Sermons That Work

Over the Past Few Sundays…, Proper 12 (C) – 2007

July 29, 2007

Over the past few Sundays, the lessons have focused on what it means to be a disciple and a follower of Jesus. Today we look at the depth of that discipleship in relationships: between Abraham and God, between Paul and Jesus, and then Jesus teaches us how that relationship works through prayer.

People who claim to have a relationship with God often act as if they discovered it. But the truth is that God found them and led them to their creator. That is how it was with Abraham. Abraham would never have sought a relationship with a god who made such incredible demands and promises, but having been found and led by God, he began to trust enough to accept God’s promise of a child to Sarah in last week’s Gospel. In this week’s reading, we find him feeling confident enough in his relationship to plead for mercy for the city of Sodom.

Abraham’s experience with God teaches us how relationships with God develop, how they can lead us to new and exciting things, and how to ask for things on behalf of others.

Saint Paul, in the reading from Colossians, describes his relationship with Jesus as “rooted and established in the faith”; this is after he persecuted Christians and Christ. So he knows how much he is loved by God, and how much the mercy of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus means to him. Paul describes our relationship with Jesus as much more than mercy when he says, “He forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us.”

There are countless Christians who have experienced God’s forgiveness and the reconciliation in Christ’s dying and resurrection. Convicted felons on death row, white-collar executives who have broken trust with their companies, addicts, and just ordinary folk testify to the glorious new life that comes from this relationship.

As disciples of Jesus through our baptism, we are given the outline of how we should pray: the Lord’s Prayer. Many good books and sermons have unpacked this prayer that almost everyone knows by heart. It is prayed in many languages around the world, a continuous offering going up from the hearts of the faithful, and even from those who may not be sure about their faith.

Then Jesus tells his disciples, and us, through Luke, to take the actions expected of this relationship: ask, search, knock.

A few years ago, a woman found herself in a mess. Her husband died, and she was alone and horribly lonely. She was virtually friendless, in a large city, and her son lived many miles away. She began asking God what to do with her life. She forced herself to go to activities, to search; she even tried to join some support groups, to knock. It took a while, but one day she went to church and was greeted by a new usher, a man who appeared close to her age. Soon they were sitting together in church, and about a year later they married.

God does not intend for us to be lonely. God may use our loneliness to draw us closer to him, sometimes directly and often through others. People who have experienced God’s mercy are seldom lonely. They know the joy of a relationship with God that keeps them anchored and available to be disciples with and to others. They seek partnerships with other disciples to do their work, to learn more about their faith, and to grow.

A wise therapist once said, “You can’t be well on your own. You need other people to complete who you are.” God knows that, and God knows how much we need to be loved, forgiven, and accepted. God planned it that way, so that in needing a relationship with our creator and redeemer, we would find it in others as well as directly with God.

Asking, searching, and knocking are actions disciples should take every day. We should say the Lord’s Prayer, then get up and begin our day with action. Saint Paul learned this and became a world-traveling missionary, comfortable wherever the Spirit sent him.

Be a disciple, pray the prayer our Lord taught us to pray, then search for the things God has in mind for you. As Abraham discovered, you will find them, because we worship a God who always keeps promises.

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Christopher Sikkema


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