8th Sunday after Pentecost
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ
grace and peace to you
from the one who destined us for adoption as Children of God. Amen
Identity and purpose,
these are the threads that run through our scripture today,
calling us to consider who we are
and what that means for our lives.
And who we are,
are people chosen by God.
Our reading from Ephesians
hammers this home again and again,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ… He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will...In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance...you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.”
God has acted decisively in regard to our identity,
there can be no question,
we are God’s
and while we use a variety of images
to try to explain this,
the end result is always the same,
God has chosen us,
not because of anything we have done or earned
but because that’s who God is.
We are God’s because of the grace of God.
And the appropriate response is to live for the praise of God’s glory.
When faced with such a gift,
what can we do but offer praise to God?
And how do we praise God?
In worship, prayer and song certainly
but also with how we live our lives,
consciously living out God’s vision for the redemption of the world,
a vision lived and taught by Jesus,
one where all people have value
and are treated accordingly,
value that is based on their God given identity
and not on the many ways that the world has found
to define and divide people,
rich or poor,
healthy or sick,
by place of birth,
color of skin,
what value they’ll add to the economy, age,
the list goes on
And here’s the hard part,
those with power
don’t like when we live for the praise of God’s glory in this way,
and sometimes we have to admit
that when we have power,
we aren’t always comfortable living for the praise of God’s glory either,
because at times the blessings of the world
seem to outweigh the blessings of God.
But that doesn’t change who we are
and what we are supposed to do,
and yes this is difficult,
our passage from Ephesians
is a kind of pep talk to the community,
building them back up before sending them out into the world again,
a world that is unreceptive to their message,
that will resist it in all ways possible.
The prophets are familiar with this resistance,
two prophets join us today,
in the Hebrew scriptures and in the gospel.
Amos is called by God to pronounce judgement on Israel,
and when he does he is confronted by the priest
on behalf of the king,
who says ‘I know you have a message, just go someplace else and share it, the king and the land can’t take it, I won’t kill you, just go away.’
to which Amos responds (I paraphrase of course)
‘I feel you buddy, I was minding my own business tending my farm and my flock when God told me to go prophesy to the people. I don’t see myself as a professional prophet, just someone who is doing what God told them to do.’
In other words,
this isn’t about earning a living as the priest suggests
but a response to the call of God,
however inconvenient that may be.
God works through all of us,
not just the professionals.
And then we have our friend John the Baptist
and the end of his story,
John who dared to tell the King what everyone knew,
that it wasn’t lawful for him to marry his brother’s wife Herodias,
who hated John for pointing that out
because she had more power married to Herod than his brother Philip.
So Herod puts John in prison
but protects him
because he has some respect for John as a holy man,
but then comes the night where Herod hosts a banquet
and is pleased by his daughter’s dancing,
and in front of everyone present,
all his officials
Herod promises to give her whatever she wants.
She consults her mother
and runs back to ask for the head of John on a platter
and Herod is presented with a choice:
protect a man who he knows to be righteous and holy
in front of all his officials
or maintain the facade of his benevolent power and do as requested.
And we know which he chooses
John is beheaded in prison
and that is the end of that prophet.
Everything is at stake when we proclaim the message of God.
John lost his head,
Jesus was crucified,
but that was not the end.
God is bigger than the resistance the world puts up
bigger even than death,
in God life goes on,
and so does the message we are called to proclaim,
and more than proclaim we are called to live,
The message that God
“set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
And when God says all, God means all.
Even the people we don’t think deserve it.
At the youth gathering
Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber spoke about grace
and her struggle with the fact that God’s grace is
“Both for me and my haters.”
She confessed she struggles with the wideness of God’s grace,
Her struggle is not a particular to her
we all do at times,
because it just doesn’t seem fair
and yet the only way that God’s good news
can be good news for us,
is if it is good news for the people we can’t stand,
even for the people who have hurt us,
because when it comes down to it,
we don’t deserve God’s grace either.
God claims us as Children
Has included us in the inheritance of redemption
And marked us with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit
So how can we not live to the praise of God’s glory? Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.