepped forward after numerous reports about the “mystery priest,” was there in her time of need.

“It’s a miracle my daughter is alive,” her mother, Carla Churchill Lentz, told FoxNews.com in an emotional interview Friday. “She wasn’t expected to live.

Good for them all. Read the whole article and take heart.

A Prayer for Those Murdered at the Navy Yard Today

Most merciful God,
whose wisdom is beyond our understanding,
surround the families of those murdered with your love,
that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss,
but have confidence in your goodness,
and strength to meet the days to come.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Surround those who were traumatized with your love.
Bring healing and comfort to them so that they
might be able to confront their fears,
and by your Spirit renew them in faith, hope, and love
that they might find renewed hope and purpose in living.
We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.