What do I owe God?

Sermon for Sunday October 13, 2019
Passages: Isaiah 19:1-11; Galatians 2:1-10; Mark 12:35-44

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

When I began to reflect and think about what message I could share with you all today, reflecting upon the Gospel – as I do every week, my first thought was where can I find a story or illustration to grasp our attentions and make this sermon relevant. Many of us know today’s Gospel story, about the women who gives out of nothing more than others give out of their abundance. So I began looking for stories about giving, sacrifice and debt. As with the majority of us in today’s technological world, one of the first places I looked was Google. Yet, as I searched for a story about giving, sacrifice and debt, all I found online was information about paying off loans and mortgages, credit card debt, etc. And as I quickly made my way through the online pages, a thought came to me, who among us doesn’t have debt? Who hasn’t had student loans to pay off, credit cards, financial hardship? Who doesn’t know what it’s like to owe someone something? Arguably all of us if not majority.  And so what could be more relevant than knowing what it feels like to be in debt? No story is necessary, because we all have our own.

Debt is one of those things, that try as you might, we all fall into. Some greater than others. Some of us for short term, some of us for long term. Yet, debt comes in many other forms than just financial. The idea of debt to society – doing good to others because of what good we have received. A debt to our parents – for the life they gave us. A debt of gratitude – to all those who stood by us. When a friend helps another – what do we often say? I owe you. What about a debt to God – for all his blessings and guidance? What do we owe to God?

Whenever we speak about the relationship of God and humanity, we often start our story in Genesis, and many of us get lost in the narrative of how God gave us life and then we sinned – we fell, we broke our promise to God. And as a result, in the Old Testament, sacrifices had to be made to pay for our “debt of sin.” We owed God for what we had been blessed with such as health, life, family, crops, etc. and as well for our sins. All throughout scripture we read our our debt had to be paid through sacrifice, of how the “wages of sin is death” as St. Paul writes in Romans (6:23) And the Israelite’s offered sacrifices to God. As a part of the sacrifices, tithing was also practiced – where families and individuals would also financially sacrifice and pay a monetary amount, a tenth of their income, towards the temple and God. In fact, that is what we are reading about in the Gospel today – “Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.” This is an example of the worshipers tithing, after having made their physical sacrifice. And in their minds, they had paid their debt to God. They paid what they owed for all the blessings they had for that year.

Yet, as Christian’s how do we think about our debt to God? What do each of us owe to God? After all we believe that Christ Jesus, came into this world, died and “paid” for our sins on the cross – correct? Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice after which no other sacrifices are necessary, as we read in Hebrews chapter 10 – Jesus was the One true sacrifice. So what else do we owe God if our debt has been paid?

My dear brothers and sisters, going back to the story of Genesis – when God created everything – what did He command or require from humanity vs. all other creatures? To take care of creation, to watch over, to tend – in one word to be stewards. When we act in faith, when we follow God’s commandments – how many of us think of it as a purpose rather than a means? What I mean by this is, how many of us give, forgive, love, repent, pray, fast, “act Christian” because we think and believe that by doing so, I am paying my debt, I am doing my part and God will keep giving me as long as I keep doing so? I am making a sacrifice, I am paying my debt off in sorts.

Reality is too many of us. That is why many people believe that being a good person is good enough. If I’m a good person, if I am nice, forgiving and I give to charity then I have paid my debt to God or society or whatever subject matter you want to place there. However, my dears God is not a subject to which we owe anything. God doesn’t need us to pay anything off.

Being Christian – is a communion with the Person of Christ Jesus. A relationship and communion with God – not a tally, spreadsheet or invoice, where God says, “I’ve done x, y and z so you owe me blank.” Or “if you do these things, then I will continue to bless you” Our faith in God, our relationship with God is the same way our relationship is with our loved ones, our friends, our families. We act and care for thea because we love them. We do not act out of self-interest (I hope). Even if my friends never help me move, I will always help when I am called upon. Even though my child could realistically never pay me in full for giving them life, and guiding them through it, as a parent, I still sacrifice my sleep and leisure for them becaase I love them.

It is likewise with God. God loved us so much that He gave us life, knowing we would fail and sin and make mistakes. And his love continued so much He gave his one and only Son Christ Jesus to die on the Cross. He guides and directs us. He wants to be our God not so we can owe him anything but because He loves us. And for us to realize our true calling as Christians, as children of God, as heirs is seen through our actions, our trust in Him, our love shown to all creation, as he did for us.

After God had created Adam and Eve, had breathed life into humanity and made us stewards of creation, it was not because we owed him for the life we had. Rather, as stewards, as creatures made in His Divine Image, by doing as God did we begin our own journey towards becoming one with God.

My dear brothers and sisters, what could we possibly do to pay God? Nothing. For Christ Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. And what we do out of faith is not out of some idea of debt to God but is fundamentally, rooted and grown out of love. A Love for God, love for humanity, love for self and love for all creation. Therefore, let us pray to God our Father to illumine our minds and hearts, to empty our thoughts from vain ideas of being in debt to God and rather let us ask that our actions, hopes, aspirations and goals be founded in love and in the Person of Christ Jesus. And when we do this, we each will not only have stories of debt that we can relate to, but real experiences of faith which we can share with this world, spreading light in darkness and giving hope to the hopeless – and thereby glorifying our Father, the Son and Holy Spirit eternally, Amen!

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