1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 & Matthew 25:14-30
- What do we do with what we have been given? That is the theme of today’s gospel lesson.
- We have been given the amazing grace of God’s love through Jesus Christ. Shall we horde it for ourselves or share it with others?
- You have heard me say before, “The chief symbol of the Christian church is NOT a perpendicular line signifying that this movement of ours is about ‘God and me alone.’ The chief symbol is a Cross, a perpendicular line crossed by a horizontal line signifying that this movement of ours is about ‘God and me and you.’”
- As much as each of us as individuals are in need of God’s love and perhaps even a daily assurance of that love and never-ending forgiveness, we are called to share that love and forgiveness with the world, and especially with those around us. This is not something for me alone.
- From the earliest part of scripture we read that “it is not good that the man/human should be alone.” And while this talks about creation of humanity, it also tells us that we need each other and to care for each other.
- This is not just about how I treat my neighbor – with love, dignity and respect. This is also how we as a collective community are called to treat the world.
- This week I read a very disturbing article on the BBC News entitled Growing Religious Persecution a Threat to Everyone. I will share some of the comments from the reporter, one Caroline Wyatt.
- In the article she shares that in many places where Christianity was birthed and had its infancy, Christians no longer feel safe and are fleeing in vast numbers: especially Iraq, Syria, Israel & Palestine, and Egypt.
- But it is not just Christians who are feeling persecuted: in Northern Europe, Jewish people are feeling unsafe because of harassment and violence and there is a large emigration to Israel; in the Middle East various strands of Islam are killing each other in the name of God; in other places Muslims and Buddhists fight; in Africa, Muslims and Christians are killing each other; and in China there are a number of human rights abuses against Christians. Even in the United Kingdom, church groups have been denied the right to run charities because of their moral beliefs and sometimes persons have been denied jobs because of their ethical stands.
- Of the 196 nations surveyed, between 2012 and 2014, the report concluded that religious freedom was compromised in 116, where religious minorities experienced persecution, violence, and systematic discrimination.
- What has brought this about? Various leaders give different answers, including in some cases a radicalized interpretation of the Koran.
- Former Chief Rabbi (of the UK), Lord Sacks says that in much of the world there is a de-secularization going on: “people feel betrayed by secular government that has not delivered on promises of prosperity and national pride – national boundaries were drawn by colonial powers and no longer have relevance.”
- Major General Tim Cross of the British Army says that in an increasingly globalized world, fear of the different brings great conflict. He believes persecution is exacerbated by political indifference and corruption and, in some places, poverty, and scarcity of resources and a lack of education.
- Rabbi Sacks states: “that violence in the name of religion can only be answered by the peaceful voice of religion, with Christians, Jews and Muslims coming together to reject hatred and violence.”
- That is where you and I come in.
- We, who live in the security of Christ’s everlasting light and love – we who live in this nation that is filled with so much hope and promise (even in the midst of our own struggles with poverty and corruption) – we who live in a city that has more resources of money, influence, creativity and ingenuity than many countries put together: WE ARE CALLED TO SHARE WHAT WE HAVE WITH A HURTING WORLD.
- It is not enough for us to take this unconditional grace that God gives us in Jesus Christ and keep it for ourselves.
- It is not enough for us to take the natural and human-made resources we have been blessed with by the “accident” of being born in the USA and living in NYC and horde it for ourselves in fear that there is not enough to go around.
- It is not enough for me to say – Well, I can’t do anything about world peace; it’s too big of a problem, I’ll just try to live peacefully with my next door neighbor.
- Paul tells us in the 2nd lesson today that “you, beloved, are not in darkness . . . for you are all children of light and children of the day.”
- We are called to be light to the world.
- We are called to give hope to those who have no hope.
- We are called to be proactive in seeking peace, justice and equality for each person on earth.
- We are called to work with our sisters and brothers of other faith communities to “reject hatred and violence” not only here in Astoria and in NYC and in the USA, but across the globe.
- We are called to take the Master’s gifts and share them with others.
- How can we do that?
- Give to the ELCA World Hunger Appeal that works to bring economic justice and education to many places around the world.
- Give to my friend Chap Day’s employer, Pro Mujer, who sees that micro loans are offered in places around the world so that the dignity of creating your own work/business helps bring economic justice in so many places.
- Show up and bring hospitality to our Westway Family at the Community Supper and other times so that these persons may feel the warmth of God’s love flowing through our very presence.
- Treat those of different cultures with respect and dignity. As our government debates again the issue of immigration and who is here as “undocumented” or “illegally” – we might have quite varied views on what we should do. But as Children of the Light of Christ, at the very least we are CALLED to act as Jesus acted – treating those who are refugees – from war or poverty or persecution – with respect and love. You and I don’t know why they are here. Let’s show Christian love and not worry about if there are enough resources and jobs to go around.
- Treat those of different faiths with respect, honor and dignity – even when we don’t always understand their beliefs.
- And, if persons of our own faith community and those of others are exhibiting hatred and advocating violence – be bold to express that your understanding of God’s love leaves NO PLACE for that type of behavior and attitude.
- Write or visit your congressperson and share with them your concern about the persecution that is going on in the world and ask if there is a way you can help to show that there is a better way.
- Can we do this all by ourselves? Absolutely not. The task is daunting.
- The wonderful thing is that we DON’T do it alone – the Master has NOT gone on some long journey and left us to fend for ourselves. Jesus told his followers that when he went away, he would send another: THE HOLY SPIRIT to lead us in all truth.
- The sermon hymn is a powerful testimony to how we can use our talents and gifts to make the world a better place, and how we cry out – as Children of the Light – to THE PERFECT LIGHT to lead us to make this world a more just, equitable, peaceful and love-filled place. It is ELW #715 Christ, Be Our Light. The words are reprinted here, so you may carry them with you this week, and let this be our collective and private prayer.
Christ, Be Our Light
Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.
Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has pow’r to save us.
Make us your living voice. Refrain
Longing for food, many are hungry.
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us your bread, broken for others,
shared until all are fed. Refrain
Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone. Refrain
Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
signs of your kingdom come. Refrain
Text: Bernadette Farrell, b. 1957
Text © 1993 Bernadette Farrell. Published by OCP Publications. All rights reserved. Used by permission.