Sermon – Lent 3 – March 24, 2019
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 ‘Open-ended Faithfulness’
CT: God faithfully works His miracle of faith in us opening up for us the possibilities that come through His grace.
Intro: Hachi was Professor Parker’s dog who accompanied him every day to the commuter train and then waited for him to return. But one day Hachi did something out of the ordinary; he retrieved a ball. It was as if Hachi knew something was wrong. Parker died of a heart attack that day and never came home, but Hachi continued to wait for his return every day. Despite efforts by other family members to change this routine, Hachi waited. He became a fixture at the station so that even the hotdog vendor fed him. The dog waited every day for 9 years for Parker’s return—and died waiting at the train station. Talk about loyalty; it’s a story of a dog’s faithfulness. (2009; Richard Greer; Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.)
Our Faithfulness: And then there’s Maple Leaf fans, who have born the brunt of years of losses and yet remain undaunted, cheering beyond all hope for a win. We can be more faithful in cheering on our favourite team than we are in our promises to our friends and family. “Till death us do part, and I pledge to you my faithfulness,” is much harder to keep. Living everyday with your spouse, as with your baptismal faith and promises, challenges us to a greater commitment than being a NHL hockey fan.
Our Questions: Pilate is mentioned for the very 1st time, when people tell Jesus about a tragic event made so much worse because it happened during worship. Just as the tragedy in New Zealand is magnified by the fact that those killed had gathered for prayer, or those a few years ago that were killed in a southern Baptist Church at a Bible study, because the young man they invited in hated people of colour. The people in Jesus’ day couldn’t help wonder if these seemingly innocent people had done some terrible sin to elicit God’s punishment. (Like the Job’s friends) We often get caught up in the same kind of ‘cause and effect’ thinking. The prostitute is murdered and ends up in a ditch; she lived a dangerous lifestyle. A young teen is beat up at 2 in the morning; what was he doing out at that time of night? It’s easy to be critical and judgemental.
Then Jesus added an event from the Galilee Gazette, where 18 people were crushed when a tower collapsed on them. “Do you think they were any worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you also will perish.” Sin does have consequences and sometimes we can connect the two together, but most of the time those connections are not so clear and we are left questioning God’s faithfulness.
Open Ended: Ezekiel spoke bluntly about it; God is faithful to call sin to account; sin leads to death. But He’s also faithful with forgiveness; repentance leads to life. How can we even think that God is not just? If we truly examined our own actions and motives, how is that I would be deserving of God’s offer of forgiveness and life? Jesus’ words also call out to us as sinners, not to look at the other guy; instead consider the danger you are in. The only thing between you and hell is Jesus; God’s faithfulness for us.
And so Jesus told a parable about the grace of a gardener; the faithfulness of His work for us. “Give me some time with this tree, so I can dig around it, fertilize it—work with it to see if it will bear fruit.” The time of God’s grace is now! That’s God’s faithfulness; the open ended work of Jesus for all people, and it’s here now.
Faithful Gifts: The OT is full of God’s faithfulness—how He had Moses bring His people out of Egypt; out of slavery that He might plant them in a favourable land. In our Epistle lesson, Paul compares their passing through the Red Sea as a type of Baptism; their enemies bent on destroying them were swept away by the waters; gone forever. So too is the power of God’s work for you in your Baptism; it frees you from the power of sin, the devil, and death to separate you from your heavenly Father. And it bestows on you and me even greater gifts than the people in the wilderness could have ever imagined; the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and keep you firm in the one true faith to life everlasting.
And God was also faithful to keep His people in the wilderness. He literally fed them with bread from heaven—manna—and they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. Over and over again God provided and proved His ongoing care that they would stand firm in their faith and trust God’s provision and direction, yet most of them failed to please God, for “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)
And God is faithful in providing us with the bread of Life—His Living Word, and more. He keeps His powerful promise of absolution to release the sins of those who confess and repent or conversely, to retain the sins of those who do not. God is faithful in giving the true Body and Blood of His Son in the bread and wine of Holy Communion, joining Himself to you and me in a most precious way, cementing our relationship to Him through the forgiveness of all of our sins. And yet we too must walk humbly and take heed lest we too would fall. “No temptation has overtaken you or me that is not common to mankind.” Sin is deadly in any form and threatens to separate each and every one of us from God.
Faithful Living: But in the midst of every temptation; every danger of sin, God is faithful to make the way out. This is the power of Christ at work in you; God’s open ended faithfulness that watches over you and stays with you through every hour. When we are faced with disappointment, trouble, sorrow, pain, illness, and temptations, we have the comfort and security that God is faithful. The same Jesus who died on the cross to forgive you is the same Jesus working in your Baptism, and is the same Jesus who is faithful to remain with you. He will see you through every trial, give you the strength to endure, and give you the words to proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.