October 11, 2017
“Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” ~ Sermon for October 8, 2017
Our New Testament reading this morning offers a timely lesson in greed, entitlement and violence.
Jesus uses a parable to illustrate God’s displeasure in the handling of the resources entrusted to the leaders.
This series of parables takes place in Jerusalem as the crowds gather to question Jesus.
The Pharisees are trying to trip him up by asking difficult questions.
Jesus artfully deflects their criticism of him while shining the light on their own behaviors.
Listen now for what Jesus might be saying to you in this reading from the gospel of Matthew 22:33-45.
Here ends the reading of God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding, God’s blessing. Amen.
Please pray with me.
God, our beloved, you set before us the goal of new life in Christ.
May we live in the power of his resurrection and bring forth the fruit of your gentle and loving rule.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
What is there to say?
What possible words could I conjure up to help you comprehend 58 people killed and over 500 injured by one lone man in a hotel room full of guns?
What kind of world are we living in?
This most recent act of horror has particularly troubled me because I didn’t seem to care.
It’s not that I wasn’t saddened thinking of the death of all those innocent concert-goers or bothered by the pictures of the blood of hundreds of injured people on the streets of Las Vegas.
What rattled me most was that I felt indifferent.
When I heard the news, my first response was ‘not again.’
It took a few days for my outrage at these senseless killings to develop.
Finally after hearing story upon story of the people who were killed I caved in to despair.
I don’t want to debate the politics of gun ownership or constitutional rights with any of you, but I do have to ask, ‘Is this the world we envision?’
“Is this God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven?’
“What is wrong with us?”
Violence is nothing new.
Our scripture reading this morning tells the story of ‘the wicked tenants.’
The wicked tenants wanted the land for themselves so they killed the owner’s slaves and sons.
Jesus asks what do you think the owner will do when he finds out?
What do you think the owner of our world will do when he sees how we treat one another?
I suspect our creator is heartbroken, but I am quite certain that the promise of eternal love will prevail.
Often my ideas for sermons come to me in that period of time between sleeping and waking.
In the early morning dusk I will wake with a clarity that I did not have the day before.
Earlier this week, I woke up with the words “sola scriptura’ going through my head.
‘Sola Scriptura’ was the cry of the Protestant reformers in the 16th century.
It translates into “Only Scripture” and characterized Martin Luther’s belief that scripture was to be the focus of the church.
Our women’s bible study group has been reading about the reformation and just last week we had talked about ‘sola scriptura.’
Hearing this message I realized that what I could give you in response to the turmoil in the world was the psalms of lament penned by our ancestors when they felt their world was out of control.
A psalm of lament is a plea directed to God begging for God’s intervention.
There are many, but psalm 77 provides both a lament and a resolution. Let’s use our ancestor’s words to give voice to our own lament:
I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.
I think of God, and I moan; I meditate, and my spirit faints.
You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
This first section speaks to the overwhelming nature of chaos in the world.
I consider the days of old, and remember the years of long ago.
I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit:
“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love ceased forever?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
The psalmist remembers a time when things were not so bad. He give voice to our fear that God has abandoned us.
And I say, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
I will remember your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God?
The psalmist allows himself to find hope in God.
You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples.
With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
The psalmist remembers that God is powerful and loving.
Reassurance comes in remembering that God is there and that God will not give up on God’s beloved people.
Poet, writer Ann Weems wrote her own psalm of lament following the death of her young son.
O God of my heart
it is your name I call
when the stars do not come out.
O God of my soul,
it is to you I turn
when the torrents of terror
O God of mercy,
it is for your hand I reach
when I stumble
on the stones of sorrow.
O God of justice,
it is to you I cry
when the landslide of grief
I stand beneath the night
where stars used to shine
at the luminaries of the sky
until I could walk
the ink-blue beach
between their shining.
Then their shining stopped,
for they left the sky,
and you, O God,
left with them.
And I am left
beneath a starless sky
with a starless heart
that barely beats.
Will your stars
never shine again?
Will they never again
speak of your mystery?
Will they never again sing
to my soul?
Will I never again know
of the God
of star and sky?
O God of my heart,
peel back the night
and let the starlight
pour out upon
my upturned face.
Let my eyes drink
a sky of stars.
Let my heart bathe
in the stunning light
until my soul sings again
with the conviction
of the faithful.
In your mercy and justice,
O God of my heart,
call me by name,
and the stars will shine
as they did
on that morning
when they first began
My friends, the world is a crazy place right now.
Our expectations of safety and solace have been upended.
When words fail us and despair sets in we remember that we do know what to say:
Lord, listen to your children praying.
Lord, send your Spirit in this place.
Lord, listen to your children praying,
Send us love, send us power, send us grace.
Let us pray.
Loving God, whose messengers have shown us the way of righteousness, and whose revelation in Jesus Christ has demonstrated humble obedience to your will, lead us this day to the joy they have known through serving you, that our witness may be as authentic as theirs and be influential in the lives of all we meet, adding to your realm in heaven and on earth. Be with us this day as we turn our hearts to you seeking your love, power and grace.
Hear our prayers this morning for those who we love.
For those who are sick, we pray for healing.
For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.
For all the peoples of your world, O God, we pray for the violence to end and for hearts everywhere to turn toward peace.
Hear now the silent prayers of our hearts…