For All the Saints, Not Just the Church Triumphant

Sermon delivered on All Saints’ Sunday, Year C, October 30, 2016, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Daniel 7.1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149.1-9; Ephesians 1.11-23; Luke 6.20-31.

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

It is natural for us to remember and celebrate our departed saints on All Saints’ Sunday, and we will certainly do that. But as our readings remind us today, we too are part of the communion of saints, God’s holy or called-out people, and this is what I want us to focus on briefly this morning. How can we as the Church Militant (Christ’s body, the Church, here on earth) live faithful lives and why would we want to do so in the first place?

As children of the Enlightenment we are thoroughly saturated with its values and tend to overemphasize the importance of reason and empiricism while diminishing the value of those things we cannot measure. So when we read passages like the ones from Daniel, the language sounds strange to us and we tend to dismiss it. This is unfortunate because today’s OT lesson has great encouragement for us if we have ears to hear and hearts and minds to believe. Apocalyptic (or revelatory) literature in Scripture, of which our OT lesson is a part, is designed to sustain God’s people in times of trouble and we must let it do so. Daniel is confronted with a terrifying vision of monsters and the seas, biblical images that represent chaos and the forces of evil arrayed against God and God’s people (cf. Ephesians 6.12). And we all get this because we too are subject to those same forces. Whether it’s the chaos of the world around us (pick your most troubling news) or the chaos of poor health or financial woes or loneliness or dysfunctional relationships, we understand that we live in a beautiful world that is often quite hostile to us. And like Daniel, it makes us afraid, terrified even. In the back of our minds we know that we are not immune to the possibility of disaster striking unexpectedly. This fear can lead us to think, along with a little help from the Evil One and his friends, that we are in this life all by ourselves and without resources to withstand the forces of chaos that seem to rule unchecked in this world.

But as all our lessons remind us, either directly or indirectly, we are not to be afraid because the sea and its monsters, the forces of evil and chaos, are not really in ultimate control. God is. At this point, some of us want to push back. If God’s really in charge, he’s doing a really lousy job of running his world. Look at all the awful things going on and all the awful people acting, well, so awfully. But a moment’s thought will make us realize how incredibly arrogant, proud, and naive this sentiment really is. Do we really want to claim that we know how to run this vast cosmos better than its Creator? Seriously? Most of us cannot seem to rule our own lives all that well, let alone that of an entire universe! Just ask Job about that! No, Scripture calls us to have a faith like that expressed in the prophet Habakkuk’s beautiful confession:

Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights (Habakkuk 3.17-19a).

Habakkuk’s confession is even more remarkable because he wrote it during a time of terrible upheaval in Judah’s history, when its very existence was threatened by foreign enemies and internally by economic scarcity, idolatry, and catastrophic injustices of all kinds

Given all this chaos in Habakkuk’s life and ours, why would Scripture exhort us to have an unwavering faith that God really is in charge of his good world seemingly gone mad? Because God’s people, especially his people in Jesus, have always believed we have a hope and a future, a future hope that has broken into our present reality, albeit only partially, but that one day will find its completion when God’s rule comes in full on earth as in heaven at Jesus’ return. We see this hope expressed in our OT lesson. Yes, the forces of chaos threaten us, but they have been defeated. God promises to establish his kingdom and his holy ones will be the beneficiaries. Evil and chaos will be banned and God’s goodness and justice will reign forever.

Paul says essentially the same thing in our epistle lesson. The dark powers and their human minions appear to be in charge, but that is merely an illusion. And this is where human reason is quite simply inadequate. There’s more to it than meets the eye! In fact, the Lord Jesus is ruler of this vast cosmos, so we have nothing to fear. And what is the basis for this hope? Are not Paul and the NT writers asking us to whistle through the graveyard? Certainly not! There is a solid and historical basis for our hope: the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. We believe that on the cross, God rescued us from the dark powers and transferred us to the kingdom of his son (cf. Col. 1.13-14), that somehow the forces of evil and chaos were defeated, and that we are now reconciled to our loving Creator. Paul and the other NT writers could only make this bold claim because of Jesus’ resurrection. When God raised Jesus from the dead, he not only signaled the destruction of the ultimate evil of death itself, God also gave us a glimpse of what his healed new world with its absence of evil and death would look like. If God can speak into existence things that do not exist and give life to the dead (Romans 4.17), who can really doubt that he is the ruler of this world, and not the dark powers and their human minions? Nothing is too hard for God! And if after all this we still think Paul is a bit pie-in-the-sky in his claims that Jesus is the risen and ascended Lord of the cosmos, we must remember he wrote his letter to the Ephesians while languishing in prison. The beasts of the sea wanted Paul to think they were in charge of things, but Paul knew better. He had met the risen Christ and was filled with the power of the Spirit as the guarantee of God’s promised new world to come, just like we are.

This is the God of love and power we worship and it must change us. When we finally come to know (not know about, but know) this God as revealed supremely in Jesus, it enables us to live as new creation peeps because we are a resurrection people. We know that death will one day be destroyed because we have seen its preview in Jesus’ resurrection. And we know that in our baptism we have died with Jesus so that we will share in a resurrection like his (Romans 6.3-4). The Spirit, who lives in us and makes Jesus present to us as his people, testifies to this truth as do the writers of the NT. Does this mean we will sail through life trouble-fee? Hardly. What it means is that we have a power to face the forces of chaos with courage and hope because we know their day is done and our future is secure. If we could talk to our saints of God who have gone before us, they would surely tell us this is true. After all, they are experiencing God’s truth and reality in ways that we simply cannot until we too pass into the Church Triumphant (Christ’s body, the Church, in heaven).

So how do we testify and live out our faith as resurrection people? We start by expressing God’s astonishing generous love to others. We love each other and build each other up as members of his body here on earth, the Church Militant. We love our enemies and are willing to forgive them by doing for them what we want them to do for us. We learn to trust God in any and all circumstances like Habakkuk did, reminding ourselves that we are a resurrection people and claiming the power behind that proclamation. We have a real hope and future. And as our psalm reminds us, we are to speak out against evil and injustice. We dare not sit idly by and let evil overrun us or others. After all, we are redeemed to become the fully human beings God created us to be and so we must act accordingly. We must pray for peace and justice to be done. We must learn to speak the truth to worldly power, to show rulers a better way to exercise power in this world, and to warn them of the consequences when they improperly use that power. We don’t do this arrogantly because we remember we are empowered to speak on our Lord’s behalf, not our own. And so we humbly acknowledge God’s great gift of new life and healing and forgiveness so that we can share that power and gift with others. This is our task as the Church Militant, as God’s holy saints. This is what the communion of saints is all about on this side of the grave. It is also what the power of living the Good News is about, now and for all eternity. Just ask the Church Triumphant. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

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

FN: Christ’s Burial Slab Uncovered for the First Time in Centuries

Gives one the goose bumps.

1477587809571Researchers have uncovered the stone slab in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre venerated as the resting place of Jesus Christ.

The slab, which has been covered by marble cladding since at least 1555 A.D., has been exposed as part of a major restoration project at the church, National Geographic reports.

“The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it,” Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society and a partner in the restoration project, told National Geographic. “It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid.”

Read it all.

Pardon Me, God. Is That Justice?

Sermon delivered on the last Sunday after Trinity, Year C, Sunday, October 23, 2016 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Joel 2.23-32; Psalm 65.1-13; 2 Timothy 4.6-8, 16-18; Luke 18.9-14.

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

Running just below the surface in all our readings this morning is the issue of God’s justice and righteousness versus God’s mercy. As Christians, some of us think that God’s justice is antithetical to God’s mercy. But our readings tell a different story and this is what I want us to look at this morning. What relationship really exists between the two?

In one way or another, each of our readings suggests that God’s mercy—his willingness to forgive and pardon and be reconciled to us—is a basis for God’s justice. Before we look at this, however, it is necessary for us to quickly review the biblical notion of God’s justice and what that looks like on the ground. When the biblical writers speak of God’s justice they had in mind living in ways that are in tune with God’s good creative purposes for his creation and his image-bearing creatures. It is a way of life that is based on being right because God is right. When we order our lives in ways that are consistent with God’s good creative purposes for us, the inevitable result is goodness and harmony and balance. We are not to act unjustly because God does not act unjustly by showing favoritism. God loves us all equally and wants the best for each of us. And because God created us good and knows what is best for us, he desires us to live accordingly. In other words, God desires us to live for God, not ourselves, so that we can truly be his image-bearing creatures who reflect God’s goodness and glory out into the world.

This helps explain what is going on in our OT lesson. God had called his people Israel to be the people through whom God would take back control of his good but sin-corrupted and evil-infested world. But Israel had become part of the problem rather than part of the solution! Its rulers for the most part had acted unjustly, failing to uphold the good Law God had given his people (to help them act justly) and encouraging all kinds of corruption and idolatry. This, of course, aroused God’s anger, especially the worship of false gods, because we tend to become like that which we worship, and the worship of false gods always results in folks following their own broken and disordered desires rather than God’s. And when that happens, greed, exploitation, war, factions, corruption, and all kinds of immoral behavior result. When we follow our own fallen desires rather than God’s original and good creative order, we cannot possibly hope for harmony and balance. If you don’t believe me, look at the times of your own life that have been most tumultuous and I guarantee either you or someone significant in your life was not acting rightly, in ways that are consistent with God’s good order and creative purposes.

So in our OT lesson, God reminds his people that he has punished them because they have not acted rightly or justly. They have not lived up to their calling and allowed injustice to reign. And because God loves us and wants the best for us, i.e., for us to live according to his good purposes for us, God had to put an end to those kinds of practices. So God punished his people to bring about their repentance, so that they would stop trying to impose their own self-centered and disordered will on others, and start to live according to God’s good order for them so that harmony and balance and peace and happiness could rule the day instead of injustice and exploitation and hurt and unhappiness and hatred and all the rest.

So where’s the mercy you ask? Locusts and blood and fire and the sun turning dark don’t sound all that merciful to me! Very true. But this wasn’t God’s last word on the matter. Sadly, there are evildoers in this world who are hopelessly opposed to God and who work relentlessly to impose their own disorder on the world instead of seeking to live according to God’s good order (think ISIS for example). And as long as these folks exist, evil will have a conduit into God’s world to ruin and destroy God’s good creation and creatures. And so God must act to restore order. But God promises to ultimately restore and heal his people, to be with them in the power of the Spirit to help them behave in ways that are just and right so that balance and harmony and goodness reign, not evil and disorder. But since none of us are capable of living in completely just and right ways that are consistent with God’s good creative purposes for us, God is merciful to us and pardons us even when we do not deserve it. God does this because God loves us and does not want us to live under his wrath forever. Living continuously under God’s wrath would be even more oppressive than living under the most unjust human conditions! So God’s punishment always intends to correct, to restore, not to oppress. And if God’s perfect justice was not based in part on God’s love and mercy for us, we would all be lost forever because we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23).

We see this truth illustrated most powerfully in the cross of Jesus Christ. Not only do the NT writers insist that Jesus’ blood shed for us somehow reconciled us to God and served as the basis for a new relationship with him, but that also the power of evil was somehow broken when Jesus died for us. This would be remarkable enough in its own right. But it is even more remarkable when we remember that Jesus was God become human. God’s justice was indeed enacted on the cross, but it was a justice based on God’s love and mercy for us. God dealt with evil and sin on our behalf because we are not able to do so ourselves, thanks be to God!

We see this interplay of God’s justice and mercy in our gospel lesson as well. The haughty and self-righteous Pharisee, the man whom society held in high esteem, was brought low while the humble and contrite tax collector, the most despised of all people in his day, was forgiven and raised up. Justice was achieved through mercy. Now surely the self-righteous Pharisee continued to live in his spiritual arrogance and spread all kinds of misery to those around him, just like the self-righteous in our day do. He would continue to be judgmental and hard-hearted toward those whom he considered inferior to himself. And based on his prayer, that would be just about everybody! But notice that this man did not go home justified (or made right) before God, and the trajectory of the parable suggests that he never would be justified. God is not mocked.

But the real story is the tax collector. Tax collectors in Jesus’ day worked for the Romans, an unforgivable sin in its own right. Good Jews simply did not work for the foreign oppressor, regardless who the oppressors were. This would be tantamount to folks in our day swearing allegiance to our country’s worst enemies. It would not play well with most of us. But there’s more. In addition to collecting taxes, some of which were simply unjust (and we all know how we feel about unjust taxation!), many tax collectors extorted even more money from their victims than was owed to Rome. They could do this because they had the power of Rome behind them and this extortion allowed them to enrich themselves even further at their victims’ expense. It wasn’t unlike mobs extorting money from business owners to keep the mob from destroying the business along with its owners. There is no justice here and this kind of injustice inevitably breeds hatred and disorder of all kinds. This was the man who was praying to God.

But notice what happened to this tax collector. Somehow he had become aware that he stood under God’s just judgment and he had the needed humility to repent. He didn’t try to rationalize his behavior. He knew he was toast and his behavior was simply inexcusable. And so he did the only wise and humble thing he could do. He asked God to be merciful to him and God answered his prayer! Now while Jesus didn’t tell us what happened to the tax collector afterwards, the clear assumption is a changed life, where the tax collector would begin to mirror God’s justice and righteousness so that justice would be achieved in his life and world. God’s great love and mercy was the basis for God’s justice being executed in ways that brought about balance and harmony and goodness and peace. No wonder the psalmist speaks of all creation rejoicing when God comes to execute his judgment on the world because then it will be returned to its right state. No wonder Paul speaks of all creation longing for the liberation of the children of God in the new creation so that we can start running it properly (or justly) again (Psalm 96.10-13, 98.4-9; cf. Romans 8.18-23). God’s justice will be reestablished and goodness and prospering and happiness will ensue! And in this parable, Jesus is reminding us that one way God’s justice is lived out is in and through the mercy and pardon we receive from God when we resolve to live our lives in ways that are consistent with his creative order and intentions for us.

That’s the good side of the equation. But there’s also a dark side for us to consider because we live in a world where evil, while defeated, is not yet fully vanquished and banished. When we resolve to live justly and rightly because we know we are loved and forgiven by the Great Lover and Author of all life, we can expect the dark powers and their human minions to rise against us to take us down. They know their goose is cooked but they still have plenty of fight left in them, and if we are not prepared for this, we can get sucker punched pretty easily. This is what we see going on with Paul in our epistle lesson. He is in prison, awaiting trial and almost certain execution. Nero was in charge of Rome and Nero was one of the most unhinged people who have ever lived. Paul could not and did not expect justice in any sense of the word to be served in his case. He was unjustly imprisoned and deserted by all his friends. Think about that. Think of the most traumatic times of your life. Bad as those times were, what would it be like if you had to face your trauma all alone? It would make an awful situation even more traumatic. This is what we are seeing in Paul’s letter to his young protege. But Paul was at peace with it all. He forgave those who had deserted him and considered his unjust imprisonment a new opportunity to proclaim Jesus and the gospel to even more folks. He knew Jesus was with him and he knew the crown of resurrection life that awaited him. And so he not only endured, he had the power to transcend his unjust situation and proclaim the Good News in the midst of his desolation.

When we resolve to live our life for Jesus, i.e., to live justly, this is what most of us can expect to happen to us as well. We probably won’t face imprisonment and death. But we will certainly face ridicule and increasing persecution. The dark powers won’t go quietly and if we start living justly because we are a healed and forgiven people, we can be assured that we will catch their attention. But we are not to be afraid because we are Jesus’s people and therefore a resurrection people. We are promised a power, the very power of Christ himself, to overcome any darkness that attempts to overwhelm us. To be sure we must fight the good fight as Paul did and we will surely lose some of battles along the way. But we fight with the assurance that the war has already been won on our behalf. And that, folks, is what the power of living the Good News looks like, now and for all eternity. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

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

Fr. Philip Sang: Living In Between Ages

Sermon delivered on Trinity 21C, Sunday, October 16, 2016 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

There is no text for today’s sermon because Fr. Sang is a loser and didn’t send me his manuscript. Click here to listen to the audio podcast.

Lectionary texts: Jeremiah 31.27-34; Psalm 119.97-104; 2 Timothy 3.14-4.5; Luke 18.1-8.

Alex Shaver: Feast When You Can

Sermon delivered on Trinity 20C, Sunday, October 9, 2016, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Lectionary texts: Jeremiah 29.1, 4-7; Psalm 66.1-11; 2 Timothy 2.8-15; Luke 17.11-19.

Alex Shaver, one of our fine young parishioners, is our guest preacher today.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.

A special thanks to Jason Stanghelle for his insights on this text and for his friendship.
And now may the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen (please be seated).

*“Feast when you can, and dream when there’s nothing to feast on.”

These are words from a song by one of our favorite bands, The Mountain Goats. Over the past several years, their music has been important for us as individuals and in our young marriage. The themes in their music resonate deeply with us and in preparation for this sermon, I couldn’t stop thinking about these words and their message of hope which parallels Jeremiah’s prophetic words to those exiled at the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite of the greeting card companies, and may be one of the most-taken-out-of-context verses in scripture. Separated from the narrative it seems to promise our personal goals will be attained. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” All too often we lose sight of God’s plan for his people and focus on our individual lives. Instead, this verse must be understood in light of Jeremiah 28, which tells the story of the false prophet Hananiah.

In chapter 28 we find Hananiah and Jeremiah in the temple of Jerusalem. The temple has been destroyed and the city has been ransacked. The city is in ruins and the people are mourning. Hananiah addressed the priests and the people with a message from the Lord prophesying that God would restore Jerusalem in two short years. The exile would end, and order would be restored. Important here is Hananiah and his prophecy. It’s not all wrong — he understands that God will end exile. But, the real issue is Haniniah’s definiteness. Hananiah understands the message in part, but it’s the nature of God that is misunderstood. Hananiah’s hope is in a predictive nature of God — that God will act according to Hananiah’s time frame. This constrains him. This is the backdrop for Jeremiah’s prophecy in chapter 29.

The nature of God is mysterious; He is free to move and work in history as he sees fit. This is one of the most sobering realities of the Biblical narrative. Jeremiah answers Hananiah’s words with a letter to his contemporaries with this prophecy:

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

Jeremiah understands the true nature of God; there is a mysterious connection between the welfare of the city and the welfare of its people. The two are fixed together. This is a significant example of God offering hope in time of exile. This is the nature of God, that even in times of exile, we can work toward and find peace. It is a call for the people of God to settle in for the long haul of exile. To lean into the hard times to come. Exile will end, but it won’t be anytime soon. We see Jeremiah here refine the words of Hananiah in a way as he essentially says to “be happy in exile.”

Our tendency is to read verses like Jeremiah 29:11 as a guarantee that God will work out his plan for our lives in a way that makes sense to us as individuals. This is not the way this message would have been received by its original audience. Imagine Jeremiah’s message on the heels of Haniniah’s false prophecy. The people could imagine the end of exile in two short years and now Jeremiah was telling them to plan to stay. This was and is a call to live well in spite of the current state of affairs because of God’s love and ultimate plan for his people — not our own individual gain. Jeremiah’s message also anticipates Paul in Romans 5 verses 3-5:

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love.

Scripture reveals exile and suffering to be times when God is most at work among his people. The message for Jeremiah’s contemporaries is the same message for us: there is a long term plan for hope and redemption, but it will not be according to our plan. God is calling us to trust him in times where there seems to be no hope. More than that, God is calling us to settle in for the long haul. Trusting God in times of exile and suffering is tangible; it looks like planting, building, multiplying, and working for the peace of the communities we live in.

The first chapter of Colossians affirms these things, “For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” Paul’s words here are as mysterious to me as Jeremiah’s words would have been to those who heard them. Where is there peace? How do we reconcile the violence, hatred, racism, and evil in our world with the promise of peace we read about in scripture?

Jeremiah’s prophecy is one that allows the people of God to be agents of change in the redemption of all things. We are signposts for God’s love and mercy — signposts for the hope of the resurrection. Because of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, we are able to be the people of God; to plant, to build, to multiply. To work for the good of others in our communities, and to forgive others because we have been forgiven.

God is at work in our world in mysterious ways. He has, through the resurrection of His son Jesus, allowed us to play a part in His work. The problems we face are vast and many. To be sure, these are dark times, but our hope is in Christ. So, friends, may we plant, build, and multiply. Let us seek the good of our communities as we wait for our Lord’s return.

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

*The Mountain Goats – Steal Smoked Fish:

Deacon Terry Gatwood: From Faith to Faith

Sermon delivered on Trinity 19C, Sunday, October 2, 2016, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Lamentations 1.1-6; Psalm 137.1-9; 2 Timothy 1.1-14; Luke 17.5-10.

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” Let us pray.

And now may the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I am thankful for those who have come before me in my family. I’m especially thankful for those who have spent their lives following Christ, and set down before me and others an example of what it means to trust, to have faith, in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I don’t want to turn this into a glory fest for the faithful in my family, but when I read this passage I can’t but think about people like my grandma Sadie. All her life she has kept responding to the call of our Lord to follow and to serve. She keeps following and serving. Through sending loved ones of to wars, through economic depression and loss of Grandpa Marshall’s employment, through sicknesses that should have claimed her life, through the deaths of three of her six children, she has kept faithful to her Lord and served him. She has been put through the ringer in her life, always living meagerly. Her whole story is filled with more sadness and disappointment than most, and yet she still clings to the Lord.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen,” says the writer of Hebrews. Through all the horrible mess of stuff that life might bring we can think forward, remembering the promises of Jesus Christ for our unending life in and with him. When life is lonely, and we feel alone, and God seems so distant from us, we can remember the words of the Lord Jesus when he promises us that he will send to us a comforter, literally “one who will come alongside,” to always be with us as we continue our journey toward eternity with him. We see evidences of this in the body of Christ; we do not see the end of the trail with our eyes yet, but we know it is there. We trust in Jesus Christ, for why wouldn’t we? Has he ever done anything to make us not trust him? No. Rather, he shows his glory in his Church through the preaching of the Word, the surest promises anyone can ever hear. He displays his love for us in the administration of the sacraments; through the ordinary means of water in baptism we have been clothed with Jesus Christ, marked and sealed by the Holy Spirit for Christ himself. We are his. At the table we feast on the most precious body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the holy food of new and unending life in him, in our hearts by faith and with thanksgiving. We see the service of our brothers and sisters in their ministries in the community. We have visible things, tangible things to remind of us of God’s goodness and love toward us.

At this point in the narrative of Luke’s Gospel Jesus has shown them God’s kingdom breaking into the course of human history. The course of all history is being corrected right before their very eyes! The promises of God that he would be their God, and that they would be his people, and that he would be present with them forever is rising up in full force. And yet they cry out to him, “Increase our faith!”

Well, shoot. They’ve been with Jesus himself and walked through everything with him so far in these past couple of years that we encounter in the narrative of Luke. They’ve even seen works and heard teaching that we don’t even have a written record of. And here, as they’re headed toward Jerusalem, the apostles are begging him to increase their faith after hearing him tell them that woe be to the person who causes another to stumble. It would be better that they had a millstone tied about their neck and they be cast into the midst of the sea. They’re terrified; they need assurance. So Jesus asks them, “if you have a servant who is working for you,  do you say to him, ‘Come on in and take your place at the table?’ No, you would likely instruct the servant to put on his apron and continue serving. He is doing what he is already being rewarded to do, so nothing more needs added to him.”

Jesus is saying to them, look, you’re the servant; keep on serving! Keep doing what you’ve seen me do; you’ve been called to do these things and be leaders in the kingdom of God, and it is in doing them that you will continue to realize the faith you have. Get your hands dirty. You have been, are being, and will be strengthened in faith; but you’ll never know it unless you keep on serving in faith. The Apostle Paul has written, “For in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘the righteous will live by faith.” And in another place, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we might be the righteousness of God.” Instead of worrying about the size of their faith, perhaps these Jesus-followers should just get on with living it out in obedience to Jesus’ commands. After all, we might add as Luke has written in the previous chapter, one who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much.

Through Christ, from the faith that is given to us through the preached and visible Gospel and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we might continue in faith to serve him faithfully. We, who have been made the righteousness of God, are only that as we continue to follow, continue to serve, doing that which we have been called to do in Jesus Christ. For the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so lets eat that pudding and know its flavor. Its flavor is from the fruit of the faith that has been given us in Jesus Christ. A faith, even when it seems so little, is enough to command bushes to uproot themselves and jump in the sea, or mountains to remove themselves. God has given to us this faith. And so we shall live by faith, because we most assuredly have enough of it.

In Jesus Christ we lack nothing. My grandma, who has had to live her life with very little, and apiece at a time losing what little she has had, has never lacked anything in Jesus Christ. She has never required more than what the Lord has already given her: namely, himself. She will tell you if you ask her that yes, she has had her spiritual struggles throughout her almost 90 years of life, a life that according to her physicians is coming to a close soon. But let me remind you of this: the spiritually dead person has no spiritual struggles. She is very much alive in Christ, and all these 90 years she has continued to display the fruit of faith in her prayers, her service, her witness, and her worship of God. We too have been made alive in Christ and we lack nothing, including and especially faith. Let us keep on serving our Lord, trusting in his promises to us, having a lively faith that acts as its own assurance to us when things get rough and we just don’t know if we are able to press forward in our mission.

So let us continue to follow our Lord, trusting in his promises to us, doing the work he has given us to do, feeding on him through Word and Sacrament to give us renewed strength daily on this journey, as Paul says, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus, guarding the good treasure entrusted to us, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

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