By the Reverend Scott Homer
2 Pentecost, 2010
In the old days, before women’s rights became front burner issues, and before divorce became a nearly universally accepted option, women often thought and sometimes were taught that if they could make a good catch, if they could secure a good, hardworking, husband that their lives would be safe and secure. Of course, these days even if a woman wanted to find a good, hardworking husband there would be no guarantee that the two of them would stay together. Trusting in another human being for your health and welfare was risky then and it is even more risky now. There was a day when someone would graduate from high school and get a job with an employer with the expectation that their employer would provide them with a decent living for their entire career life. Now, career guidance counsellors tell their clients to expect to change employers every three to five years. Trusting in a corporation for your security is a thing of the past.
Many of us rely on our government to keep us safe and to look out for our best interests but how many of us were disappointed to learn that the Securities and Exchange Commission was not policing the financial markets and that their lack of attention caused us all to suffer massive financial losses? And is anybody other than me upset with the Department of the Interior for granting BP drilling rights for the Deepwater Horizon without first assuring that there was some sort of effective emergency plan in place? And didn’t it make you feel as though your world was much more dangerous after 9/11, when you realized that a small group of uneducated terrorists could walk into a US airport, hijack three commercial airliners and fly them into the World Trade Center and the United States Pentagon?
These are just a few examples but they point out a fundamental human problem. We need help, we recognize we need help, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone or anything we can trust. We recognize that we are incapable of assuring our own wellbeing. There are just too many variables, too many possibilities for us to defend ourselves against them all and we really do need someone or something that has the power to guard and protect us from all the dangers that threaten our security. So we forced to rely upon external resources for our protection and safety: families, institutions, governements. But we are repeatedly discouraged to discover that even these eternal institutions can not protect us and worse than that, sometimes the very things in which we have placed our trust end up being hurtful and destructive.
Is there anything reliable? Is there anything we can really count on? Is there somewhere we can place our hopes and not have those hopes dashed? Well, the good news is that there is something we can trust with absolute certainty that we will not be disappointed. There is a rock solid source of security—a source that has the immense power to overcome all the fundamental forces of the universe that threaten us. And that rock solid source of security is yours in the person of Jesus Christ. He has proven his immense power by exhibiting the ability to bring the dead to life—and ultimately in overcoming even his own death. If you are known by Jesus Christ, if he looks on you with compassion and if he has pity upon you, you can rest assured that you never need worry about your future. He has proven himself able. He is able to restore all that has been lost—even when it appears that all has been lost. He is able and he has promised that he will, lead us into an eternal and glorified life and that we will know joy, peace and freedom from fear—forever. This is the Gospel message the Church proclaims. It is the same message that has been proclaimed for two thousand years. Civilizations have come and gone, but the Word of God has remained unchanged. Jesus died, and rose again, to save sinners.
St Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Galatia begins with a stringent defense of the Gospel message. We just read the beginning of that defense this morning. Did you notice what Paul said? He said, “The Gospel that was preached to me was not man’s gospel for I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul wants us to be clear in ouur understanding. He is insisting that the gospel message, the message that Jesus died to save sinners, that all that believe in Jesus Christ are saved, and that in Christ our futures are blessed and assured, this message is not a set of manmade conclusions drawn from looking at the life of Christ. It isn’t the product of people sitting around doing theology, as admirable as doing theology may be. The gospel is not a human idea about what Jesus’ life meant for us. The Gospel was spoken to Paul, and through Paul to us, by God himself. We have received it not as a teaching, but as a revelation. When God reveals something, he reveals something that is completely and utterly true. Not kinda true. Not true in some circumstances—it is simply and totally true—and the Gospel is the revealed Word of God.
Now this is very important because it is the gospel message that brings people to faith, and if the gospel is God’s revealed Word, the we are brought to faith not through the agency of men but through the power of God. Your salvation and the salvation of your family and friends does not rely upon them running into a particularly gifted preacher or evangelist. You don’t have to hope and pray that someone smart enough is able to convince them. The hope of salvation doesn’t depend upon carefully crafted arguments. Our hope for salvation is grounded in the Word of God, in the Spirit of the Lord falling upon us so that what was once hidden becomes revealed, and having been revealed causes us to believe, and that having caused us to believe, leads us into eternal life. This is God inspired, God breathed, God infused faith. We come along for the ride, we must consent to God’s working but it is God doing it.
That is why the Holy Communion is so essential. Holy Communion isn’t an argument. It is an infusion of grace. It doesn’t seek to persuade us. It washes over us, indwells u,s changes us from the inside out. God’s Living Word spoken into the lives of dead and dying people—that is what brings rebirth and new life. God’s Living Word spoken into dead and dying people is the ONLY reliable source of hope because God’s living word is eternal and absolute. God’s eternal Word carries immense power, total truth, and unconditional commitment. human beings are unreliable; human institutions will ultimately disappoint, but God is trustworthy. Our forefathers knew this. That is why printed on every dollar bill it says, “In God We Trust.”
In Psalm 30 King David wrote, “I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have lifted me up and have not let my enemies triumph over me. O Lord my God, I cried out to you, and you restored my health. You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.” Who is it that saved David from his enemies? Was it his great and powerful armies? No. Was it his wise councellors? No. Was it the great prophets of his Age? No. David praises God—because it was God who “brought him up from the dead.” And by what power were the sons of The Widow of Zarapheth and the Widow of Nain raised? It was the Living Word of God spoken into dead men.
This is the gospel we proclaim—it is not a gospel grounded in sound reasoning. It is, in fact, beyond reason. It is outrageous. If it is the product of the human mind it is derranged. But it is not the product of human teaching. It is the revealed Word of God, living and true, and it holds the power to save for all who believe and who commit their lives to it author Jesus Christ.
We live in a world full of uncertainty. Life is fragile. The world around us is dangerous. And we can not help but question the ability of our human institutions to guard and protect us. The truth is, all human institutions will, in time, fail us. Our own bodies will fail us. If we are to rest assured about our future well-being, if we are to live our lives with a genuine sense of peace and security, we are going to have to pray for the Living Word of God to capture us. We are going to have to pray that our Lord send his Holy Spirit upon us and fill us with all truth. Because when the true gospel is revealed to us we will know that all these stories about raising the dead are true…and it will not be academic. We will know it to the core of our beings because we will be the dead people sitting up in our caskets, singing praises to the Lord. We will know that resurrection is possible because we will be experiencing it from the inside out. Amen.