Sermon from 16 December 1990 Sunday of the Forefathers
Have you ever wondered how it was possible for the Jews, God’s chosen people, to miss the coming of the Messiah? God chose the Jews to be His own people, he rescued them countless times from military defeat, from slavery, exile, and from their own sins. God sent His Holy Spirit upon certain men and women among the Jews to lead, guide and teach them about how to live and about His coming Messiah. He chose men and women to serve as prophets, priests, kings and judges, to shape and direct the people so that they could recognize the Messiah and their own destiny as God’s elect people in the world. They were chosen to be the light to the world and the salt of the earth. Yet these same Jews on countless occasions failed God, and did not faithfully fulfill their vocation. In fact, in their greatest moment of all, when God stood in their midst, the Jews did not recognize who Jesus was. They rejected their God and crucified the Messiah.
Today’s scripture lessons offer us two reasons why God’s people fail in their God-given vocation. In today’s epistle reading we learn how sin prevents people from fulfilling their vocation. The Lord Jesus also told us a parable about how the concerns for daily living blind people to God’s activity and calling in the world.
These two factors – pre-occupation with daily concerns and sinfulness prevented the Jews of old from living for God’s Kingdom, and will prevent us today from doing the same.
How do daily concerns and sinfulness prevent us from doing God’s will?
First, let us look at the effects of sinfulness on our lives and our ability to live for God’s Kingdom.
St. Paul in his letter to the Church at Colossae said that we must put to death everything in ourselves that prevents us from doing God’s will. Here are his words as recorded in the Amplified Bible:
So when Christ Who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. So kill the evil desire lurking in you – those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry…….. Put away and rid yourselves completely of all these things: anger, rage, bad feeling towards others, curses and slander and foulmouthed abuse and shameful utterances from your lips. Do not lie to one another…. (3:5,8)
“What Paul is saying is,`Put to death every part of your self which is against God and keeps you from fulfilling His will.’” (Wm. Barclay). We must kill in ourselves our own self-centeredness and selfishness. Because it is our sinful selfishness and sinful self-centeredness which prevents us from seeking and doing God’s will. This is why the Lord Jesus calls us to repentance from the first time he spoke to us. He invites us to break free from our bondage to sinful self-centeredness and to turn to God.
But what happened when Christ called people to repentance and pointed out their sinfulness?
Yes, they became angry and wanted to kill him. They totally missed the invitation to God’s Kingdom and the Great Messianic Banquet because they wanted to continue in their sinful and self centered ways. They were not willing to die to their sinful desires through repentance. Instead, they defiantly killed the one who could save them from themselves. Their sinfulness got the upper hand and they tried to destroy the Kingdom of God.
Now there is a second reason given in the scripture as to why the Jews rejected their God. The first was the sinfulness and selfishness we just spoke of. The second reason comes from the first but is more subtle in its work in us. In the Parable of the Great Banquet, Jesus told us how concern for daily affairs caused Israel to reject God’s will and His Kingdom.
When the Master issued His invitation to the Great Banquet, what did the people say?
They all alike began to offer excuses for why they would not come – one just bought land and wanted to go see it, another bought a team of oxen and wanted to try them out, and another said he had just gotten married so he could not come. Each person had a reason as to why he could not enter into the Grand Banquet of the Master.
Those excuses continue with us today. One says, “We just bought a house and are busy moving, fixing things up and getting settled in, therefore we don’t have time for God’s Kingdom right now.” Another says, “My job is very demanding, and I have to work a lot of overtime and then I need my free time to relax and work around the house, I don’t have time for God’s Kingdom.” And the third one says, “I have a lot of family commitments, visiting in-laws, helping my children, there just aren’t enough hours in the day, so I don’t have time for God’s Kingdom right now.”
These excuses are more subtle, for they aren’t sinful exactly, and they aren’t lies. But concern with daily affairs also caused the Jews to completely miss our Messiah, God’s Son in the flesh. We must get to the point where our lives are so centered on and connected with the Kingdom of God that our homes, jobs and families become the very points at which we are preparing ourselves for the Kingdom rather then excuses for why we have no time for God.
Today’s Scripture Lessons are not meant to blame the Jews for spiritual failure. They are given to us for our edification so that we can learn how to live. We cannot change what people in the past did, but we can learn to change our own behavior. My friends, let us put off our old and sinful selves, so that we can clearly see God’s Kingdom in our midst. Let us repent of sins so that we can be healed by Christ and reunited to God. Let us openly denounce sin and selfishness whenever it is exposed in our lives. In this way we will be able to see God’s Kingdom and love God’s Son and we will overcome the evil one.