St. Peter's Lutheran Church Chester Springs: Sunday Sermon

St. Peter's Lutheran Church: Sunday Sermon

Pastor Ronald Wesemann

Sunday, June 9, 2013                                      Third Sunday after Pentecost                               

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

What does it take, for people like us, to trust, to believe that the words spoken by another human being are from God and are true? A lot! What does it take for a person to overcome his or her past and be accepted as a man of God? A lot! What does it take for a stranger, to become known, as a man of God? A lot! 

This morning we read about the prophet Elijah, the Apostle Paul and Jesus and how each of them earned the trust of the people around them and came to be known as men of God.

Elijah who had proclaimed God’s judgment upon God’s people, a judgment that led to a drought that fell upon the Promised Land and the surrounding lands, was not surprised when he learned that his prophecy and the following drought angered the king and queen, and that they threatened his life and so Elijah left Israel and entered a nearby land where he stayed with a widow and her son; when Elijah arrived at the widow’s house she was planning on using the last of her flour and oil to make a small loaf for her and her son, with the thought that, with no more food and no way to get more, they would starve and die; none-the-less Elijah called upon the laws of hospitality, asking the widow to first make something for him to eat and she did and from that time forward the flour and oil did not run out; the widow saw firsthand that Elijah brought with him the power of God, but when her son became ill and died she doubted again  Elijah’s connection to God; it was not until Elijah restored her son to life that she fully believed that Elijah was a man of the one true God.

Paul was a man with a, not so good, reputation; Christians feared him, because Paul was known to have arrested Christians and treated them harshly; Paul had been at the stoning of Stephen; now the Gentiles, that he went to at first, did not see him as such a threat, but knowing Paul’s past and having little reason to trust his word, Paul had a hard time earning their trust; Christians learned of Paul as he proclaimed the Gospel out among the Gentiles; it was not easy for them to believe that Paul could have changed; only after they learned that Paul was suffering the same persecution that he had dealt out and then after hearing Paul’s words, did they finally accept Paul as a follower of Jesus, a man of God; and only then did they glorify God because of Paul.

Jesus, upon entering the town of Nain, saw a widow who was about to bury her son and Jesus had compassion on her; Jesus stepped up to the bier, stopping the funeral procession and he touching it; Jesus then said to the dead man, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” and the dead man sat up and began to speak and Jesus gave him to his mother; with the raising of the man, fear seized the people and they glorified God; they proclaimed Jesus as a great prophet, a man of God and word of Jesus spread all throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

What does it take to be able to trust in the words of someone as being from God; what does it take for someone to overcome his past; what does it take for a stranger to be accepted as a man of God? If we are to go entirely from the three stories told in our three Bible readings for today, we would have to answer, “A lot!”

But, in reality, such acceptance does not require such extreme measures. I have, for example, been accepted as a man of God, by (most of) you, and I didn’t even have to raise someone from the dead or suffer obvious persecution; you’ve accepted me, because I was recommended by the Synod (the Church at large), but beyond that you have come to feel that the Lord is, in some way, is working though me, maybe because of the sermons I preach, maybe because of the visits I make, maybe because of the things I do. And to accept me as a man of God you have had to overlook the negative things about me: for some of you that may include my inclination to let my hair grow long-ish, my showing up to church on a motorcycle, the fact that I am a city boy or the fact that the church that I left closed its doors a couple years after I left it.

I remember the first time that I preached at my home church; most of the people there had known me all my life; some of them just could not accept me as a preacher; they remembered me as an outspoken youth and as a wild child; the same was true of some of my friends, it took some of them a long time to accept me as a pastor; I had not always lived the part of a man of God. For many, it took a lot of convincing to accept me as a man of God, but for some it came with my title, “Pastor”; a pastor, you would think, should be a man or woman of God.

(Now) You may find what I have to say next a bit harder to swallow; you are, we are all of us, men, women and children of God, and not just in the sense that we are accepted by God, but in the sense that God has a purpose for us. And, we are men, women and children of God, not because of anything that we have said or done, but because God has chosen us to be so! Elijah, Paul and Jesus were men of God, whether or not anyone recognized them as men of God. And that is true also of us. Do you think that Elijah or Paul or people like Bishop Burkat or your pastor deserve such a title? (Bishop Burkat, of course, as a woman of God) Of course not! Jesus is a different story; man of God may be much too trivial a title for Jesus. But, think about it, think about what it means for us to be pronounced (by Jesus) as men, women, children of God? Obviously it has nothing to do with raising people from the dead or suffering persecution. We are chosen, we are pronounced such by God, pure and simple, because it is God’s will for us. The Holy Spirit grants each of us his gifts so that we may carry God and share Jesus with those around us. We may never do the things that Jesus or Elijah or Paul did, but God hasn’t called us to do those things, but rather called us, and then gave to us the gifts so that we may be the men, women or children of God, that are needed right here and now, in this church, in this community, in your place of business, in your school, among your friends and family.

And I have seen it come to life with many of you, with Joanna taking in her brother, with Debbie, honoring her husband and God by donating the landscape work, with Cole and Kira and others drawing pictures for their pastor and with Bill fixing things around the church and I can go on and on detailing the things that you do, here and in the community.

You may not see it, but you are truly men of God, women of God and children of God. And for that I am thankful, and so should you all.