Who Do We Think We Are

February 2, 2020 4th Sunday after Epiphany year A

Scripture Readings 

Old Testament Reading 

Micah 6:1-8

6:1 Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.

6:2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.

6:3 “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me!

6:4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

6:5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Acacia to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.”

6:6 “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

6:7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

6:8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Epistle Reading

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

1:20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.

1:22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,

1:23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1:25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1:26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are,

1:29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God.

1:30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

1:31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Gospel Reading 

Matthew 5:1-12

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.

5:2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

5:12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Who Do We Think We Are

All the texts this Sunday, come together to warn the people of God that the world may try to confuse you and that the things society values will look good on the outside but they are not what God desires.

Micah gives us a picture of God outlining a Court case between Himself and Israel. He gives a list of all that He has done for the Israelites. The Israelites only answer is a list of questions that shows they clearly have missed the point. Should they bow before Him? Sacrifice animals? Children? What do you want from us God?

The case ends with a clear list of what God requires.

DO justice

Love mercy

Walk humbly with God

The Israelites had drifted away from God. They were going through the motions, They were going to church but they were also looking around and seeing what society said they should do and since some of the folks were doing well for themselves (which looks a lot  like blessings) they stuck a few idols around and listened to some very charismatic speakers and they thought they had it all together.

So next we jump to the new testament and see that years later, people were not much different. They still missed the mark. 

Ist Corinthians 1:18 

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

At first reading, this seems obvious doesn’t it? We all come to church, serve on committees, help with service projects. Most of us have been coming to church since we were itty bitty. We have heard all the stories many times. But personally, I have been guilty at times of “phoning it in.” Occupying a pew, paying half attention to a sermon, singing a few hymns and then going out to lunch and heading home for a nap or to watch a football game. I’m doing pretty good right? Aren’t I doing what God asks? 

Here is where a pastor might say – no! You need to do more! 

I can bow down to the Lord. I don’t have any animals to sacrifice and my kids are grown…

Maybe familiarity with bible stories and sermons breeds a kind of faith laziness. I think sometimes for me it does. And I look around at the world and I think wow, at least my church is not like that. We believe in treating people fairly. We do food pantry, we pray for each other. We partner with other churches to do Celebrate Recovery. We mentor at the school and support not only the students but the teachers. 

Thank goodness we are working to love our little corner of the world. 

But the world has problems. And I have come to think that they are not moral, or political. They are problems of faith. We have to stop, well let me rephrase that. I have to stop phoning it in. 

We live in a world that has all the answers to all the questions only as far away as our cell phones. We can understand everything if we know how to search. The world has tons of understanding. But…how is that working out for the world? 

How is that working out for any of us?

What does the bible tell us? 

2nd Corinthians 5:7 says “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Galations 3:11, Hebrews 10:38, and Romans 1:17 ALL say “The righteous will live by faith.”

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

If we wait for understanding we might NEVER step out in faith.

Faith comes from trust – NOT understanding. 

I would like understanding. I really would. I go to scripture with one question and leave with three more. But..that keeps me going back. Did you ever have a teacher in school who when you asked them a question, they answered with a question? I never liked that. They wanted you to look deeper, read more, figure it out for yourself so it would become etched in your mind. 

Maybe I’m supposed to keep coming back to scripture, so it will become etched in my heart? 

We don’t need a God of easy answers. We have google. We have books. We have friends smarter than we are. We don’t need a God who can do what we can do. 

We need the God from Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,  to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

There is a greek word – Thaumazo that means to marvel or wonder at. The term is used often in the bible, but there are only two times in the bible where Jesus marvels. 

The first is in Matthew 8:5-13

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

The second is Mark 6:1-6

6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?  Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  He was amazed at their lack of faith.

In the first text Jesus marvelled at how much faith a Roman soldier – a non-Jew had. In the second, He marvelled at how little faith his own Jewish people had!

Both times Jesus marvelled, it had to do with faith. If God looks at our church I wonder, will He be surprised at how MUCH faith we have? Or by how little?

We are crucified with Christ and we live by faith, trusting in God. If you were not a believer and follower of Jesus Christ you might say “Well, Dee, that is impossible!” 

I would say I know! 

It is! 

A mere girl carried a baby without having had a physical relationship and that baby would grow up to be a Jewish guy that would be arrested and nailed to a cross and die and be buried and then rise again. That’s what I am going to put all my trust in? Impossible! Yes! It is! That is a foolish thing to believe! Yes!

Think about it. Here I am up here speaking and I can look out and see that well, everyone in the pews is wiser, kinder, more Godly than I am. How can God use me? I don’t know! 

If you tell me I have faults that should keep me from being up here speaking about God, I would say you don’t know half of it! 

Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus calls his Disciples to him and begins teaching them. Even for the disciples, there always seems to be a disconnect between how people think things should work and how God actually relates to us. 

The Beatitudes are very familiar to us.To be poor in spirit means that we realize we are nothing compared to God. What a paradox. Society values self-sufficiency. God values our need for Him. It seems appropriate that this would be the first teaching because this is how we open the door to let Him in to begin teaching us.The desire to have a relationship with our creator. The humbling realization that in ourselves, the best we can do is less than nothing compared to who we are in Him.

To live in this world means to constantly hold in tension, the balance between how the world functions and the way the Kingdom of God is supposed to work. We or at least I, have to remain teachable.

Every time I think I understand, I do something I shouldn’t do or I don’t do something I should. 

But from Genesis to Revelation God only used ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. 

How foolish Noah must have looked. His friends would have said hey Noah, what are you doing? 

Building an ark.

What’s an ark? 

A boat.

Why are you building a boat? 

Rain is coming.

They must have laughed like crazy. A boat. In the desert. 

Moses had the Red sea in front of him, the Egyptian army behind him and a bunch of Israelites all saying Moses! What are we gonna do. I don’t know. I have this staff…

Sarah was knitting baby booties. Her friends might have asked “Sarah, what are you doing?” “Knitting for my baby!” Ummm Sarah? That ship has sailed, honey.

How foolish did the Israelites look as they marched around Jericho. Togas and sandals. No guns or bombs. Marching. 1234.

How foolish did David look – nine foot giant and itty bitty slingshot?

How foolish did Esther look going to the king unsummoned?

 It could have cost her her life!

What about Mary? Joseph, I promise! I promise! It was an angel!

How foolish did the wisemen look following a star?

How foolish did Peter look stepping out of the boat?

How foolish did the Roman centurion look – just say the word, you don’t even have to come in and my servant will be healed?

How foolish did the woman with the blood issue look – just grabbing the hem of Jesus garment?

How foolish did Paul and Silas look singing It Is Well With My Soul in a prison cell?

How foolish did the little boy look – five loaves, 2 fish, 5000 people, on the mountainside.

I’m in a little country town in Texas. I don’t have anything to offer that God could use. Maybe I’m just grasping at the hem of His garment.

Jesus certainly looked foolish – hanging naked on a cross with people saying THAT’S him? 

People are still saying “That’s him? That’s who you are gonna put it all on the line for?”

But guess what? Because ordinary people decided to say yes – that they would trust God and they would live by faith even when it seemed to make no sense and they did not understand….because they decided it was okay to look foolish in the eyes of men….

what happened? 

Noah’s family was saved from the flood 

Moses did see the Red Sea part and Sarah did give birth to Isaac 

The Israelites did see the wall of Jericho come down and David did defeat the giant and Esther stopped the Jewish genocide. Mary gave birth to Jesus. 

The wisemen found the Messiah, Peter walked on water, the Centurion’s servant was healed, the woman with the issue of blood – she was healed, Paul and Silas got out of that prison. 

That little boy fed 5000 –  

and Jesus Christ?  He got off that cross and he defeated hell and he defeated death and he holds the keys to hell and death and the same spirit that lives on the inside of him lives on the inside of you and lives on the inside of me so we can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us! 

The church in Corinth had problems. The church today has problems. Paul didn’t argue about who was right and who was wrong. He reminded the church of Corinth who they were and whose they were. He redirected their focus back to what and WHO is important and everything else paled in comparison.

1st Corinthians 1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

What does God require?

Do Justice

Love Mercy

Walk humbly with God

I don’t have much To offer you Lord. A couple of loaves and a few fish. My heart and my words. My trust. My faith.

Amen.

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