10th Sunday of Pentecost
July 28, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart
“For the Sake of 10” (click for audio)
As I read the OT lesson this morning, the story of Abraham’s intercession with God on behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham was out on the edge here, and he knew it. God had “come down” in person to see if the OUTCRY that had come to him was really true.
I’ve entitled this morning’s sermon, “For the sake of 10” because I’m so struck with the conversation – first that Abraham had the kind of relationship with God that would enable a conversation like this and second that God heard him and answered him in the affirmative.
For the sake of 10 righteous, I will have mercy!
The question for me was how many people lived in Sodom and Gomorrah? 100?
1000? 10,000? More?
In my research I discovered that Sodom and Gomorrah were two of five cities on the plain that is the southern Jordan delta, just north of the Dead Sea, that extends to the south end of the Dead Sea, which is dead, potentially at least, because of this very judgment on that area.
In the text it is described as being like the Garden of Eden! It was lush and green, well watered with the fresh water of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee as it comes down to the deep rift valley, almost 2700 feet below sea level, at the Dead Sea.
It was the place that Lot, Abraham’s nephew, chose for his wife and family, because it was so lush and green, seen from a distance, very pleasing to the eye. Lot came to understand though, that the “greener grass syndrome” was true then, just as it is now. The living conditions in the cities of the plain were less than desirable.
Sodom and Gomorrah have come to be known as by-words for heinous sin. Throughout scripture after these chapters in Genesis, these towns and this area are referred to in the past tense and always in the negative as a sign and symbol of the judgment of God. Nearly 50 times, at least half of which appear in the prophets, in Jesus’ teachings and instruction, and finally in Revelation, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah stand for the decisive judgment of God on a city or nation.
But what caught my eye this morning in this story of Abraham is the power of the righteous in the land, not the evil. And this morning I want to encourage you and build you up in the midst of our times, which are more like Sodom and Gomorrah than we may even realize! I want to encourage you to stand in righteousness, to stand in your place in Christ, and to stand as an intercessor, like Abraham, for the sake of this city and this nation, in these days.
Just in our readings this morning we have the makings of a charge and the tools of equipping for that charge to stand!
Jesus in our gospel, tells the story of a householder (God) being interrupted in his sleep by a neighbor who’s need was immediate. Visitors had come and he needed bread right then. Jesus here is recommending an OUTCRY to God – on the heals of the disciples’ question about prayer and his teaching them the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus tells this story of two neighbors (interesting that it is right after the story of the Good Samaritan!) – two neighbors, one of which is caught unprepared in the middle of the night for the advent of guests to his home.
So he comes across the street and knocks! And knocks! And knocks – finally through the open up stairs window a voice comes, “What do you want?”
“Well, I have some guests who have just arrived, and I have nothing to set before them. Can I borrow three loaves of bread from you.”
“Go away! I’m in bed with my children.”
[Knock, Knock , KNOCK!]
“I said Go Away! It’s the middle of the night!”
COME ON, I SAID PLEASE.
Oh, All right. Give me a break. Just a minute.
And as Jesus said, “… even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.”
And Jesus follows this object lesson with the most famous lines of his teaching on prayer:
"So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Friends, the weaving of these stories together gives us a challenge and a pattern.
Jesus called us “salt” in the Sermon on the Mount. Salt is a preserving force in a culture. It holds back spoilage, in the absence of refrigeration. Because of that invention we no longer use salt as it was used in those days. Now salt is less vital to our existence and well being than ever before. But Jesus had these kind of things in mind when he said we were “salt and light.”
The effect of righteous men and women in a culture. What is it?
How do we measure the “salt-ness” of a church – its effect on the surrounding community and culture? If REZ did not exist, would anyone, other than us this morning, miss us? Are we making an impact in the city, in the state of Colorado, or in the culture of either? What does that question even mean?
We can sit and complain about the politics of our day, about the scandals, the intrigue, the party spirit, or the other party. We can arm ourselves, and gather food and water and generators, because we fear what is coming down the pike. We can blame all those in charge, but what if the power actually rests in the hands of the People of God?
What if, the power of reconciliation with God, that we offer is the prime need of our culture and society today?
What if, the need is not for us to do more of the same old stuff, but to pray more – to ask, and ask, and ask, and ask, and seek, and seek, and seek, and seek, and knock, and knock, and knock and…
We have clear precedent that God will answer the prayers of the righteous. You’ve heard recently, earlier this month, the Call 2 Fall on our knees in intercession, like Abraham, to beg God for mercy on our land, for the sake of all its inhabitants, but specifically for the sake of the righteous in the land.
I was so struck with the agreement of God with Abraham, for the sake of 10 righteous!
Are we willing to stand in the gap for our friends, our neighbors, our city, our state, our nation?
The key is prayer – the position of Abraham before God was one of intercession – requesting of God on the behalf of Lot and his family – unfortunately they didn’t number 10 – but the principle is written here for us to understand and grasp. We live in days not unlike those days, perhaps not quite where they were yet, but certainly on the road – the road to manifested evil in almost every facet of our culture, the road to debasement and abomination, the road to rejection of God as a culture and a nation.
What is our response to these things?
We are called to be salt – to be light – to be intercessors, standing in the gap for our nation, for our neighbors. Let us stand up and come together to God as we pray, pray, pray and continue to pray for the state of our nation and the state of the church.
Lord, have mercy!
Christ, have mercy!
Lord, have mercy!