Sermons That Work

Labor Day Is Now Past…, Proper 18 (B) – 1997

September 07, 1997

Labor Day is now past, meaning we have officially entered into the Fall season. Most schools are now open, and that means our children are back in classes and our parents will be returning to their primary jobs being taxi drivers for the kids. There will be football practices, soccer practices, dance classes and countless other activities to participate in. Of course, adults will discover their own schedules being renewed after a summer off from many of their commitments. Does it seem like there is just too much to do in too short a time? Instead of adding an hour to the day, maybe we should add a day to each week! Just don’t tell anyone else because then someone would try to schedule an activity for it!

Just coming to church on a Sunday morning can be a scheduling nightmare. Many people work, there are now soccer and hockey programs for youth on Sunday mornings, the cottage to get away on the weekends, the pre-game show for the football game that begins in late morning. If we aren’t careful, attending church can become just one more appointment in our calendar!

We are constantly being asked to commit ourselves. Our children need to develop the discipline that comes through sports; thus we are asked to commit the time and the effort to see that it happens. We are told how we need to keep fit, or become fit; thus we need to commit the time, effort and resources necessary to make that happen. We are reminded that for our community to function smoothly and grow, it needs its members to become involved; thus we are asked to commit the time, the effort and the resources necessary to make that happen. It is the world we live in, in which we soon wonder where our loyalties are, and how thin can we spread ourselves?

Does it frighten us that we don’t seem to have enough time even to spend an hour on Sundays with our Lord and his family? Does it frighten us that most conversation we may have on any given day with our children is in the car as we taxi them around? Does it frighten us that we seem to have become slaves to our calendars, unable to appreciate what it is we have scheduled?

The prophet in today’s Old Testament lesson tells those who would be otherwise inclined to be strong and not to fear for their God is present. What were they frightened of? Isaiah describes a people not unlike ourselves, who have given their loyalty and themselves to the pursuit of self, or of the world, or trusted in laws and sacrifices rather than a relationship with God.

How often have we justified ourselves by saying we are doing all these things for our children, or for better health? Isn’t that what we should be doing? But still, isn’t there the fear that we are missing out on something, our heart is not full, and we wonder what it might be? Haven’t we become deaf to what all these things should be leading us to?

For a moment, think about the busy-ness of your life. Are you so busy that you do not have time to know pain? Are you so busy that you cannot stop to hear another person tell of their pain, and respond to it? Has your busy-ness made you deaf to your needs and the needs of others? How is your relationship with your spouse, or your children, or with God? How much time do you spend with them on the average each day?

Today, allow yourself to be the deaf person presented to Jesus from the gospel. Imagine being brought to Jesus, not being able to hear the voices of others, led by your friends, but seeing the faces of strangers; vulnerable to the whispers and prejudices of the world. Allow yourself to stand before Jesus.

He does not do anything in the midst of the crowd. No, regardless of how busy he might be, how much he want to demonstrate his power to the world, this moment will be with you. He takes you aside, gives you time. He is not afraid to come close and touch you, even putting his fingers in your ears and upon your tongue! You watch him as his own lips form words, spoken toward the heavens and suddenly you can hear him, and you can speak to him as you have never spoken before!

The moment will come. You will be invited to communion today, to be presented before God. He will come to you, and you are asked not to be afraid. He will present himself to you in bread and wine and ask that you receive him into your life. In his gift of himself, you will be offered new life, the opportunity to hear his words, to see his presence, to speak his promise for yourself.

What will all this mean? Will you life be changed because of today? Because you allowed yourself to be presented in your weakness before God and he took you aside and touched you with his life and love? What did it mean for the deaf man in the gospel from today? He couldn’t keep from telling what had happened – it did change his life. The mountains and valleys that had blocked him from hearing and speaking were removed, and the way was made clear for him. Will that be the way it is for us today? Will we go forth from church proclaiming what God has done for us through Jesus Christ? Will we shout for all the world how Jesus has given his life so that we might be able to hear, to speak, to live new lives with him?

Know this: the person who knows what it is to stand before God and not be afraid will have ears to hear the voice of God in the world. James tells us that true religion is to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep ourselves unstained by the world. The person who has known God coming into his or her life will have their ears opened to hear his voice in the people who cannot always speak for themselves, meaning they themselves become present to them even as Jesus is present for us today. He comes to us, and we must go into the world. We will find the words to convey his promises, to manifest his love, to offer his people hope.

Today, Jesus Christ invites you forward to be touched by him, to be given new life through him. If you accept his invitation, you will also be accepting responsibility. Proclaim the Christ in you by what you do and what you say. Do not be deaf to the cries of the world searching for life. Do not be silent about the Christ who brings wholeness and life to answer those cries. Become a sacrament – allowing God to use you as an instrument for bringing his grace into the world. Know that in Christ you receive not only life, but also new ears and a new tongue to hear and speak the good news.

Go into the world of your children, of your work, of neighborhoods. Know that the schedules you keep are not weights but rather openings to share the new life you have found in Christ this morning and every Sunday. Know that God is with you, and have no fear.

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Christopher Sikkema


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