Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (12B) – July 25, 2021 – 2 Samuel 11:1-15, Psalm 14, John 6:1-21 – Trinity, Winchester
Let’s begin today’s sermon the way we begin the Eucharist, with the Collect of the Day.
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
With God as our protector, we pray to pass through the realm of the temporal without losing sight of the realm of the eternal. We pray that, with God’s guidance, we might live out our brief stint on this earth without forgetting those things that have always been and will forever be.
We might think of it this way: As we walk the earth, we pray that the promise of heaven might ever be fixed in our sight.
This is not to say that we should be focused on eternal things for the sole purpose of personal motivation or reward. I do not believe that we are meant to trod begrudgingly the pathways of our lives fixated on a heavenly reward like horses following a dangling carrot.
Rather, I believe that one of the reasons we pray this morning to remember things eternal is because doing so gives us much-needed perspective.
Eternal things–the things of God and of Jesus, of the religious and of the spiritual–remind us in the midst of our day to day lives that even that which is year to year and age to age is but the blink of an eye in the sight of the one who is everlasting to everlasting.
One of the virtues of this kind of perspective is that it keeps us aware of the fact that God is God and we are not, that God’s ways are not our ways, that there just might be a better way to respond to present circumstances or envision future possibilities.
This is the idea behind those little bracelets that they gave us in Youth Group, isn’t it? WWJD? What would Jesus do? Implicit in the question is the reminder that Jesus’ example gives us something to strive for, something to emulate . . . insofar as we can.
In Jesus, son of God and son of the human race, God gives us a glimpse of the eternal amidst the temporal.
When we pray that “we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal,” we are asking God to keep doing the very thing he did–and still does–in Jesus Christ. We are asking God to remind us that there is a better way, something for which we can strive along life’s narrow way.
“Give us a little glimpse of your kingdom, O Lord, for we need it.” Boy do we need it. Constantly we need it. We have needed it for a long, long time.
Even King David needed it long, long ago. Like so many of us still, David confused what was really a longing for a glimpse of the eternal with his desire for a glimpse of something very different. “So [he] sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her.”
David had a habit of getting so caught up in trying to create his own eternity that he forgot to take stock of his reality. He forgot what kind of king he was.
“Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”
No, David, that’s not for you to decide.
Surely it is David and those of his ilk that the psalmists had in mind when they wrote, “All are corrupt and commit abominable acts; there is none who does any good . . . Every one has proved faithless . . . Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers who eat up my people like bread?”
Please understand, I’m not attempting to pit the Old Testament against the New. I am not saying that God sent Jesus to cure the evils of the Old Testament.
I’m not saying that the Word was made flesh because the teachings of Judaism couldn’t procure salvation. To say that would be to say that God failed, over and over again. To say that would be to say that all that stuff we read about from Genesis and Malachi is worn out and must be put up for good.
To say that would be to call meaningless the prophecy God spoke through the mouths of his servants, the psalms God sang through the pens of his poets, the Red Sea waters that God lifted up by the hand of Moses, the bow that God set in the clouds for Noah and his clan to see, the sacred promise God made to Abraham, or even the creation which God fashioned out of nothing. To say that would be to say that these are not covenants worth remembering.
Are these recorded in the pages of Holy Scripture, the very record of time and eternity, as reminders of what God could not do? Are they merely records of things that might have been but failed to be?
I say no! These are the very essence of our salvation, a salvation that God has been enacting in human history ever since such a thing began. This is not a salvation redone or reimagined, but rather one that continued with the advent of the Messiah, and one that continues to this day in the presence of this Jesus whom God raised from the dead.
These things are–all of them–glimpses of the eternal for which we pray this day. These things are–all of them–signs that God has, since time began, been showing us little bits of eternity.
The real miracle is that God keeps doing it.
In spite of our foolishness since the days of King David and long before, God has, time and time again, renewed the promise of eternity by reaching forth a hand in covenant loyalty as if to say, “I am here, and I will never go away. No matter what you do, no matter what you say, I am in this for keeps.”
The one who formed you in your mother’s womb, who knew you even before you twinkled in the eye of some unknown beholder, is constantly calling you into relationship.
That divine relationship is not a testament to something old or new, but to the one thing that is constant: the faithfulness of a God who never ceases to work the wonders of eternity.
It is those very wonders that we pray to behold not only by recounting God’s saving deeds long past but today.
Have you seen any lately?
I remember a man leery of doing too much for others. “Better not give them all of that or they’ll get used to it, be back for more before you know it!”
We finally got him to go downtown with us into the basement of an old church. Hundreds lined the surrounding blocks waiting for a hot meal.
“Don’t know what difference it’ll make. They’ve still gotta sleep outside tonight.”
If you’d believe it, though, we got him to go back again. And again. After we took him a few times, he began to get a sense of it. He even made friends with a few folks who remembered his name. But it wasn’t until he began to remember their names that he really started to understand the difference it did make, he did make, God did make in that place.
It was a difference that had very little to do with lumpy mashed potatoes or weak lemonade and much more to do with being named and claimed, with being called into relationship, with getting used to being there for someone.
It is a difference that has to do with being a part of God’s plan for salvation instead of remaining ignorant of it, or worse–in opposition to it.
So often we are the ones saying, “My salary could never buy enough food for all these people.”
“There’s a kid here with a box of crackers, but I don’t know what good it’s gonna do in a crowd this size.”
But that is not how we will move toward eternity. That is not how we glimpse the Kingdom of God.
No, we can only do that if we show up faithfully and start passing out what is there. Once everyone’s had enough, we just might find that we can make quite a nice meal from what remains.