January 26, 2014, Epiphany 3 – Lights in the Land of the Living

To listen to this sermon, click here: 130729_001

Only the outline is available for this sermon:

praying the collect – asking big things – Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ

1.  today we ask to do as the fishermen did – to leave behind what we know  – immediately -what we mean when we say we “die to self” – It is the same kind of call as Mary heard from the angel – to leave behind everything she knew and follow God in faith. – being a disciple is risky business.

2.  He doesn’t need us to follow – Jesus preached and taught and healed, and they could do none of those things when he called them – Jesus’ ministry – teaching, preaching, healing – he didn’t need the apostles for any of those things – they would just have been dead weight on the journey, but he chose to raise them up – he doesn’t do useless things – he said he would make them “fishers of men”. – and he did

Peter preached on the day of Pentecost and thousands believed, became bishop of Rome, John pastor in Ephesus, James and Andrew brought the gospel far into the world, James to Spain, Andrew to what is Turkey today

But why did he choose simple working-class men to form the foundation of the kingdom of heaven on earth?  Why does he choose anyone at all? He doesn’t need us to be his hands and his feet and his voice on earth – certainly he could do it all much better than we can – but he chooses us to be his hands and his feet and his voice on earth. It is the way he has chosen for his goodness to be seen in the land of the living.

That is what it means that we are the light of the world, Matt 5:14-16

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

a mystery – not like angels who terrify and amaze – God has chosen to shine out through human flesh, first his own human body (and not everyone recognized the light in that form), and then through the works and words of the disciples, and now through us. He calls us to follow him and when we do, when we let go of our own plans and ideas and go where he leads us, his glory shines out through us

[Phil. 2:14-16a  Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…]

like doing chores with children – he could have done it all better without us – but, he chooses us to be light in the world as he is light – God shining through human flesh

3.  Often our big obstacle to following is knowing our weaknesses – not believing we can be useful

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul said  what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servantsfor Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But.we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”. Someone I knew used to joke that Paul was calling us all cracked pots, and it’s true; none of us are perfect. But the light of Christ shines out strongly even through the faults and weaknesses we hate the most about ourselves, I think sometimes especially through the faults and weaknesses we hate the most, if only we hear his voice and follow after him, trusting his strength rather than our own..

But if we listen to Jesus and not ourselves, our flaws and weaknesses won’t stop God from shining out through us. Lanterns from coffee cans – the more holes there are, the better the light could shine out.

Mother Theresa wrote. “Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your weakness.”

God has told us that we don’t need to worry about our weakness – the more we admit our brokenness and offer it to God the more brightly his light can shine forth from us. It takes a lot more humility to offer him our weakness and stupidity than to offer him what we think are our talents and strengths, but he can usually do more with those things we despise about ourselves than with those things we take pride in,

Paul’s affliction: 2 Cor. 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

The psalmist wrote: I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! And one thing that means is that I, and the world around us, shall see his goodness in the words and works, in the love and kindness of his people, specifically in you, my brothers and sisters here at St. Philip’s – because it is true that his Spirit lives and works and shines through each one of you as you follow him.

And so we pray today: Give us grace, O Lord, to let go of our plans and our safety nets, our pride and our shame, and to offer you ourselves in all our weakness and imperfection: Give us the courage and humility to follow the example of the fishermen, Peter and Andrew, James and John, to come, immediately, just as we are, and to follow you who have called us and chosen us, in your most perfect and mysterious wisdom, to make your glory known to the whole world


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