More than a favor!

Sermon for Sunday November 24, 2019
Passages: Isaiah 36:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Luke 12:13-31

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

The other day while I was listening to the radio, an ad began with the sound of jingle bells. And the announcer asked, “when you hear that sound you know what time of the year it is?” What would we answer? Thanksgivings or maybe Christmas? Yet, the announcer immediately began yelling “its the season for shopping…” It’s no big secret that once summer vacations wrap up and schools begin, the majority of us begin preparing for the expenses of the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, which can be anything from extravagant dinner tables and parties to far more expensive gift exchanges, travel, splurging on items we want for ourselves, etc. As the humorous yet, painful statement reads, “the day after we express what we are thankful for, we go crazy to buy the things we want.” Tis the season!

The Gospel today begins with a man who comes to Christ and asks that Jesus become a mediator or a judge, in a dispute between his brother and him. As Christians we all know that Jesus is a just judge and so who better to make your case to. But I want to take a step back and ask, what do we know about the background to today’s Gospel? Today’s reading of Luke begins with a man from the multitude, “from the crowds.” And this is important to understand because we see that Jesus was not sitting alone. He wasn’t having coffee with the Disciples or chatting with someone. We read from the start of this chapter that in this moment, Christ Jesus is surrounded by thousands of people. He is teaching and speaking to everyone equally – not privately. And what really strikes me is what he is teaching in the verses prior to this: “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God…” (vv. 8-9) Now, a question to ponder for all of us for a moment, why were their thousands of people listening to Jesus speak? His reputation preceded him as a wise healer, teacher, prophet, etc. 

Repeatedly we see how the disciples, the Pharisees and the people at large witnessed, observed, heard the miracles Jesus did, the teachings he gave and the life that he lived. Perhaps none of these people had a full grasp of who Jesus Christ was – the Son of God who has come to bring salvation to the world. Perhaps this was not understood but everyone openly had seen the works of Christ. That is why Jesus was constantly surrounded, that is why people took time off work, packed up their belongings and followed Jesus. That is why this man, out of all these thousands of other people seized the opportunity to ask Jesus Christ for a favor.

My dears, this man represents each one of us. We are each part of the multitude, one out of the thousands and millions who hear Jesus Christ teach every Sunday. We have learned his teachings, we have observed his healings, we have each in our lives somehow witnessed to the greatness and the love of our faith in Christ. Yet, like this man, how many of us go to Christ merely for a favor? We seize our opportunity to communicate with God and stepping forward from the multitude, we stop short of asking for greatness and merely ask for something small. Thus our faith in God remains only surface level in as much that “we believe because we get.”

Perhaps the multitude did not know who Christ truly was, because it had not been revealed to them yet. But we know who Jesus Christ is. The Only begotten Son of our Father in Heaven – God in flesh, revealed to us, who came out of the love of the Father to die for our sins, so that we may live. And yet, when Christ becomes for us a magician or a friend to whom we go to for “favors” we are in fact committing the one act that Jesus speaks about earlier – we deny God in front of others because we deny who He really is. We don’t only deny God with words – we do so by our lives. Lives that have seen all those great things God has blessed us with and yet, still we go to Him for the simple, mundane and ultimately that which is not going to strengthen our communion with him or each other. 

Our God is not a God of favors – He is Love. Our God is not a God of tricks – He is Action. Our God is not a God of means – He is Life. So when we go to God, when we pray, why do we limit our prayers to mere simple desires or favors, limited in the material. Rather, if we seek righteousness, if we seek wisdom, if we seek communion with God, as we read in the Gospel of Matthew, God will bless us with these and more (6:33).

My dears, the radio ad began with the sounds of Christmas and drew the listeners attention to shopping and material gain. So I ask us, when we hear the teachings of Christ Jesus, when we read and listen to scripture, to the Divine Liturgy, when we attend Church and are consumed by the sights and smells of the Holiness, where does our attention draw to? A bearded man who we go to for favors? Or an all loving, all powerful, compassionate God and all His blessings of love, hope and resurrection, of communion? Tis the season, yes my dears. And for us, this season serves as an opportunity to turn back to, repent and renew our communion with God in order to truly understanding of who Christ Jesus in our lives, a life that is called to glorify Him eternally, Amen!