Sermon Epiphany 7 February 24, 2019

Genesis 45:3-11, 15   Psalm 37:1-12, 41-42

1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50       Luke 6:27-38

May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Last week our readings told us to live a righteous life, following God’s Law in spirit and substance.  This week it naturally falls that we will be saying  “Oh yeh, if we do that others will take advantage of us as we live under the constraints of the Law’.  Now normally if someone does us harm we want to fetch them one in return – left hook, right hook, uppercut – ok we want to fetch them three good ones.  My first point is that living under the Law is not a constrained life but a freed one.  You are not worried about what to do, there is no uncertainty, you know what to do, how to live.  You know that a good clip to the chin is not the best way to go.  Jesus gets into that with His turn-the-other-cheek advice.  If someone offends you with a backhanded slap on the face, if you stand and take it, the aggressor to hit you again will have to slap you with his palm.  How wimpy is that ?  They will be humiliated and you can walk away with pride.  And consider how demeaning fisticuffs would be, especially as there is a good chance you would lose.  Walk away with your head held high, don’t fight !

The second message we hear today of how to live within the Law is to be patient.  God will provide, in His good time.  I got really annoyed at a preacher praying on tv the other day.  He asked for a favour from God and he finished his prayer with the words  “Right now” !  I think that’s a sure fire way for God to ignore the request as a whole.  The prototypical story of having patience and waiting for God’s good time is the story of Joseph.  Sold by his brothers into slavery, given the devil of a time by his captors, he proved himself to be better than most men and rose to a very high position governing Egypt.  Different things were possible in those ancient times.  Unlike western slavery where the slave is considered worthless as a human being, subhuman even, slaves in the east could live with dignity if they showed themselves worthy.  You remember Abram was concerned that his slave Eliezer as master of his household would inherit his wealth because Abram had no son.  Diocletian rose from being a slave to become Roman Emperor and there are many others who through prowess achieved much.  I am not making a case for slavery here.  It is wrong !  The point I want to make is that patience is a great thing.  By being patient we show respect and confidence in God that He will work things out.  Joseph did that.  On the other hand Abram made a big mistake having a son Ishmael by his slave Hagar, not being willing to wait for God’s timing.  Ishmael his son by Hagar unfortunately was the cause of much friction for Abraham and Sarah, for Hagar and Ishmael of course, and for all following generations.  Wait on the LORD is today’s lesson.

But you might doubt that patience is good.  Of course patience is a traditional virtue but does it apply today in our world of instant communication and gratification ?  I answer  “yes”.

When you smell a good meal being cooked, the first inclination is to take a sip or a spoonful or just a little bit from the pot.  Now to cook a meal properly takes time.  And if you wait, sit down at the table and serve or are served that delicious dish, you find how much better it is to enjoy in leisure and comfort.  I get annoyed at those tv commercials where the family is sitting around the kitchen counter, the kitchen counter of all places !  chewing on whatever they call dinner.  Do it right, for God’s sake !  Sit down at the table and enjoy a meal in comfort and style.  The new Food Guide got that bit right at least.  Wait to do it right.  Wait for the LORD.  As God is the Master of Time give Him the time to work on your problems your hopes your dreams.

We all have occasion to ask God for a favour, about a family, a financial, or a physical dilemma that we face, where else are we going to turn when all other avenues don’t help ?  To God of course !  Even atheists turn to God at the end, they are not faithful to their creed by any means.  It’s not only natural, it’s right to turn to God.  Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane turned to God for help.  He knew He was going to suffer a painful death in the next twenty-four hours.  He was human.  He also knew that God had a greater purpose for His suffering.  So He said  “Not My will, but your will be done”  (Luke 22:42).  Out of that came not only a gruesome death but a redemption for the whole of humanity that was not otherwise possible;  that was always God’s intent, we didn’t know how God would do it, and frankly would have chosen another but imperfect way, and consequently we could not achieve the redemption we so desperately need.

Next time you are faced with a dilemma you cannot solve ask God for help.  Ask our prayer groups to pray on your behalf, and then wait.  Don’t take things into your own hands, it will go wrong as sure as God made little apples.  God will provide an answer even if it is the worst answer imaginable, it will be the right one, and there will be something beautiful coming out of it, eventually.  It will take courage to wait.

The hardest thing to do is for us to live like Jesus, even harder is the prayer of  “Not My will, but your will be done”.  But it is the very thing we must do.  And it is only possible if we can be patient and wait for God’s answer and action.  So many times in my life both answer and action have come from unexpected people, it has and will happen to you when you exercise the patience God has already given you, be patient.  Wait on the LORD.  Amen.

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