God’s discriminating generosity             St. Thomas’                1 July 2012

Who touched my stuff? My brother Peter’s “beautiful suede moccasin boots” with leather fringes along the top, and padded souls. (It was the early 70’s!)

I knew that is what the Indians wore in the wilds of Canada, when they were at home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play, and they would sneak up in their suede moccasin boots and hunt them as they were roaming…

My brother was very protective of those boots. One day I wore them around the house and went outside, you know, to be more natural. I had a little war dance in the driveway. Nobody was in the house to see me. I wasn’t hurting anybody. I put them back exactly where they had been before. But when Peter got back he noticed one boot had a piece of grass on it or something- I don’t remember what it was but he knew I had used them and he was mad!

How did Jesus know the woman had touched him in that huge crowd? I mean, think about the scene… Ice Caps game between periods, heading to the Ziggy Peel goods booth…Who touched you while you were out there getting your French fries?

It bothered me. And it bothered me that Mark included that in the gospel story. It was a distraction- from the truly spiritual understanding of the healing miracles. And it also bothered me because there wasn’t anything to preach about in the epistle either since all Paul was talking about was money, and we know that Anglicans can’t talk about money or they will really get into trouble. Then it’s the off-season and the Habs haven’t been involved in any trades, so I was in big trouble!

Why did Jesus care who touched his stuff? How did He know she touched him?

Jesus didn’t ask it because he was ignorant but because he wanted to call her out of the crowd, so that she could give praise to God.

But it showed that Jesus actually felt it when power left Him!

God created and rules the universe by His generosity- freely willed, unnecessary, grace behind everything. God creates ex nihilo…out of nothing,. Just because He is who He is- generosity- Trinity= shared life. God has sharing in His DNA. Father cannot but love the Son. Son cannot but love the Father. Spirit cannot but love both the Father and the Son…etc.!

When God creates it is only natural that some of that DNA is found in what God creates, namely creation! We see it in the way the heavenly bodies affect one another, how gases work, and planetary alignments, and the eco-system, and plants and animals interact, and how creatures reproduce, and how the seasons change and restore the earth, etc.

And then we see it in how God restores to that part of creation that is intended to reflect His DNA glory eternally (human beings)- which has lost its capacity to remain spiritually connected and live in the material creation- He restores to human beings the ability to be fully His children, made and restored to His image…

But none of this is done indiscriminately. Every piece of grass is noticed, every hair on our heads is counted; every grain of sand and star in the sky has been tallied and is known by God the Creator. And none of it is random. When you go to a place that no human has ever been before, God has always been there. He is there when you wake up in the new day and He is still there in the past day that you left.

But nothing in creation is random or indiscriminate. Everything has a purpose, as the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.  That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil – this is the gift of God.  I know that everything God does will endure for ever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

God wants people to know that this is all His stuff and He is happy to share it with us! If we don’t know it then we won’t use it properly.

So that people will be aware of God and live in His presence. God wants to share His life with us and He wants us to share our lives with Him. We cannot force God to share His life with us- He does it freely and willingly. He offers it to us. And God cannot force us to share our lives with Him- He has made us with the capacity to choose to share or not, so that when we do share, we get to experience what God experiences, the life of grace!

Ecclesiastes tells us that nature and history and everything are to be a sign we can read and become aware of God and God’s gracious way of living- offering Himself through the creation itself, and His creation of us in His image.

God does it so that people will fear him- notice and respond to Him! You see it is quite possible for us to see everything that happens in the world and not connect it to God at all.

Like people who look at creation as some kind of mechanical entity- soulless and without purpose. They see a butterfly and ask the question “what need did that organism have which forced it to adapt to its surroundings and produce those effects?” Instead of- what amazing variety and wonder in creation! How amazing and wonderful must the Creator of all of this be?

A lot of people use God’s stuff without asking Him what the best way to use it is. They presume it is theirs because they can take it- just like the woman tried to take it, or I presumed I deserved to use my brother’s boots without asking to!

We can choose to live dead to God in the very heart of God’s creation!

You may be thinking…where is he going with this? Maybe he should get back to the story of his brother Peter’s boots. Maybe you want to know if I ever borrowed his boots again. Huh? Well I’ll tell you at the end of the sermon but you have to keep listening until then…!

So we are made and placed in creation, brimming with the life and grace of God, and asked to steward it so that it brims with even more grace. And something happens and we loose our ability to steward without destroying everything. First we destroy our relationship with God, and then one another, then our environment, then our families and social order, then our bodies, hearts, minds, souls and strength, so that we cannot do even the simplest and most basic things we were created to do- in sharing God’s life with God and one another, and the rest of creation.

Then God sends us His Son to restore the order. And He does that by reconnecting us and restoring the lost spiritual DNA between spirit and matter. And Jesus, the Son of God, goes about preaching and teaching and acting in ways that bring people back to life and health and fruitfulness. He is like the springtime after decades of winter (Remember Narnia? It was always winter and never Christmas!)

That is what Jesus is doing in the gospel story when the woman has an idea that she will mine Jesus for what she wants most in life- restoration to health and strength. So she touches Jesus’ garments; not even Jesus.

And Jesus stops and says, who touched me, because He felt power going out of Him. Power, health, wealth, gifts, nature, life itself: it’s all God’s stuff. Just like, in the end, those boots were my brother’s boots. Not mine! I didn’t respect that- I only thought about how cheap he was in not letting me borrow them!

God is not cheap. God has created us to be sources of power and strength to be shared with others. But we are not to share ourselves indiscriminately- not above free love and rock’n’roll! It is about choosing to share our selves, consciously and graciously, as God shares Himself.

Jesus did not come to be a source of life that can be mined for our material profit: Jesus came to restore to us the fullness of life. And that exchange of life can only take place consciously- He offers His life for ours, and we choose His life over the one we have been trying to control.

So the woman has to come forward and confess the power of God over her own ability to manipulate God and take His power without having any relationship with Him…

Look at the prayers in today’s service. They are all about riches: the riches of God and the riches we have been given to share: we have been made to, and restored through Jesus Christ our Lord, with the ability to, love God and our neighbor with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. God is happy to share all of His stuff- the most important is His own kingdom. We can’t take it but we can receive it as a gift and give it away as a gift to others.

Paul talks to the Corinthian Christians about their financial giving. They have stopped giving for some reason and Paul tells them they need to start it up again and continue until the work they are about is finished.

He tells than they need to keep giving because their faith is not the only gift they have been given- they also have health and strength and money that they need to share with God, through sharing it with others- and the Church is here to help you share your money in ways that further the kingdom of God!….

We give to the Church not out of the church’s need but out of our need to give if we are to be fully alive. We give our money back to God so that our money does not choke the spiritual life out of us.  Some people have more money than others- those people need to give more. There are people in this church who need to give far more than they are now- maybe ten times more, in some cases. I don’t know. To those who much has been given, much is expected. Why? Because God who has much has given much…He didn’t hold back His own Son but gave Him.

Our church is constantly short of funds. It means we cannot do what we think we are being called to do for God in His world. But that isn’t why we should give more. We should give more if we have more to give because that is the life of grace. We give back to God’s people so that the Family of God can live out the gracious, generous life of God in our community, so that people will fear God…notice and want Him.

Christian stewardship of life principle (including finances): God has given us everything in Christ, so we are now freed to live our lives entirely with, in and for God.  Christian stewardship is not about the tithe (10%) but about everything: All for Jesus!

If you don’t have much, not much is expected. That’s the “all principle”! God wants us to share all that we have- just like He does. We all have gifts- so what gifts has God given you that you can and need to share with others as a sign that you are sharing your life with God? What if all you seem to have right now are trials (it isn’t true but it may feel true)? Then offer them to jesus, with thanks that you can!

“The gifts of God for the people of God.” Why does Jesus give us Himself every Holy Communion? So that we can give Him away to whoever needs Him. How much has Jesus given us of Himself? All of Him, so that we can give all of us for Jesus. We can surrender all to Jesus who has surrendered all to us!

So what happened to my brother’s coveted moccasin boots in the end? He eventually gave them to me…five years later, when my feet were bigger than his and they couldn’t fit me, and the souls had been worn down so that they leaks when you went near moisture of any kind, and the inside wool had worn down flat and smelt terrible.

I kept them for a year in my closet and then threw them out. My brother’s gift was not given from a divinely generous and gracious heart!

God, unlike many people, doesn’t give us leftovers. We have been given the very best God has to offer- and He has called us and empowered us to give the very best of our lives, so that we can share His joy in living the gracious life of the family of God. Jesus was open to the needs of the people He went to: He was on a healing mission when the woman touched Him. God is on a mission to restore His children. So we can be sure He is listening to us when we call out to Him and offer to share our lives with Him. God chooses to be open to His children- not indiscriminately but willingly, specifically, freely, and individually to each of us!

How does God hear all the prayers and know all our needs even before we ask? God chooses to know and be interested, and chooses to listen for His children, and when we ask for what He already has in His heart to give us? Then our prayer and His answer flow together in the generous, sharing of life that is God’s grace.

So do not stop praying or worshipping or walking with God this summer. Keep doing what you need to do until it is finished- because our life is never complete until it is completely shared with God: filled with God and completely poured out in His worship and praise.

And now unto God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, be ascribed all majesty, might power and dominion, now and t unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PENTECOST 5                         ST. THOMAS’ CHURCH                     1 JULY 2012

Jairus came to Jesus and begged Him to come and heal his little daughter. Jesus left His preaching tour and went with Him. Let us be assured that Jesus will also hear our prayers and accompany us to the place where we need restoration and grace. So let us call out to Him now as we pray, saying: Lord, call us to get up and to finish what You have given us to do.

Lord, call us to get up and to finish what You have given us to do.

Let us pray (Silence).

Jesus, we thank You that life was not yet finished for that little girl. We thank You for her father, who came to You for help, and that You heard his plea. We come to You now for those who, like Jairus and the woman with the haemorrhages, are looking to You for healing in their lives, especially remembering Ella, Ian, Genevieve, Gillian, Fred, and Mahlodi and the mission team from Eastern Health on their healing mission to Haiti this week. For them and for ourselves, we pray:

Lord, call us to get up and to finish what You have given us to do.

Father, we remember all those who invested their lives in the welfare of our province and nation, especially those who were lost in the battle of Beaumont-Hamel, ninety five years ago today. We remember also those whose lives are filled with sadness, especially those who are mourning the loss of David Ford, Eileen Barron and Richard Morris. And we thank You for the founders of our country and the leaders of our nation, past and present, asking that You keep us faithful to Your trust as stewards of the bounty of this great land, we pray:

Lord, call us to get up and to finish what You have given us to do.

Holy Spirit, all of nature radiates with Your glory today! We thank You for those who have completed a stage in their education and are poised to move on to new things in life. We pray for all graduates from High School and University, that they might see how best to share the gifts of their education to benefit others. We ask for all visitors to our province this summer and for our parishioners on holiday, that they will notice Your hands in the beauty of creation and turn their hearts with thanks to You, we pray:

Lord, call us to get up and to finish what You have given us to do.

Holy Trinity, we thank You for the many gifts You have given us in this parish: Your Word and Sacraments, faithful servants in the past and present. New ministry leaders in the parish: Karen Bennet, Shawn Witcher, Debbie Pantin, Rick Tessier, Lesley-Anne Moore, Rev Bill Rice and Dr. Bob Rowlands. Remind us, when we forget, how You share all things with us in Jesus. We want to walk with Him through all things, we pray:

Lord, call us to get up and to finish what You have given us to do.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God; to whom be ascribed all glory power and dominion, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

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