July 21, 2013

Sermon, Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Christians Live
Psalm 127, Zechariah 4:1-10, Galatians 3:24-29
July 21, 2013
Eighth Sunday Trinity

To say, Christians live,” is to shock most of the people we know today.  They have been taught Christianity is bondage, a living death of sorrow, self denial, and delusion.  They think we pass over all the really fun things in life, by which they mean the indulgence of our own lust and greed, to live in the sad illusion of a better life beyond this world.  Many blame Christianity for all the ills of the world.  Slavery, genocide, poverty, prejudice, racism, oppression, and pollution, they say, are all the fault of Bible thumping Christians and the culture we have built.

They are wrong, of course.  Any one can see that such things are the complete opposite of what the Bible teaches.  And any one can see that such things have been a part of the human experience in all times and places.  And any one can see that the teachings of the Bible, lived and practiced in everyday life would have enabled humanity to avoid the wars, oppression, poverty, abuse, and grief that stain the pages of our history books, and our own personal lives.  So, it is not Christianity that has caused our problems; it is the lack of Christianity that has caused our misery.  But the enemies of Christianity are neither bothered nor informed by truth and facts.  They have an agenda, and to accomplish it, Christianity must go.  So they willingly and gladly accept the lie that Christianity is oppressive, and its demise will make the world a better place.

When I say Christians live, I mean the Christian life is the only life worth living.  Everything else is despair and ruin, but Christianity is hope.  Only Christianity has hope for man.  We believe man can change, or, at least, be changed.  We believe man can live for something higher than the satisfaction of his lusts and conceits.  We believe that is basically what all people live for.  We believe that is the natural tendency of all people, and that it is the reason for most of our unhappiness and abuse of others.  The Bible calls this tendency, “sin.”  It calls the actions and attitude that come out of this tendency “sins.”  So sin is the tendency; sins are the result.

The basic view of those who want to destroy Christianity is that our lusts and conceits should be indulged.  Christianity is bad, they say, because it tells us our natural desires should be controlled, and that we should live in a way that brings our natural inclinations under the control of God. Thus, they claim, Christianity is bad because it inhibits your rights and freedoms.

There are many reasons why people attack Christianity.  They may have financial interests in sin.  They may want to profit from human greed by selling people things we don’t need, and may even be detrimental to us.  They may want to gain power over us by promising more crumbs from their table if we do their bidding.  They may be happy to see the poor and working classes waste their lives on sex, drugs, and rock and roll, while the ruling classes increase their own power, security and wealth.  Where is the hope in this?  There is none.  But Christianity teaches that man can change.  He can learn and do right, by the grace of God.  And he can make life better for himself and others.

Christians are the ones who look for Divine hope in this world.  We are the ones who believe in a loving God, who has a plan and purpose for this world, and who is going to bring His plan to completion.  We are the ones who believe God Himself is going to overcome evil and establish righteousness and peace on this earth.  We are the ones who believe He is working in people now, converting people to His ways teaching them His love, and building a community of peace.

But, I have not quite stated the point of the sermon yet.  I have been circling it, building up to it, because it is very simple and easy to miss if we are not prepared to hear it.  So here it is; the more faithfully and fully we live the way the Bible teaches us to live, the fuller, better, and happier life will be.  The further we depart from the Bible’ teaching, the more miserable, hopeless, and despondent life will be.  This is because we are made for God and can only be happy in Him.  Remember the words of St. Augustine; “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our heart are restless until we find our rest in Thee.” Christ’s words in Matthew 10:39 apply to this very well.  Talking to His disciples about the persecution and death some of them would face for following Him, He said, “He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”  In other words, it is not in preserving your life to live in comfort according to the world’s definition that we will find real life.  We will find real life only when we follow Christ, only when we live by His teaching, only when we willingly subjugate our desires to His. 

I close with these wise words from Psalm 127.  Their relevance to our subject will be evident. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.”

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