God is likely to fail again!

In the actual preaching he often adds a few comments and connections as inspired that are not in this text.The following sermon is a working manuscript from which Fr. Jos Tharakan, Rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Russellville, AR, Preached today.

In the jungles of South America in 1978 there was a massacre. Innocent people who longed to experience love and acceptance fell into the hands of a man who was misguided by power and passion. Not many escaped the wrath of evil that night. But a few who did live in guilt, while still struggling to understand all that happened and how they were spared from the brink of untimely death. They still wonder why did God spare them? What was God’s plan for them? Guilt, fear and anger still haunt them. Today that is the story of one of our own, Sheree Hodge. She was baptized by Rev. Jim Jones the cult leader who poisoned 908 in Guyana in 1978. She was spared from that tragedy and lives to share the story of grace even in the midst of the terrible tragedy that happened. God’s ways are unknown to man. God’s grace, however is available to all. Here is the witness for God’s grace and she lives and works, loves and cares for us amongst us. This is a day of celebration because we are all spared for one reason or another in the great plan of God, for a greater and deeper purpose.

Today’s Scripture reading from Mathew is a very powerful story we have heard many times over. This is a story whereby Jesus challenges the narrow identity carved out of national fundamentalism and theological and religious Puritanism. This is a story we all need to pay attention to.

In different words, Jesus shows light into the hidden corners of human understanding of Grace. Many times our definition of grace, by Christians of all kinds, fall short of the reality of how God makes choices. Religiosity is defined very differently in this parable.

There are two classes of people represented in today’s story. One class of people that takes pride in being clear about who they are in the eyes of God, of the society and of the world around them, and the other class of people who are, while serving the other, not clear about their standing with God, society and the world around them. For the first group, they are clear about their identity as chosen and set apart by God.

The second group of people in the story, the tax collectors and the prostitutes served a purpose in the Israeli society, but primarily for the benefit of the Romans than the Israelites.

The tax collectors were the instruments in the hands of the Romans to tone down the political pride of the chosen people. The tax collectors served as reminders to the chosen race, that their political identity is only as good as their pride.

Then there are the prostitutes. According to Mosaic law a child born of a Jewish mother was considered Jewish. Now there are Jewish women here, along with the pureblooded Jewish Pharisees and leadership, sleeping with the Roman soldiers and producing babies. Children born to them were of a mixed and therefore unacceptable people, namely the Roman soldiers. These women and their job challenged the sectarian purity of the Jewish people and questioned their capacity to remain pure.

Religious and sectarian purity was questioned. The chosen nature of the people of Israel is now to be shared with the Romans, and then the gentiles, and then list grew even further beyond the boundaries of Israel. There was every reason for them to be afraid of. Because the identity of God’s only people is now being shared by a lot more they didn’t want to share it with. Jesus tells them that God is capable of adding more people, even those that might break our narrow identities and convictions, to the chosen race.

They hated Jesus’ teaching. Because it questioned their preserved and guarded political, sectarian and religious identity. God became accessible to people they did not like. Grace became a common thing available even to those they cared about least, but took advantage of. Jesus teachings seem to confuse the understanding of God. God did not seem to take seriously the principles of human ethics.

Something tells me that If we put God to test on ethical standards of the world, God is likely to fail.

I like the story of the 100th birthday party where a man was interviewed by a reporter with the stupid question, “What one thing are you most proud of after having lived such a long life?”

The old man replied, “Well, here I am, 100 years old and I don’t have a single enemy in the world.”

The impressed reporter responded, “That is truly remarkable, sir. What made it possible for you to be able to say such a thing?”[1]

“Well,” said the 100 year old man, “I’ve outlived every one of them.”

Those whom I have outlived are not around me, but they share in the light of God. Act now is simply the principle of the story, because waiting to do the right thing in the future will only leave you by yourself in the world and those to whom you were to do right, will be in the company of God while you are left behind.

Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words 

I get words all day through 
First from him, now from you Is that all you blighters can do

Don’t talk of stars Burning above; If you’re in love,

Show me! Tell me no dreams

Filled with desire. If you’re on fire, Show me!

Here we are together in the middle of the night!

Don’t talk of spring! Just hold me tight!

Anyone who’s ever been in love’ll tell you that

This is no time for a chat! Haven’t your lips

Longed for my touch? Don’t say how much,

Show me! Show me!

Don’t talk of love lasting through time.

Make me no undying vow. Show me now!

Sing me no song! Read me no rhyme!

Don’t waste my time, Show me!

Don’t talk of June, Don’t talk of fall!

Don’t talk at all! Show me!

Never do I ever want to hear another word.

There isn’t one I haven’t heard.

Here we are together in what ought to be a dream;

Day one more word and I’ll scream!

Haven’t your arms Hungered for mine?

Please don’t “expl’ine,” Show me! Show me!

Don’t wait until wrinkles and lines

Pop out all over my brow, Show me now![2]

Let us not waste our time figuring out the rightness of what we do, but be present, caring and loving to those around us today before they all get to heaven and we are still left behind wondering what is wrong with God? Instead of knowing we didn’t act when we were called upon to act and live today.

[1] Brett Blair, esermons.com

[2] From the Movie “My Fair Lady”.

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