August 4, 2013

Tenth Sunday after Trinity Sermon

Christians Want
Psalm 145, 1 Corinthians 12:1, Luke 19:41
Tenth Sunday after Trinity
August 4, 2013

What do Christians do?  This has been the topic for the sermons in Trinity Season, and today’s sermon is, “Christians want.”  That may seem a strange title for a sermon, especially since one of the most famous verses of the Bible, Psalm 23:1, says, “I shall not want.”  Want, in this verse, is used as it was in England in 1611, and refers to the lack of necessities.  Thus, the Prayer Book, which uses the Coverdale version of the Psalms, says, “The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing.”  But when I say, Christians want,” I am not talking about lack.  Want, as I am using it, means to desire.  Christians desire certain things, and what we desire is the real topic this morning.

Some of our desires are common to those of many other people.  We want food, comfortable homes, safety, companionship, and love.  We would like to see world peace, justice for all, freedom for all, and all people living responsibly in harmony, freely giving others the kindness and consideration they would like to receive in return.

Some of our wants are quite different from those of other people.  We want people to know the grace and love of God in Jesus Christ.  We want them to know peace with God and the fellowship of His Church.  We want to see people’s hurts and hopes and fears and brokenness touched by the healing hand of God.  We want to see their lives and homes and communities and nations healed as only God can do.  That’s why I’m in the ministry.  That’s why you pray for other people.  Because we want them to have the good things of God.

Christians also want something more, something higher.  We desire what Christ taught us to pray for in The Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  We want God to be loved and honoured and worshiped and obeyed as He deserves.  “The heavens declare the glory of God,” says Psalm 19:1, but we want the lips and lives of people to declare it too.  That is why we ask God to help us “live a godly, righteous, and sober life to the glory [His] holy Name.”  That is why we pray, in the Collect for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, that our prayers will ask God for the things that please Him.  Pleasing Him is our goal in life, and we want all people’s lives to please Him.  We desire all people to love God and live for Him so that they will be able to say what the Apostle Paul stated so well for us in Philippians 1:21, “For me, to live is Christ.” We want this because, “Great is the Lord, and marvelous worthy to be praised” (Ps. 145:3).

This morning’s reading in 1 Corinthians 12 applies readily to our topic.  There we read again of this mysterious subject of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Church.  The topic of these gifts is warmly discussed today, and the discussions usually produce much more smoke than light.  So did their practice in Corinth, where the people were more concerned about using the gifts to impress others than they were about using them to please God.  Some had, and others pretended to have, special gifts from God that enabled them to heal diseases, speak in different languages, or work miracles.  While Paul acknowledges that God did indeed give such gifts to some people, he makes it plain that the gifts were for the good of all, not for the honour of those who had the gifts.  Paul, in the same letter, makes it plain that the Corinthians were conducting themselves in ways that were dividing the Church and glorifying people.  He urges them to forsake this sin and to seek and do the things that please God.  He makes it plain that not all Christians receive the ability to work miracles or speak in tongues, but every Christian can receive the power to love, which is far more important and far more pleasing to God.

The reading from Luke’s Gospel also applies to our topic.  There Christ mourns over Jerusalem for its self absorption and neglect of God.  Going their own way led them, to reject the things of God, so that, even in Jerusalem, the religious center of Israel, people did not want what God offers.  They did not want to please God, nor did they pray for such things.  They rejected God, and their rejection ultimately led to their own destruction.

By contrast, Psalm 145 shows the blessed joy of those who live to please God.  Here we find phrases like, “I will magnify thee, O God, my king; and I will praise thy Name for ever and ever.”  “The Lord is gracious and merciful.”  “The Lord preserveth all them that love Him.”  What is the Bible talking about in these verses?  It is talking about God giving good things to His people.  And these good things are the things that please Him.  And here is the really wonderful thing about these things of God; we find they are the things we really need and want in life and in eternity.  These are the things that “fulfil the desire of them that fear Him.”