Sermons That Work

Our Lessons for Today Speak…, Proper 11 (A) – 2005

July 17, 2005

Our lessons for today speak with dynamic emphasis of the power of God. In the passages from Wisdom we read of God’s presence in the life of his people, a presence combining firmness and power as well as compassion and caring. “Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness, and with great forbearance you govern us….” God moves among God’s children, showing them the way for life. In the Gospel we find that the faithful will “shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

In this age of diversity these lessons give hope to a changing world. In Wisdom we read: “…you have taught your people that the righteous must be kind, and you have filled your children with good hope….”

“Let anyone with ears listen!” writes Matthew in today’s Gospel.

Not to ignore the omnipotent power of God in Psalm 139, or Paul’s powerful expression of the groan that the birthing of God’s creation brings to all, let us look beyond today’s lessons to read, in Genesis 28:10-19a, the famous story of Jacob’s Dream. Tired, weary from travel, Jacob finds a spot where he can lie down for a few hours of sleep. For his “pillow” he uses a stone on which to place his head, and he falls asleep. No easy task! In a dream he sees a ladder rising to the heavens, and the angels of God climbing up and down on it. And then the Lord speaks to him and offers him the land on which he lies and his “offspring shall spread to the east, north and south and all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.” As we read this story once more, think about your daily dramas as they unfold, and find the grace of God leading you to new hope and renewed faith.

When did you last have such a dream as this? Never you say! Yet, has not God spoken to you at the most unusual times? Times that you might not have even realized until events happened later in your life. God speaks to us in varied and unique ways.

There is much good news in how God speaks to us. It is more than in this simple story of Jacob showing us the relationship between earth and heaven.

  • God speaks to us in moments of despair when we awaken to the hope that is shared with us from a stranger.
  • God speaks to us as we are nudged by a hymn that we have sung many times but only mouthed the words, but today those words are words written for us to hear, to soothe us into the presence of Jesus. There is hope.
  • God speaks to us when we find we are unable to pray, but just sit and listen for that still small voice that brings volumes of love at a time that we may feel un-loveable. There is hope!
  • God speaks to us when we find ourselves breaking out of a time of uncertainty into the daylight of holy hope.
  • God speaks to us when we come to God’s table in thanksgiving for God’s blessing.

We can discover, just as Jacob did, that when we awaken from all the questioning that rumbles through our mind and we open our eyes and clear our ears and stretch our being we discover God is with us. We find the healing of the soul, the blessing of God’s presence, the guidance of God’s spirit to help and to transform.

It is the same with Jesus as he tells one of his many parables. This one about the Kingdom of Heaven and the contrast between good and evil—the good seeds in the field and the weeds among the wheat. The laborers want to go into the field and pull up the weeds, but Jesus says, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.” His disciples did not understand.

Jesus added, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of God. The weeds are the children of the evil one; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.”

We are talking about the battle of good and evil. But there is hope in this battle—even more hope than we find in the story of Jacob’s Dream. The great hope in this story is the life-changing experience of knowing Jesus Christ as personal Savior.

We see the gentleness of Jesus’ wisdom as he talks about the angels culling out the evil of humankind, allowing humankind’s goodness to grow. For us it will take patience—patience on the part of those quick to condemn; patience for the redeeming power of Jesus to touch the lives of those who have lost their way. Consider the patience of God in changing Moses, a murderer; David, an adulterer; Paul, a religious parasite; Peter, a hypocrite and coward. God walked with each of these men. God loved them, God made them great, God forgave them; God grants them the blessings of God’s Kingdom. There is hope for the hopeless.

God can do that for us all. God wants us to wait for the harvest. God wants us to be forgiving of those with whom we disagree; to be hopeful for a new tomorrow, to be hopeful that in diversity we can find the righteousness in all peoples and bring all to the same saving grace of Jesus Christ.

When that happens, then indeed we have heard with our ears the call of the Kingdom of God and we have found that surely the Lord is in this place.

You will recall from scripture, Jacob poured oil on the stone he used as a pillow and he named it Bethel: the House of God. In the language of today’s youth, “how awesome is this place of God!” It is the place where we fear and long for comfort and think we have none; yet, it is the place in which the lost are found and the blind are given sight. We do not know what is coming next; but we find hope and prepare ourselves for the goodness of God as God reaps the harvest of the faithful, and changes the lives of the lost.

We let God do whatever it is that God does!

We thank God for God’s infallible wisdom, for God’s infinite love, and for God’s forbearance that goes beyond our understanding. God is a god of surprise. God meets us with hope, compassion, concern, acceptance, and guidance—when we are not even looking for God. God even reaches out and touches the lives of those who do not seek God. We need to awaken to God’s presence each and every day. It is then that we discover where we are: we are in the House of God and we find that because of God’s son Jesus, we are at the gate of heaven. We find hope!

We need not sit in judgment upon others and for those who judge themselves with a judgment that is not our own. We need to trust in the judgment of God. We need to hear God when God asks us to pray for those who are disheartened by evil and for those who feel oppressed because the life they have known may be changing faster than they are emotionally or spiritually able to comprehend. We pray that God might work a healing of those lives. When this happens we find we are part of God’s plan in doing God’s work and growing the wheat of the harvest that leads us to God.

We do have hope and hope gives way to faith and faith gives us the presence of Christ—and Christ forgives us and welcomes us to spend eternity in his presence. The Holy Spirit is working in us even this moment. We have an Easter experience of the resurrection and a Pentecost experience of the movement of the Holy Spirit. Let these experiences guide our next breath and fill us with a refreshing breeze of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Though we are each different as children of God, let us build on the solid rock of Jesus Christ that makes us faithful to him, today, tomorrow, and through eternity.


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Christopher Sikkema


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