Sermon for June 10 2007 Year C
Sermon for June 10 2007 Year C
Children’s Sermon: Having faith in what you don’t see. A single cell, made by God, is far more complex than anything human beings have ever built. The very nature of God is both hidden and revealed in the simplicity and the complexity of a single cell. We put our faith in our Creator who has made us in His image so that we might glorify Him in our life and in our faith.
Sermon basis: 1 Kings 17:17-24
Sermon Title: Faith on Display
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The passage from 1 Kings links up with the passage from the Gospel in that Elijah and Jesus both brought the dead son of a widow back to life. I want to focus on Elijah’s story because I think it has particular relevance to the world we live in today. In addition, I think this story has relevance as we begin to think and pray about Natural Church Development.
Let’s set the context of this story:
The nation of Israel divided upon the death of King Solomon.
· Jeroboam was selected to be king by the Northern Kingdom, which would in Jesus’ day be known as Samaria.
· Jeroboam and all the kings who followed him turned away from God.
· When Ahab came to the throne, he married a Sidonian woman by the name of Jezebel. She brought Baal worship into the kingdom.
God decided to take action against Ahab and Jezebel:
· God called Elijah to bring a message of condemnation to Ahab
· A drought would be brought upon the land that would result in a severe famine because the people had been led to turn away from God.
· The drought would last until the people turned back to God, or until Elijah spoke the words of relief from God. (Baal was supposed to be the god of rain)
· God instructed Elijah to hide, protecting him from the murderous intent of Ahab.
When Elijah departed from Samaria,
· He was totally alone, going into the desert where He was cared for by the Holy Spirit working through ravens.
· After a time, Elijah was directed to the house of a widow, who was so poor she only had one meal left for her and her son. By the miraculous work of God, the bread, oil and water they needed for food was always there.
· Elijah’s faith in the Lord was tested, in preparation for that time when Elijah would return to confront Ahab, Jezebel and the prophets of Baal.
Residing in the widow’s home under the protection and provision of the Holy Spirit, one day the son of the widow becomes ill and soon dies. The woman immediately jumps to the conclusion that her sin is the cause of her son’s death and that Elijah is somehow responsible, as God’s prophet, in bringing God’s judgment upon her.
Hebrews of the time, in hearing this story, would have first said that the woman was a sinner because she had lost her husband. And now in losing her son, she is shown to be an even greater sinner, because surely God would not take a woman’s husband and only son from her unless she deserved it, would He? Some would also say that this could be a sign of the sins of the family being passed down through the generations.
Making a statement of his faith in God, Elijah takes immediate action.
· The boy is small enough to be carried into Elijah’s room (privacy with God).
· Elijah appeals to God about the calamity that has befallen this poor widow (Lord, hasn’t she suffered enough?)—as he intercedes for them.
· Elijah mentions that he has been “sojourning” with this family, i.e., they have mutually cared for each other during this time of famine and drought. (God, you sent me here, didn’t you? Help me!)
· Three times Elijah stretched himself upon the boy, a sign of giving all that he had, his whole life, his whole body, his whole soul, for the life of this boy. (physical action of appealing to God, acting on behalf of a helpless person)
· Elijah prayed to God to bring the boy’s life back to him. (spoken action of appealing to God)
· God hears Elijah’s prayers, sees his actions, and acknowledges his faith by bringing life to the child again.
Elijah brings the living son to his mother, and she responds to this great miracle by telling Elijah that she now knows that he is not just a prophet, but a man of God, a man whose words are true because God is working through him. What do we learn from this story about Elijah as a man of God?
· Elijah’s faith in God caused him to set his own life aside and ask help from God.
· Elijah persisted in seeking the healing of the boy, three times covering the boy with his own body.
· Elijah prayed to God to have mercy on the widow and her son who had been such a help to Elijah in his own time of need.
· Elijah prayed to God to change God’s own heart and mind and bring the boy back to life.
· And Elijah did all of these things without thinking for a moment about his own needs or to seek compensation.
We see in our text from 1 Kings that Elijah acted in faith upon the commands of God. Did he do this on his own? No more so than any of the patriarchs, prophets and warriors whose stories we read in the Bible. God selected and elected those who would serve Him, and God empowered them to do so. Were they selected because they were special? Better than other people? Perfect in some way? Absolutely not. No more so than Paul, who writes in Galatians 1: “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.”
As we begin to think about Natural Church Development, we have to come to terms with the stark reality of these texts and their primary message—God can do anything all by Himself. He does not need us to accomplish His will or His tasks. He is in charge of all the forces of nature, the world, the universe. He has a plan for humanity that has existed since before the beginning of our time. He has called some of us to faith in Him so that we might glorify Him and share our faith with others in a continuing effort to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world by means of Christ’s Church.
Sometimes those of us who are called to faith and act upon it, in the way of Elijah, Paul and others, begin to stand in the way of the work of the Holy Spirit. We get too comfortable, or too proud, or too defensive, or too fearful, or too selfish. We see the work that literally needs to be done in our own back yard, but we think we have done enough, have no time, don’t have the gifts or means or talents, and frankly say “it’s someone else’s turn.” We tend to stay on “automatic” instead of being “theomatic”. When enough people get to this point in the life of a congregation, death is near, and it might be the best thing that could happen.
Because out of the dying embers of an old church God can raise up a new congregation to which He will give a renewed vision and mission that will reproduce a new body of believers for the express purpose of bringing sinners to salvation in Jesus Christ. The message of Elijah today for us is never to give up on what appears to be a dead person. We know that our condition is fatal, but as we live out our lives in a fallen world, there is hope and promise in something far better for us as disciples of Jesus. But while we are here, we, the people of the Church, are the body of Christ called to be the proclaimers and doers and thinkers and stewards of Jesus Christ living in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We can see in the marvelous process of nature how God works, and we can then apply the natural processes to our own individual, family and church life and growth and replication. There is no waste in nature, but there is certainly waste among those human beings who choose to ignore God’s saving grace in the person of Jesus Christ. Elijah, called upon by God for many missions, often seemed to be on the verge of death. But his willingness to trust in the One God who called Him to proclaim God’s Word brought new life to many who were dead in their worship of false gods.
NCD means accepting the basic tenets of our Lutheran Christian faith heritage which is founded on the rock of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Holy Bible—that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone, and this is revealed by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to do works that will bear glorious fruit for God the Father. Natural Church Development is all about living in the controlled chaos of a living and dynamic Triune God who is working to redeem a fallen world filled with sinners who often regard themselves as gods with no need of our glorious Father. Christians who live in faith do so in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is a living, breathing, unpredictable and theomatic force for bring people to salvation in the person of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 30:1-12 (Ramsey translation)
A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.
· I will glorify you, O Lord, for you have lifted me up and have not let my enemies overcome me.
· O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
· O Lord, you have brought up my soul from the place of eternal fire;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to eternal punishment.
· Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
· For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for life everlasting.
· Our weeping may linger for the night, but our joy comes with the morning.
· As for me, I have often said in my prosperity, "I am in need of nothing."
· But it is only by your favor, O Lord, that you have so blessed my life; then you hid your face from me and I lived in fear.
· To you, O Lord, I cry, and to you, O Lord I plead for grace and mercy:
· "What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the place of eternal fire?
· Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
· Hear me, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my redeemer!"
· You have turned for me my misery into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth, cleaned off my ashes, and now you have clothed me with joy and with gladness,
· So that my mouth may sing your praise and not be silent.
· O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever and ever!
And now may the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding bring you joy and comfort in the knowledge that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Redeemer, Amen.