Fr. Phil Eberhart
Pulpit Freedom Sunday
Just a little faith
Well, this morning is the eve of the Feast of Trumpets in the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah - the new year. So "L'shanah Tovah Tikateivu,"happy new year, almost. It starts this evening! I invite you to our 10 Days of Awe. Search 10DaysTogether on Google for our events and times.
Today is also "Pulpit Freedom" Sunday, when many across the nation are preaching sermons that are intentionally in the face of the IRS and their gag order for political speech. Most all of you know who I'm voting for already, so that is a moot point.
AND The scriptures this morning are especially compelling as well, and can wrap in some of the themes of the other two as well. So let's start there!! Grab your bulletin...
Just a little faith! That's all we need.
We hear time after time that people say that they don't have enough faith for some particular outcome. A healing for themselves or a loved one...
or a windfall in finances or some other kind of provision from the Lord.
I was just caught off guard by Jesus words to his disciples in our gospel this morning: Their request was "increase our faith!" Simple, straight-forward. right?
Jesus' response was equally simple but challenging for them: If you have only a little, great things can happen! Two things... Jesus was using something smaller than the head of a straight pin... THUS ... having a lot is not the point! Nor the need!
The need isn't for having a lot, but having some. And its not about the faith itself, but who or what the faith is placed into! Let me ask you a question...
Why are you so careful about which plane you get on?
... because destination matters!!
You say you're going to "fly" here or there! Are you? actually?
You are flying to the extent that you are "IN" the plane which is flying, and destination matters!!
Faith is trusting the plane (JESUS) to take you where He said He is going to take you.
Turn with me to the Timothy reading:
Look at what Paul tells Timothy: I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.
And what did Paul entrust? Do you remember that "Voice from God, falling off the horse, blinded on the road" event in Paul's life? What changed there?
He speaks of it a few times in his letters:
The whole first and second chapters of the Galatian letter tell the story of Paul's journey from Damascus to Arabia for three years, then to Jerusalem and finally to his work with the Gentiles. He ends that section with these familiar words. "For I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me. And the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
He recounts the cost and the joy of what he has given away for Jesus' sake in his letter to the church at Phillipi:
Paul lost everything - he entrusted everything to Christ and in our reading this morning we read what he received: For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do.
Paul received an "appointment" as an Ambassador! A herald was the figure who stood in the town center to read aloud with delegated authority the edicts of the King! The town crier! Paul received that appointment, and was sent from Christ himself (apostolos) and was a fit teacher of the things of God, especially to the Gentiles.
Now here is where it gets personal~
You and I have received the same appointments! That is the force of what Paul is telling his young protege Timothy. So here is what WE and Timothy must do:
1. Bring to full flame the gift of God that is in you at the laying on of hands. How many of you have been confirmed by a bishop? Some here have been ordained by that same bishop or other bishops. Confirmation and Ordination are differing levels of the same action! The laying on of hands to confer the gifting and empowerment of the Holy Spirit for Holy works! So if you've had hands laid on you, you have those gifts! Fan them into flame! Tend that fire!!!
2. Don't succumb to fear. It seems that our human nature enters the equation early on. In the next paragraph Paul tells Timothy and US not to be ashamed of the Gospel or of him in his chains.
What is it about this enterprise, the Christian gospel and its propagation, that engenders fear and shame and cowardice on our parts? What makes us afraid to speak up, to speak out? We might lose our tax free status! Really? In comparison to the cost of your salvation, that is an obstacle?
Someone might laugh! What will other people think? What if someone challenges my faith? What if someone calls me stupid (cause that's what they think you are!) Well. WHAT IF?
3. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel! NOR of the suffering that comes with its proclamation!
Didn't Jesus himself tell us that this would be the case, all the way at the beginning of his teaching on the mountain side in Galilee:
[Mat 5:10-12 NASB] 10 "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
4. Do the DO's!
A. Join with me (Paul) in suffering for the Gospel
B. Rely on the power of God
C. Discover your own HOLY CALLING
D. Do all God has Called you to do
E. Hold to the standard of sound teaching
F. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you!
Friends, the times we live in require an old kind of Christianity again ... the kind that Paul is talking about to a young Christian man who was his "disciple". We are called to be like Paul and like Timothy as we press into the calling that God has given us in our day, unashamed and relying fully on God's power!
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, by your Spirit you have given gifts to us in your Church - in your Kingdom. Urge us and help us, Lord, to fan your gifts into flame, that their light might shine with your glory and that the world might see and believe. Take away from us our shameful timidity in the face of almost any opposition. Give us boldness for You and for Your Kingdom. Shake the world we live in through us, your Church! Come, Holy Spirit, as we enter these 10 Days of Awe: Give us clear vision of all you have done - of the price you have paid - and of the awesome grace you give us to be your ambassadors! Send your Spirit along with us into the world to show the world your love. Stretch forth your Hand, O God, as we speak and pray and live our lives, that the Name of your Son Jesus Christ, Yeshua ha Mashiach, may be known and worshiped to the ends of the earth!
In His name we pray.
Amen. and Amen!