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August 7th, 2022

Sermon by Pastor Ron Nelson

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time August 7, 2022 Turtle Island

THE REV. ROGER KARBAN SAID, “PRACTICALLY NOTHING IN SCRIPTURE WAS WRITTEN BY AN EYEWITNESS – NOT EVEN OUR GOSPELS.” ONLY AFTER YEARS, OR EVEN CENTURIES OF REFLECTING ON GOD’S ACTIONS IN THEIR LIVES, DID OUR SACRED AUTHORS EVENTUALLY COMPOSE THE WRITINGS THAT MAKE UP OUR SACRED SCRIPTURES TODAY. MANY OF THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THEIR STORIES, SEEMED TO UNDERSTAND THE IMPLICATIONS OF THOSE DIVINE ACTIONS, AS THEY WERE ACTUALLY TAKING PLACE.


SCHOLARS TODAY CONSTANTLY REMIND US THAT SUCH INSIGHTS PROBABLY DID NOT BECOME PART OF THEIR FAITH LIVES UNTIL FAR DOWN THE ROAD. AS WE GET OLDER, WE OFTEN SAY, “I DID NOT UNDERSTAND “THAT” THEN, BUT I DO NOW.” SO WE HAVE THREE LITURGICAL READINGS PLUS A PSALM EVERY SUNDAY TO HELP US FIGURE OUT WHAT OUR AUTHORS WERE CONCERNED ABOUT IN THEIR LIVES AND THUS WHAT SAME THINGS AND EVENTS ARE HAPPENING IN OUR OWN LIVES TODAY. IF WE ARE NOT PREPARED TO LOOK AT WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE WORLD, THEN OFTEN WE WILL NOT EVEN NOTICE WHAT IS TAKING PLACE IN OUR OWN LIVES. SO WE HAVE PEOPLE WHO NEVER LISTEN TO OR READ THE NEWS OR WHO LISTEN TO SOME ONE SPOUTING SOMETHING FROM AN ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSE AND WE WONDER WHY WE HAVE PROBLEMS IN OUR SOCIETY TODAY.


I WAS TRAINED TO WRITE SERMONS WITH THE BIBLE IN ONE HAND AND THE NEWSPAPER IN THE OTHER HAND. ON ANY GIVEN DAY I READ AT LEAST TWO NEWSPAPERS. SO, LET US LOOK AT TODAY’S LESSONS. OUR AUTHOR OF WISDOM IS CONVINCED THAT ONLY THOSE WHO WERE ENSLAVED ISRAELITES, WHO WERE ANTICIPATING YAHWEH TO DESTROY THEIR ENEMIES, ACTUALLY INTERPRETED EXODUS CORRECTLY. HISTORICALLY, ACCORDING TO THE AUTHOR OF EXODUS [NOT MOSES.], THE MAJORITY OF THE JEWS IN EGYPT ARGUED AGAINST MOSES.

IN OTHER WORDS, A GREAT SAVING EVENT IN JEWISH HISTORY STARTED OUT AS A HUGE AGGRAVATION. WE HAVE THE WRITER OF WISDOM POINTING OUT THAT THE LAST PLAGUE THAT TOOK PLACE AND UNFOLDED LIKE THE WRITER OF EXODUS HAD SAID, HAD BEEN TREATED SO BADLY BY THE MAJORITY OF THE HEBREWS THAT THEY ALMOST MISSED THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE FREE PEOPLE.


JUST THINK WHAT MANY PEOPLE STILL DO WITH THE NEWS OF THE DAY? THUS THE AUTHOR OF HEBREWS WANTS TO MAKE SURE THAT SUCH BLINDNESS NEVER HAPPENS TO US WHO FOLLOW JESUS. SO THE AUTHOR OF HEBREWS HAMMERS AWAY AT ABRAHAM AND SARAH’S FAITH. YOU SEE, IF ABRAHAM AND SARAH WERE THE FIRST JEWS, THEN, THEY DID NOT HAVE YAHWEH’S RECORD TO FALL BACK ON. THEIR FAITH HELPS THEM TO SEE YAHWEH’S HAND IN THE DAILY EVENTS OF THEIR LIVES. I HOPE WE DO ALSO. THEY DID NOT EMIGRATE FROM UR TO CANAAN SIMPLY TO ACQUIRE FOOD. THEY CAME BECAUSE, THEY FELT, YAHWEH HAD A UNIQUE PLAN FOR THEM AND THEIR DESCENDANTS. THEIR/OUR FUTURE WAS/IS SECURE WITH GOD, SO FAITH CAN LIVE IN THE UNCERTAINTY, AND EVEN THE AGONY OF NOW.


FAITH IS NOT ABOUT SALUTING A SET OF BELIEFS. IT IS ABOUT WALKING WITH GOD AND BEING A COMPANION, PARTICULARLY STANDING IN THE LOWLY PLACE WITH THE EASILY DESPISED AND READILY LEFT OUT. THINK ABOUT IT, ABRAHAM HAD NO CITY, SARAH HAD NO WOMB,

WE CANNOT DEPEND ON OUR RESOURCES BUT ON GOD’S VISION AND OUR FOLLOWING HER.

IN OTHER WORDS NOT OUR ABILITY BUT OUR AVAILABILITY. BOTH MOSES AND MLK SAID SOMETHING LIKE THIS, “I HAVE SEEN THE PROMISED LAND BUT I MAY NOT GET THERE WITH YOU.” NIEBUHR SAID, “NOTHING WORTH DOING CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED IN A SINGLE LIFE-TIME, THEREFORE WE ARE SAVED BY HOPE.”


JUST RECENTLY A FORMER HIGH SCHOOL CLASSMATE HAS BEEN ASKING ME ABOUT HOW, WHY, WE CAME TO CANADA, WHICH WILL ALSO BECOME, WHY DID I BECOME A PASTOR?

I HAVE ALWAYS FELT IT WAS TOO PIOUS TO SAY, “BECAUSE GOD CALLED ME, BUT?” I HAD A CALL, AND CALLS TO OTHER CONGREGATIONS, WHICH WOULD HAVE ALLOWED ME TO STAY IN THE STATES BUT I ANSWERED THE ONE TO DRUMHELLER, AB. I/WE WERE NOT RUNNING AWAY FROM ANYTHING. I HAD RECEIVED MY HONOURABLE DISCHARGE FROM THE USMC ON FEBRUARY 19TH, 1965 AND I WAS ORDAINED ON JUNE 2, 1965. I DID NOT HAVE THE NEGATIVE FEELINGS ABOUT THE STATES THEN, THAT I DO NOW. SO, I CERTAINLY DO NOT PUT MYSELF AND ABRAHAM AND SARAH IN THE SAME SPACE.


JAN, JULIE’S MOTHER, AND I WERE ONLY 25, NOT 90 AND 100, LIKE SARAH AND ABRAHAM.

SO, I HAVE TO PUT MYSELF IN THE HANDS OF OUR SACRED AUTHORS. THEY WERE/ARE CONVINCED THAT FAITH ENABLES US TO NOTICE WHAT OTHERS IGNORE. THAT SEEMS TO BE WHY LUKE’S JESUS WANTS US TO BE CERTAIN ABOUT WHERE OUR “TREASURE” IS LOCATED.

AGAIN,

>I CANNOT PUT MYSELF IN A CLASS WHERE I “SELL MY POSSESSIONS AND GIVE ALMS.”

>I CERTAINLY DO NOT FEEL LIKE I AM SEEING JESUS IN MY LIFE.

>I CERTAINLY DO NOT FEEL I AM FOCUSING ON CARING FOR THE NEEDS OF OTHERS AND THEREFORE WILL BE EXPERIENCING GOD’S REIGN IN MY LIFE.

THE HISTORICAL JESUS PRESUMED HIS FOLLOWERS WOULD SEE HIM DURING HIS MINISTRY.

>NO, I HAVE NOT HAD ANY VISIONS.

JESUS SEEMED TO SAY OR AT LEAST IMPLY, THEY/WE WOULD ONLY BE FAITHFUL AND PRUDENT STEWARDS IF THEY/WE HAD A DIRECT CONNECTION TO HIM. YES, JESUS SEEMS TO SAY, DISCIPLESHIP IS EXTREMELY DEMANDING AND THAT HIS “KINGDOM” IS A GIFT WHOSE VALUE EXCEEDS ALL OTHERS.

>MORE IS DEMANDED OF JESUS’ DISCIPLES THAN OTHER PEOPLE.


I WISH I COULD JUST READ THE SHORT VERSION BECAUSE THE LONG VERSION EVEN TALKS ABOUT BEING BEATEN IF WE DO NOT DO OUR FAIR SHARE. AS I OFTEN SAY, “THAT IS BEYOND MY PAY GRADE,” FOR ME I HAVE TO HEAR WHAT JESUS SAID, “DO NOT BE AFRAID, LITTLE FLOCK.”


POPE FRANCIS SAID, “HUMAN BEINGS ARE SO MADE THAT WE CANNOT LIVE, DEVELOP AND FIND FULFILLMENT EXCEPT IN THE SINCERE GIFT OF SELF TO OTHERS. LIFE EXISTS WHERE THERE IS COMMUNION WITH OTHERS AND LIFE IS STRONGER THAN DEATH WHEN IT IS BUILT ON TRUE RELATIONSHIPS.” WHAT IF WE REALLY BELIEVED THAT?

>WHAT IF WE BELIEVED THAT WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR IN SHARING WHAT GIVES US SECURITY BECAUSE IT IS ALL A FREE GIFT IN THE FIRST PLACE?

>WHAT IF WE BELIEVED, LIKE ABRAHAM, THAT THE UNKNOWABLE FUTURE GOD OFFERS US IS WORTH MORE THAN THE PRESENT WE ARE USED TO?

>WHAT IF WE BELIEVED THAT LOVING RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE ONLY TREASURE THAT WILL NEVER WEAR OUT AND THAT OUR GREATEST POTENTIAL IS TO BE IN COMMUNION WITH ALL OF GOD’S CREATION?

>WHAT IF WE BELIEVED IN WHAT GOD SAID,/SAYS AND NOT SOME FEAR MONGERING POLITICIAN, WHICH IS WHAT YOU HEAR FROM THOSE USUALLY ON THE EXTREME RIGHT.


IT IS AMAZING THE AMOUNT OF THUGGERY AND INTIMIDATION THAT IS BEING USED BY THE DEMAGOGUES TODAY TO INSTALL FEAR IN US. THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM IS CELEBRATED IN TODAY’S SECOND LESSON FROM HEBREWS. AGAIN I REITERATE.

>HAD ABRAHAM LIVED IN FEAR, HE WOULD NEVER HAVE VENTURED FORTH FROM UR FOR PARTS UNKNOWN. HE HAD NO GPS. ALL HE HAD WAS HIS FAITHFUL OBEDIENCE TO THE GOD IN WHOM HE TRUSTED.

>HAD ABRAHAM LIVED IN FEAR, HE WOULD HAVE SHRUNK FROM HIS RESPONSIBILITIES AT SUCH AN ADVANCED AGE. HOW MUCH OF THIS STORY IS JUST A STORY, I DO NOT KNOW,

BUT THIS ABRAHAM IS THE PERSON WHO THE JEWS, MOSLEMS, AND CHRISTIANS REGARD AS OUR FATHER IN THE FAITH. IN ANOTHER PART OF HIS WRITINGS, THE AUTHOR OF WISDOM REFERRED TO FEAR AS “SOUL-SICKENING” AND “RIDICULOUS.” HE SAID, DO NOT SURRENDER TO FEAR.


TODAY, EACH OF US WHO HEEDS HIS WISE ADVICE AND WHO ADMIRES ABRAHAM AND SARAH FOR THEIR PIONEERING FAITH IS CALLED TO FOREGO THOSE FEARS WHICH, CRIPPLE AND STIFLE US, AND ROUSE SUSPICIONS AND SEPARATE US FROM ONE ANOTHER AND GOD.

>IF WE CHOOSE THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE, AND SETTLE FOR THE STATUS QUO, RATHER THAN EMBRACE THE UNKNOWN,

>IF WE FIND SECURITY IN SAVING RATHER THAN GIVING,

>IF WE PREFER THE LESSER RISK OF PASSIVELY WAITING FOR GOD TO EMERGE RATHER THAN THE GREATER CHALLENGE OF WORKING FOR THE REALIZATION OF GOD THEN WE HAVE PROBLEMS.


JESUS WAS FULLY AWARE THAT FEAR IS AT THE ROOT OF MANY HUMAN DIFFICULTIES.

WHY DO YOU THINK SO MANY POLITICIANS OPERATE ON OUR FEARS?

LOOK AT WHAT THE COVID DID, IT FOSTERED FEAR OF WANT AND SO SOME OF US HOARDED TOILET PAPER, CAN YOU IMAGINE? WHEN THE GAS CRISIS OF THE 70’S WAS ON, ONE PERSON WAS ASKED, WHY SHE LINED UP AT THE GAS STATION EVERY DAY, EVEN THOUGH SHE DROVE VERY LITTLE? SHE SAID, “BECAUSE I DO NOT WANT THE HOARDERS TO GET MY GAS.”

YES, INORDINATE FEAR OF GOD, ENEMIES AND THE LIST IS ENDLESS AND WE HAVE PROBLEMS.

JESUS CHALLENGED HIS DISCIPLES BY SAYING, DO NOT LIVE IN FEAR. OUR JESUS IN LUKE TODAY, SAYS, FAITH NOT FEAR IS TO BE THE GUIDING FORCE IN OUR LIVES.

>FAITH ENABLES US TO LIVE IN A CONSTANT ATTITUDE OF PREPAREDNESS, READY TO RECOGNIZE GOD IN OUR LIVES.

>FAITH KEEPS US AWARE,

>FAITH KEEPS US ATTENTIVE TO OUR RESPONSIBILITIES,

>FAITH PROMPTS US TOWARD MUTUAL LOVE AND SUPPORT OF OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS.

TODAY,

>WE ARE INVITED INTO THE FUTURE WHERE WE LONG FOR THE DEEPEST LEVEL OF OUR BEING.

TODAY,

>WE REALIZE WE WILL ONLY GET THERE BY LEAVING BEHIND OUR FEARS AND PESSIMISM.

>BY DONATING OUR RICHES,

>BY VENTURING BEYOND OUR NORMAL SURROUNDINGS,

>BY TREASURING OUR CONNECTIONS WITH ALL OF GOD’S PEOPLE,

>BY WATCHING FOR GOD TO SHOW UP UNPREDICTABLY AND IN AN UNFAMILIAR DISGUISE—


THOSE ARE ALL STEPS THAT WILL MAKE IT POSSIBLE, TO BE IN COMMUNION WITH GOD’S CREATION. SO, AS AGAIN, WE PARTICIPATE IN OUR WORSHIP, INSTEAD OF GIRDING OUR LOINS AND DUSTING OFF OUR SANDALS, LET US PUT ON, METAPHORICALLY, OUR HIKING BOOTS AND LET OUR CELEBRATION LAUNCH US INTO THE VENTURE OF FAITH THAT TRANSFORMS HOPE INTO REALITY.

GOD SAYS, ‘HAVE NO FEAR, LITTLE FLOCK, HAVE NO FEAR LITTLE FLOCK, FOR THE FATHER HAS CHOSEN TO GIVE YOU THE KINGDOM, HAVE NO FEAR LITTLE, LITTLE FLOCK.’ [ELW 764]


AND WE ANSWER IN OUR LAST HYMN TODAY. ‘THE GOD OF ABRAHAM PRAISE! YOUR ALL-SUFFICIENT GRACE SHALL GUIDE ME ALL MY PILGRIM DAYS. IN ALL MY WAYS, YOU DEIGN TO CALL ME FRIEND, YOU CALL YOURSELF MY GOD! AND YOU WILL SAVE ME TO THE END THROUGH JESUS’ BLOOD.’ [ELW 831]


‘YES, SUMMER AND WINTER AND SPRINGTIME AND HARVEST, SUN, MOON, AND STARS IN THEIR COURSES ABOVE JOIN WITH ALL NATURE IN MANIFOLD WITNESS TO THY GREAT FAITHFULNESS, MERCY, AND LOVE. GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS! GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS!

MORNING BY MORNING NEW MERCIES I SEE, ALL I HAVE NEEDED THY HAND HATH PROVIDED,

GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS, LORD UNTO THEE.’ [ELW 733]

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