Make God known to the world as God is revealed in Jesus Christ.

Joseph M. Constant
July 26, 2015
Pentecost 9, Proper 12, Year B
St. John’s Episcopal Church in Beltsville

I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired of hearing about another mass shootings.  It feels like a week doesn’t go by without someone, somewhere using a deadly weapon to take the life of innocent people.  In a cowardly way, they take the lives of innocent people who represent no threat whatsoever to them.  We have populated the world with weapons built to kill and destroy God’s creation.   We are born as children of God, and yet somehow, hate and violence manifests itself in this creation, challenging our own spiritual strength.

For the past two weeks, the Epistle reading came from the letter of Paul to the Ephesians.  In the first two chapters of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks passionately about God’s abundant saving grace.  He explains to us how God is working in our lives to save us and to make us into one family.  He tells how God destined us for adoption even before the foundation of the world, so that God may dwell in us.  Paul tells us how God broke down the wall that separated Jews and Gentiles and make us into one united family.

Today, we are in the 3rd chapter, which begins with a prayer.  But, the prayer is interrupted with verses 2-13 with Paul clarifying his work on behalf of the Gentiles.  Paul is in touch with God’s purpose for his life.  God commissions Paul to build the Church among the Gentiles.  Paul reminds us that the Church’s role is to manifest the wisdom of God and God’s plan to reconcile the world to God.  Every once in while we need to stop and remind ourselves what our mission is as a Church in this town of Beltsville and in the world.

The prayer picks up again in verse 14 with Paul saying, “For this reason, knowing what I know about God and what God is doing through me, I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.”  It is God who created us.  It is God who sent Jesus into the world to save us and to put us on the path to salvation.

Paul continues his prayer asking that God will give us the inner strength that we need; and the power that we need to accomplish God’s purpose.  You see, Paul knows that this ministry we are called to is not easy.  Paul knows that being a follower of Christ is not easy.  Paul knows that we are competing against the trappings of this world.  And Paul knows that we are a threat to others when we decide to take up our cross and follow Christ.

Paul prays that God would give us strength in our inner being with power through his Spirit.   Think about the world we live in today, when you pray for your children; when you pray for the children and youth of our church, what do you pray for?  When you think of the state of our church, what do you pray for?  When you think of the state of the world, what do you pray for?

As you know, I was in Seattle three weeks ago.  As we stopped at a red light, the person who was driving the car showed me a corner store, it a store that sells marijuana.  But then she says, do you know that the high school is in the next block over.  You see putting the marijuana store in the same general location with the high school is very strategic.  It’s good for business. What is your prayer for your children and the next generation?

Paul prays that God’s spirit dwells in our hearts.  With the spirit of God dwelling in our hearts, we have God’s power living in us.  God’s Spirit is the source of our power.  In Galatians chapter 2 verse 20, Paul writes, “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”  This is an important reminder for us as we live in the world today.  When we are in touch with the fact that God’s Spirit dwells in our hearts, we realize that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.  This is where we get our strength from.  This is what makes us do what we do.

Back in chapter 2 verse 22, Paul told us that before Jesus, the temple was the dwelling place for God.  Here in chapter 3, verse 17, Paul tells us that the heart of the faithful Christian is the dwelling place of Christ.  Through faith, Jesus Christ lives in you.  Take a deep breath and think about that for a moment.  Jesus Christ lives in you.

Through prayer and faithful living, we come closer to understand the breadth, length, height and depth of God’s plan and purpose for our lives.  As faithful Christians, we don’t live in the world of the internet, as helpful as it can be, we live in the Spirit.  We don’t live in the world of greed and power, we live in the Spirit.  We don’t live in the world governed by the motto, me, myself, and I, we live in the life of the Spirit.

When we live in the Spirit; when we decide to fashion our lives around Jesus, we find that we don’t have to be afraid to love fully.  We don’t have to be afraid of the person who looks different; who speaks different; who dresses different.  We find that we can like Paul say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13)

When we look at the world we live in, we have to realize that we live in uncertain times.  In times like these, we need to know the source of our faith.

In times like these, we need to allow God to use us as the dispenser of hope.  In times like these, we should not be afraid to tell the world about what Jesus means to you.  How God is guiding your path through the Holy Spirit.  How God is using you even in the most unexpected place to reveal God’s glory.  We need to make Jesus the center of our lives.

We live in a time where the church needs to be careful that we are not driving the world to spiritual bankruptcy. Jesus commissions the disciples and the community of faith to continue Jesus’ mission in the world.   Jesus provides the disciples and us with the power to achieve that mission; the power to break through the challenges in our lives that prevent us from carrying forward Jesus’ mission.    The challenges in our lives may be driven by our own hurt or anger, our own fear.

My sisters and brothers, we must be in touch with the power of God within us; the power that too often we let our own self-doubts overwhelm and prevent us from doing what we can imagine.

In today’s gospel passage, Jesus reminds us of God’s abundant blessings in the miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand.  Jesus feeds the crowd and they were fed in abundance.  Jesus reminds us that we serve a God who provides for us in abundance.  Through the Holy Spirit, we are called to witness to God’s love.  Our individual and communal task as a church is to offer salvation to a world that’s hungry for the bread of life.

We must rely on the movement of the Spirit of God in our lives.  Our mission is to make God known to the world as God is revealed in Jesus Christ.  Out of his love for us, God sent his Son to die for us.  Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has bought for us the victory of life.  In Christ, we have the power of God living in us.  With the Spirit of God living in our hearts, we are a new creation where fear is replaced with confidence and a clear sense of mission.  With the Spirit of God living in our hearts, we have the power to give life and to give it abundantly.

When you read or hear about another shooting, don’t despair, turn to God in prayer.  When someone hurts you, they are not living in the Spirit like you are.
My brothers and sisters, the crucified and risen Lord makes it possible for you and for me to belong to God’s family and participate in God’s new creation.  Through the Holy Spirit guiding us and leading us into all truth, God wants us to use the power within us to advocate for peaceful living, to forgive and to love in a way that the world that we live in simply cannot do.  But, as a church empowered with God’s spirit, with God’s strength, with God’s power, we can.  We can walk the daily walk of discipleship.

Marian Wright Edelman once wrote “There are so many noises and pulls and competing demands in our lives that many of us never find out who we are.   Learn to be quiet enough to hear the sound of the genuine within yourself so that you can hear it in other people.”  My brothers and sisters, the spirit of God is here within you and me.   Listen to it.

And so this morning, we say with confidence, “Glory to God…glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.  Glory to Him from generation to generation in the church, and in Christ for ever and ever.  Amen!”

Photo: DIGITALVISION/THINKSTOCK

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