Monday, October 25, 2010

Oct. 17 Sermon: Keep on Keepin' on. The Persistent widow

Practice Makes Perfect

          “Will he find faith in the world?”  Faith is exemplified by persistence. 
What is persistence, really?  It is keeping what matters in front of our attention—so prioritized that we act on what is most important every day.  What if the son of man came on a day that you were taking “off” from your life of faith.  Not really doing anything to exhibit your faith to the world.  Maybe it’s just being on your own. 
          The widow has an every day reminder that she is in need of protection—she was alone.  She had no one to depend on.  So she went the judge, even though he was corrupt and unjust, and she wore him down.  God is contrasted with that unjust, uncaring judge.  God is the one who “chooses” us.  We are his adopted children.
We should be intentional about that relationship.  If Jesus walked into our daily lives, would he find faith there?  Would he be able to see it in your life if he could not ask you what you thought.  Keep in mind that none of us would be able to understand what Jesus said if he walked into our world as he did 2000 years ago.  So, would he be able to see his teachings in the way you lived your life?  Would he see works of justice and mercy, of worship and devotion? 
Faith takes persistence.  It takes intentionality.  It takes keeping what is most important in our full view, not in the periphery.  ((((((((((((Elucidate on periphery))))))))))
You know one way we can keep our relationship with God in our full vision?  You know how we can focus on it?  We can pay attention to the relationships we have between us and others.  Do we really know each other?  I have the privilege of visiting you in your homes.  I have the privilege speaking with you about your spiritual lives, about your greatest fears and hopes. 
That privileged relationship is not just an aspect of the pastoral call, it is an aspect of the Christian call.  We are given the mandate on the most important day of Jesus’ life, that last night he spent with his disciples.  He told them, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”  Jesus paid attention to people, didn’t he?  He wasn’t an unjust and uncaring judge.  He was and is the judge who calls you child. 

God doesn’t just relate to us through other people.  He relates to us in the natural world and in all of creation, as I alluded to last week.  What’s one way we can be attentive to the relationship with God in the natural world?  What is one thing that sustains a relationship between people?  A commitment to listen is paramount.
I laid down on the cot on the porch for a few minutes to think about what I was going to say one morning this week, and as a few cars passed on the highway, it fell silent.  Then, like a hum in the back of my ear I could hear the crickets singing.  It was a new revelation for me.  I thought that crickets only sang at night for some reason.  I see that’s just when it gets quiet enough to hear them. 
Quiet enough to hear them………….
We all know the difference when we are being listened to and when we are just being heard.  The unjust judge hears the widow’s pleas, but he’s not listening.  It isn’t changing him.  He remains unmoved and simply acts out of his own annoyance with the sound of the lady’s voice.  By contrast, the judge who is our redeemer and friend also listens to us. 
Shouldn’t we devote the time to really listen to him?  To be intentional about it, as if what God said really does matter?  Paul diagnoses a problem that Timothy should be wary that he will find among God’s people.  Oftentimes we don’t intentionally listen for God’s voice. Instead we just listen to whatever is convenient, perhaps what makes us feel good, perhaps what dresses up and looks like Christianity—what poses as sound doctrine and teaching but is really just a veil for what makes us feel comfortable. 
Nothing makes me feel more comfortable than thinking that someone else was going to get the heat.  In my childhood experience of getting sent to the principal’s office (and I have a pretty good pool to draw from) I always felt a little more at ease if I was going with someone else, especially if that someone else, in my view, was more “guilty” than I was.  I imagined that the principal might have more ire for the other person.  I could always stand over to the side and say “I didn’t do it!” 
That didn’t always work with principals, but it certainly won’t work with our judge.  Did you love your neighbor as you loved yourself?  “I didn’t do it!”  Did you look for Christ in the least of my neighbors?  “I didn’t do it!”  Did you pay attention to your relationship with me?  “I didn’t do it!”  Well then, what did you do?  
1 John, you must love one another
James: faith without works is dead

Do you give like the son of man is coming again?  Do you forgive like the son of man is coming again?   Do you live like the son of man is coming again?  We are rescued from the dead by a God who loves us and calls us children.  And as the song goes, “Jesus knelt to share with thee the silence of eternity, interpreted by love!”  

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