Monday, January 28, 2013

Significance and Security

Epiphany III
January 27, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart


Significance and Security

I’m told that the two great needs that we have as humans are the needs for significance and the need for security.  We spend whole lifetimes in search of those things – trying to conjure them up through any means possible – but always relying on ourselves to create them.

The pursuit is relentless; through jobs, through relationships, through spouses; by achievement, by success, by accumulation – of wealth, of friends, even of the needs around us.

And when things don’t go well, when we’re not so successful, not so popular, not so wealthy – when relationships falter or fail, where friends leave or few people need us, all of our significance – all of our security –  Simply evaporates, like drops of sweat on a hot sidewalk!

Our lessons this morning teach us something about the source of these things … really.  Significance and security are not actually available to us from most of the sources that we seek them from!  As the song goes, we’re “looking for love in all the wrong places.”

As I read the lesson from Nehemiah, I was caught by the response of the people to the reading of the Word of God, the Law of Moses.  They wept as it was read to them. Nehemiah was the governor of the remnant who were left after the people of Judah and Israel began to come back to Jerusalem.  They had finished rebuilding the wall under his able leadership in just 52 days, and now were gathered for worship in the city square.

If there was one thing that they did not have, even though the wall was built, it was any real measure of security.  They were still pressed-on from every side by those who opposed the work they had just finished.

But what they were experiencing was a renewal, a revival of their national life and identity – because of the influence of the Word of the Lord! 

The last line of our reading is a very familiar phrase to us:  “The Joy of the Lord is our strength!”  I looked up the specific word for ‘strength’ that is used here in the Hebrew, and it means a PLACE of safety, a refuge or stronghold! 

The Joy of the Lord is our security!

Now look at the Psalm…  one that is very familiar to us, because we sometimes sing it prior to the Gospel reading – its become a part of our life because its one of those songs that gets caught in here (your head.) 

[“More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold…
Sweeter also than the honey in the honeycomb.”]

The description of the Law in Psalm 19 and throughout scripture shows us its power and we know why the people of God in Jerusalem were weeping that day as it was read!

It restores the soul…  makes wise the simple or innocent;
Cause the heart to rejoice … it enlightens the eyes;
It endures forever … is righteous altogether!

[“More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold…
Sweeter also than the honey in the honeycomb.”]

Listen to the adjectives, the descriptors for this Word:


          Stedfast… Trustworthy …  Sure!

                   Upright… Right …




Worth more than Gold … sweeter than honey.

Is there anyway for us to speak more to the needs of the human heart for security than to find it in the Joy of the Lord and in the Word of God?

But let’s not stop here!

Paul’s description of the Body of Christ continues to speak directly to these needs in our lives, but tells us of an entirely different tack to attaining them for ourselves:

The greater portion of significance in our lives is found in our sense of “belonging.”  Here in Paul’s letter to Corinth, we see his Magnum Opus on the way in which the Body of Christ is designed, taking its hints from the actual bodies we live in.  Paul is profound here in his application of simple truth and logic to the deepest of human needs.  The organic unity of the human body itself is the lesson!  We are all not just a part of this reality, but a significant part of this reality, from the “greatest” parts to the “least” parts.  We are forbidden from competition between members and from comparison of our gifts to the gifts of others.  We are forbidden from looking at outward appearances and from diminishing others or ourselves based on some misconstrued hierarchy in the Body of Christ.  All of us are “members one of another” – we all belong, profoundly so, to the reality that is the living, moving, acting Body of Christ in the world.

A great follow-on from this reading is some of the verses from Ephesians 4, that we continue to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Paul goes on to describe the Body as the Gifted People of God to which “he gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelist, pastors and teachers… [why?]

To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the Body of Christ, (for how long?)

Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity in Christ – to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (and a little further on)

We are to grow up in every way into Him who is the Head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Friends, there is no place of significance to be found on the planet that is better than the Body of Christ!  Especially as it lives into its calling and giftings from God – as WE live into OUR calling and OUR giftings from God!

And finally in our Gospel, we see the Job Description that Jesus claimed for himself, and that is passed on to us as His Body in the world: 

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Have you ever struggled with significance?  Ever felt like what you did or even who you were really didn’t count for much?  I think we all feel that from time to time.  It’s the reason that we seek significance so diligently in our lives.

This is where significance is found – in the mission of Jesus and in His work in the world, today through His Body – you and me.

To bring good news to the poor…

          To proclaim release to the captives…

                   Recovery of sight to the blind …

                             To let the oppressed go free…

                                      To proclaim God’s favor .

Do you have faces that come to mind when you hear those phrases?  I hope so. There are lots of folks around us who need to hear and to see what we have to offer as the Body of Christ.

Most of all, the world needs to see and hear, Jesus himself.  This is the source of true significance and true security.  Just as Jesus said to His hearers in the synagogue in Nazareth that day, he says to us:
“Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing!”

Today, we have a decision before us – you have a decision before you:
Continue to look for love in all the wrong places… or
Hear and respond to Jesus, when he says to you, “Come to me.”
Are you poor?  Are you captive?  Are you blind?  Or oppressed?

Today is the time of God’s favor toward you.  Today is the day of salvation.
Our prayer is that you hear His voice …
          in the whispers of His Word …
                   in the echoes of His voice in your ear…

This is the year of My favor.  Come to me.  I will give you what you desire – meaning and significance;  safety, security, a place of stronghold.

“Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”


Let us pray:
[Please repeat each phrase as we pray together:]

Lord Jesus Christ…
I am one of those you were sent to:
Poor, captive, blind and oppressed.
Open my ears that I may hear your good news…
Let me hear the news of my release,
Lay your hands on my eyes that I might see You, Lord,
And set me free from my oppression.

 Lord, I accept your favor and love for me.
Lord, I am willing and available to be used in your Body.
Send your Spirit into my life and direct me,
Speak to me and through me. 
I will obey your voice.

                             [and join me once again in the collect for the day]

 Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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