GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
Have you ever lay in the darkness or basked in the light and marveled at what a wondrous gift God has given us in that force called light? And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
One short verse in the epic of creation – 11 words to describe a most wondrous of miracles wrought by The Word of God.
Fifty-eight years ago, I guided tours through Oregon Cave with the National Parks Service. One of the most memorable parts of that tour took place when we were nine-tenths of a mile below the earth’s surface – in a room that was about the size of this church – without the addition. When a couple of tour groups were gathered in that room, one of the guides would turn out the lights. We would then experience total darkness – the ultimate enemy of light.
Here, above ground, we are never in total darkness. Even on the darkest of nights, there is always reflected light coming from somewhere. We can always see shadowy shapes. In the cave, the darkness was total. You could hold your hand an inch from your eyes and not see it – not even in a shadowy vision.
After the people had been in that total darkness for ten or fifteen seconds, one of us would light one little match and hold it above our head. The candlepower of that one little match was enough to illuminate the entire room. We’d ask each person to look into the face of the person next to them. The pupils of their neighbor’s eyes were enormous. God created our eyes with that capability to make the use of the most minimal source of light. When both light and darkness are present the light always wins.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR PERSONAL CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR — JESUS THE CHRIST.
Today’s Gospel reading contained two of Jesus’ best-known parables – The Parable of The Lost Sheep and Parable of The Lost Coin. Both parables stress the importance of Jesus’ Mission to restore our eternal relationship with our Creator.
Our text Follows those two parables. The equally well-known parable is popularly called The Parable of The Prodigal Son after one of the main characters. Believing God to be the main character and focal point of all Gospel parables I have always preferred to title it
The Parable of The Loving Father. Jesus identifies the loving father as “a man who had two sons.......”.
The first-born son was a very responsible person who worked hard toward fulfilling the serious purposes he found in life - exercising his responsibility and dependability in managing his father’s resources and doing all the necessary chores without grumbling. He was loyal to his loving father’s good name.
The younger son had no concern for the family name or for responsibilities which were his in the family. Espousing a way of life which has become quite common in many 21st Century circles, he felt, “It is my life and I’ll live it my way. I’ll do what I want when I want how I want and I couldn’t care less what my father or anyone else may think. I want to be my own person totally in charge of my life. But, Father, I do want you to support me. I know someday half of your possessions will be my inheritance. Well, I don’t want to wait. Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.”
And the loving father divided his living between his two sons.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST AND THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The Lutheran denomination I belonged to when I was in college and seminary had a Board For Service and Mission Division – a board I later served on. One of their main functions was the developing of BIBLE studies on the main ethical issues of the day. The studies were centered in the relevant BIBLE texts and provided a time for prayerful discussion of those texts. That denomination has long since been swallowed up in merger and the BIBLE study booklets are gone as well.
Today the BIBLE study booklets for individual Christian’s thoughts and actions have been replaced by almost weekly partisan pontifications by bishops and church committees misquoting Scripture and using non-Christian advocates as the source of their pronouncements on everything from violence in America to border security to capital punishment to Israeli-Palestinian relations to campaign finance reform.
The Holy Bible has passages in which God speaking through His Word describes the governments God has allowed to exist and their main purpose under God to defend the freedoms of those they are allowed to govern – to defend those unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness by which we have all been endowed by our Creator – which were so powerfully recognized by our forefathers who also recognized the government’s responsibility under God. Here in America – as individual Christian citizens - we share in that responsibility for that government of the people, for the people, by the people under God. Rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, as individual Christian citizens, we stand for our flag to pledge to do all we can to make the country it symbolizes all it claims to be under God.
Our text this morning is one of the most often misquoted and misapplied of those Biblical passages bishops and church committees use to pontificate their partisan opinions to government officials and citizens.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS THE CHRIST — THE ONLY WAY, THE ONLY TRUTH, THE ONLY LIFE — THE NARROW GATE TO SALVATION.
In LUKE 18:25, Jesus was discussing the many things in life that can make us feel self-sufficient and not in need of what only God can give us. That day it was a rich young ruler who trusted in his possessions more than in God. He was seeking an alternate way to earn his way into the Kingdom of God - and Jesus told him “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
Well, what about that camel? Is it easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one of us to earn our own eternal Salvation? Is it even possible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle?
In ancient times, every city had a city gate – not like one of those gates people used to have in the fence by their front lawn. The ancient city Gate was an entire complex. There was a huge iron door followed by a large narrow room where city officials, tax collectors, and soldiers held court. The narrow room led to another huge iron door through which a person entered the city.
I remember how, living in Old City Jerusalem, I walked past that huge iron door with the small door at the bottom every morning. When the huge iron doors were closed, the city gate could only be entered through a small door through which only one person could enter at a time. That door was called the eye of a needle. A camel could enter through the eye of a needle, but first his owner had to remove everything the camel was carrying on his back.
Then the camel needed to get down on its knees to crawl through the narrow doorway.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
And Jesus said, “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE; whoever comes to Me shall never hunger; and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.”
The day after Jesus performed the miraculous feeding of more than 5,000 people, the people came looking for Him and Jesus promised “I AM THE LIVING BREAD That came down from heaven. If anyone eats of This Bread, he will live forever.”
His signs and words are not always thankfully and faithfully accepted for as the aroma of bread baking wafted about the people, they muttered to each other in barely audible low voices.
Jesus and the people moved from outdoors to the synagogue (whose ruins you can see here) and as He taught, the Judeans disputed among themselves against Jesus and His Words. “How can Jesus be what He claims to be and do what He claims to do? His Words defy our human intellect.”
It was so easy to treasure the gift – 5,000 people fed with five barley loaves - and forget the sign and message it was pointing to and even The Giver Himself.
Break Thou The Bread of Life,
Dear Lord, to Me,
As Thou didst break the loaves
Beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord; My spirit pants for Thee, O Living Word.