Sermon By Rev Joel Crouse
Who are we in the gospel story? Are we the unfeeling judge who turns deaf ears to cries of injustice? Are we the earthly disciples of God who hear them ringing in our ears and must act? I know which one I want to be, which of the two, we aspire to be. But on this Sunday after Thanksgiving, which one are we, really? Consider this scenario: a tent appears in your neighborhood park. Someone sleeping in the woods as the weather turns cold. How do we respond? Do we call the police so they can move that person along? Do we take a chance and see who owns the tent? Do we whine to our dog-walking friends about the lack of resources? Winter is coming. Do we hear the cry of injustice? Or this: right now, while our eyes are focused on the unjust invasion on Ukraine, East Africa is experiencing the worst drought in four decades, and millions of people are starving, or on the verge of it. The forecast suggests no reprieve – a fifth season of drought is expected. Millions of heads of livestock have died, crops have withered, children are not going to school. According to The Washington Post, desperate families are reportedly marrying off their 9-year-old daughters for a dowry that puts a little food on the table. In Somalia, the UN has predicted a famine will be declared by the end of the year, and the problem isn’t much better in a number of other sub-Saharan countries. Today is World Food Day. Who are we? The judge who drowns out the cries for help with his good life? Or disciples of God who hear and try to answer? What can we do? The answer isn’t an easy one – but then, the gospel isn’t easy to follow. Africa is far away; and homelessness is complicated – and well, our lives are busy too, with their own sets of problems. But don’t misunderstand that gospel. We hear the story of the widow who represents the most vulnerable and voiceless in society. She is seeking what is only her due – justice and fairness – and being ignored for so long. Maybe eventually, the judge gets around to doing something about it – I mean, she just won’t go away. But by then, the injustice has likely worn a permanent crease in her life and become so much worse than it would have been if help had come early. That is not how God works, the gospel promises. God steps up. God intervenes. God hears our calls and hops to it. But again you might ask: show me when God hopped to my problem. When God actively did something to help my family or cure my complaint. Show me that and then we’ll talk. Is this who we are? People who wait for a miracle, for “a sign,” for someone else to solve the problem? I don’t think that’s in the gospel. I don’t think it says anywhere: go back to trying to solve Wordle, and let God take care of everything. In fact, I am pretty sure the gospel says: you’re called to be my disciples on earth. So who are we? We are the presence of God. Not in one way. Not in a perfect, all-problems-solved kind of way. But in a doing-our-best-out-of -hope-and-kindness kind of way. When we care for a friend who has been given a terrible diagnosis, we are the presence of God. When we drive a truckload of supplies halfway across the country to bring food and chainsaw oil to hurricane survivors, we are the presence of God. When we go home, having seen that tent in the woods, and we don’t call the police, but instead donate to Shepherds of Good Hope, we are the presence of God. When we advocate for our government to send more foreign aid to Africa, and fill the shelves of our food banks here, we are the presence of God. Timothy reminds us of the hard facts: gospel-bearers must be persistent, in good times and bad. They must convince, rebuke, and encourage. They will be ignored – their own calls for justice will not be heard. There will never be enough – not enough time, not enough money, not enough action. And yet…who are we? When God seeks, will God find faith on earth? Are we that faithful? Or will we be waiting for someone else to take care of things, because the problem is too big, too daunting, too much trouble? Do not be made complacent by the gospel this morning, for it is not a call that God will yet take care of everything. The gospel is actually a reminder that God has already taken care of everything – for God has taught us and inspired and empowered us to be the faithful on earth. We have what we need. We are what is needed. The psalmist says this morning: “I lift my eyes to the hills, from where is my help to come?/ My help comes from the Lord.” And the Lord, he writes,” will watch over our going out and our coming in from this time and for evermore.” God is watching over the comings and goings of the faithful on earth. We have our instructions. Who are we? Amen.