Sermons That Work

The Intent of the Gospel…, Proper 5 (C) – 1998

July 05, 1998

The intent of the gospel appointed for this Sunday is very, very clear. Jesus is God. We know this because a young man is brought back to life. This is the first time in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus is given the name “Lord.” We know from the book of the first kings in the Hebrew Scriptures that the title Lord is reserved for God. Here it is used in reference to Jesus. It is linked with a miracle. The miracle is a multi-miracle. The young man is raised from the dead. At the same time a mother is given a future. The woman was a widow. There was no social security of welfare system in place at that time. Whatever support the woman was to receive, she received from her family. This text makes a point of telling that the dead son was her only son. His death may well have meant her death. Her only possibility was begging for enough to stay alive. So, when Jesus gave the young man his life, he gave the widow life.

This story is a model for what happens when God enters our lives with love, healing and restoration. The miracle is not just a single event. The miracle is an event that created more events that are miracles.

A rancher, in the West, hired a cowhand named Bob. Bob was a very good cowhand when sober. But this was not always the case. Bob seemed to have a weekend “flu.” The “flu” was sometimes acquired while in the county jail. The rancher frequently went to get Bob from jail and tend to him while he had the “flu.”

People in the small town made fun of the rancher. He was teased about his “project.”

After a while the rancher asked Bob if he might take him to an AA meeting. Bob was so indebted to his boss that he felt he had to go. After a while, some months, Bob related later, “I found out those stories were my stories. ” He was able to say, “Hi, my name is Bob and I’m an alcoholic.” And that miracle of God began to work in his life.

Next, the rancher asked him to go to church with the family. Bob felt like he just had to because he owed the rancher so much. And no one had ever invited him to church. And, except for funerals and weddings, he had never been to church. Bob sat in the back. For month, he didn’t kneel, stand, sing, pray or do anything except sit and then put a dollar in the plate when it was passed. Then, as Bob relates, “I found myself kneeling and praying. I had a lot to pray about.” Soon he was standing to sing. One day after worship he asked, “Is there any reason why I can’t take communion?” The priest asked if he were baptized. Bob reckoned he wasn’t. The priest asked him if he wanted to be baptized. Bob said yes. And that miracle of God began to work in his life.

Bob was spending some time with church folk. Among those folk was a single woman with a couple of children from a prior marriage that had ended because there was abuse and beating. Conversations led to courtship. They married. And that miracle of God began to work not just in Bob’s life, but in three more lives.

One time after church on a very cold day, while it was snowing, Bob asked the rancher in the presence of the priest, “Why did you do everything you did for me?” The priest expected some profound statement that had grand theological meaning. He hoped the rancher would say something like, “The love I know from the Risen Lord has overflowed the banks of my heart so that I can serve you with the love of God”. Instead, the rancher said, “Aw, I didn’t have anything better to do.” He said that while grinning, looking down and dragging a toe through the snow.

In fact, the rancher didn’t have anything better to do.

The rancher was passing on the miracle of being loved by God without condition. That “passing on” was in and of itself a miracle. Bob’s new life, which led to a new life for three more human beings, was a set of miracles. If anyone hears this sermon and decides to seek baptism or face alcoholism, that is a miracle. And the set of miracles will grow.

In those places where Jesus allowed to be present in the lives of his friends, miracles will happen. The miracles will create new life. The new life will bring more miracles.

We Christians live in the hope that someday the love and miracles will get out of hand and the dominion of God will be established fully and forever.

In this Gospel lesson there is an invitation to participate in the realm where God is in dominion. We do this by knowing and saying that Jesus is Lord. Then we invite him to be with us in the deaths of our lives. It may be the death of someone we can imagine living without. It may be the death of a dream. It may be the death of a marriage. It may be the death of hope. When Jesus is with us in our deaths, we pray that we will be given new life. In the Gospel lesson today, new life was given.

Pray that we may be given new life. Pray that we will have the faith to see it. Pray that we will have the power to share it so that the miracles of God will happen in many lives.

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Christopher Sikkema


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