Sermon Pentecost 7 July 3, 2016
Isaiah 66:10-14 Psalm 66:1-8 Galatians 6:1-16 Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
We are in the Dog Days of Summer. The Old Farmers’ Almanac says the Dog Days last from July 3, today until August 11, forty of the hottest most humid days of the year. I always thought they were linked to a sight I was familiar with as a child, when my dog would lay flat-out in the shade with his tongue hanging down to the ground and panting, with the look in his eyes that said ‘don’t expect me to get up and play it’s too darned hot’. The history of the Dog Days however can be tracked back much further than that to almost three thousand years ago to a Greek Poet who linked the hot temperatures with the rising of the star Sirius, the Dog Star. Whatever, it’s hot, sticky and it’s the time for vacations not hard physical work. We will save the hard work for Winter shovelling, Spring planting and Autumn harvesting. This Summer – why not submit, like my dog, to the Dog Days, relax and restore, and enjoy.
I have a mind that our Gospel relates a Dog Days story, when Jesus sent a whole bunch of His disciples off into the countryside, to see new places and meet new people. Some I hope were lucky enough to go to the Lake, do a little swimming and fishing, and play around in the water for a while, the way many of us like to do. And I hope and pray that you will be able to take advantage of these Days to do the same. Of course, Jesus wasn’t giving the disciples a few days off but He sent them out with a purpose in mind – to preach, teach and to heal – as He sends us.
As we go into Summer, at home or away, whether we relax or not, we will not be able to avoid making the observation that we live in a wonderful world. Consider all the amazing things that have to happen for the Sun to rise and set (both of which are gorgeous in the Dog Days) for the crops to grow, for animals and birds to do whatever they are intended to do, for water to drink and to cool-off in, for colour, for us and our abilities to make things, from pies to houses, to bridges and music. I truly believe, I am convinced, that all of that cannot be the product of pure chance as some would have us believe. We owe all these wonders to a Creative Force far beyond our cognition or imagination. We call that Creative Force God because we know by revelation that that Force is personal and loving. And we, as grateful loved people, should show due gratitude to our God, in fact, everyone’s God, the One Who is the God of everything.
The Dog Days are also a time for reflexion on not only the larger things in life but upon us, ourselves individually. God has prepared all these things that surround us, for us. How do we fit into them is a good question to ask in the Summer ? What is the purpose of our lives ? How does God figure in our lives ?
If we look back we see that many things have brought us here, or many things have kept us here. There is a matrix of causes and effects that determine our lives. Yes, we have some say in it by the things we decide on but largely it seems to me the causes, the effects and our decisions work together for Good – our Good. We can reason out things by ourselves all we want, we can be persuaded by the advice of others, but the funny thing is before we ponder on great decisions we have already made up our minds. We know what has to be done, even though we might use all sorts of reasons to persuade ourselves to do something else. I have faced that many times in my life. I know that I shouldn’t do something but I have come up with wonderful reasons why I should, and I go ahead and do it – inevitably to later regret my actions.
It’s a funny thing but that kind of dilemma only arises in negative contexts. I’m trying to avoid using the word Sin but I can’t. It’s easy to find reasons when we really try to excuse our transgressions our sins before we sin, and less easy after, when we are filled with remorse and regret. That’s not the case with positive things – doing Good. Faced with a choice to do Good it’s hard to find a reason not to do it.
This says to me that we are basically Good but are tempted to Evil because of our own Nature. We know deep inside what we should do immediately, nanoseconds after a situation arises, we know, then being human we try and figure out what we should do even though we already know what we should do. Our brain likes to take the rational approach (even if the rational approach leads us to doing the wrong thing). But something else that knows better automatically tells us what is the right course of action. That something else is our Spirit, the real unique person that is each of us. Paul said as much two thousand years ago, he said “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:15, 19). Only now are scientists confirming this to us as a ground-breaking discovery, but Paul knew it two thousand years ago, and we knew it the moment we were born. There is a spirit within us that is our guide. It’s not our conscience, the conscience is inspired by the spirit. The spirit is the guide that God gave us so that we will live the life He intended us to live. There is a Plan, God’s Plan that we should all live good lives and eternally, sometimes things get in the way of that but God’s Plan will be worked out for us. So listen to the spirit in you in all that you think, say or do. The Dog Days are a great time to turn off the other things in life, perhaps that’s why we have Dog Days (I said there is a Plan) turn off distractions and listen to your spirit. What is God asking you to do now and when you return to the fray ? How can you fulfill His great wish for you to be complete, happy and holy in His sight ? I pray we all can find that out this Summer. Therefore the Dog Days of Summer are the Good News for today. Amen.