Summary: A sermon for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost Proper 24 Second Lesson
22nd Sunday after Pentecost
"Faith, Hope, Love"
A teenager was sitting in the pastor’s office saying,"Sometimes I don’t think I am a Christian. I don’t seem to have the same interest and excitement, or enthusiasm I once did. It isn’t easy for me to remember God, to come to church, and to pray. It is too easy to find excuses to stay away from church and then to make those excuses into reasons why I should stay away. Pastor, I know God hasn’t left me, but boy I sure feel as if I have left Him."
The pastor said, "Remember the time your father was away from home on those long business trips? Was it difficult for you to remember him?"
"Not a bit," the boy said, "I had letter from him and I kept thinking about him, and he sent me gifts in the mail so I would remember him ."
"Suppose," said the pastor, "there was no letters, no gifts and you never mentioned his name in conversation around the house. What then???"
"Then, maybe, I would have forgotten about him. That would have made a difference," said the boy.
"Well,"said the pastor, "that is the way it is with God. Sure it is tough to remember God, it is tough to stay a Christian in this world. But God has given us His word, like your father’s letters, to remember him. God has given us His gifts of Holy communion & Baptism as a physical reminder of His love for us, like the gifts your father sent you. God also wants us to include Him in our conversations, not just on Sunday, but throughout the week, so that we will remember Him. It is tough to stay a Christian, it is tough to remember god doesn’t leave you, it is tough to keep a relationship with God alive, exciting and fresh. God is working on His end and he wants you to continue to work on your end. He has given you all the tools, necessary, only, you have to decide if you will use them."
The boy smiled and nodded, yes.
The story is a good illustration of our second lesson from I Thessalonians. Paul is thankful they have kept their faith in Jesus Christ. He says, "For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you; for our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction."
He knows the message of Christ has come to them and Paul knows how difficult it is for them to remain in Christ, so he prays for them. He says, "We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers." As he prays for these people, we recalls, he remembers how they have worked to remain faithful to Christ. He says: "remembering before our God and Father your work of faith, and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."
This morning I want to focus on those phrases as we think about our faith, as we remember each other in prayer, and as we uphold each other in faith. I want you to be clear though, we are not speaking of salvation, we are speaking about remaining faithful to the salvation message God brought to us through the Spirit as He accomplished it through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Faith, is at the same time, our work and the work of the Holy Spirit.
In the meaning to the Third Article of the Creed, Luther speaks about this duel aspect to faith as he says:[ repeat along with me if you can ]" I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts and sanctified and kept me in true faith." Notice, we have been granted gifts by the Spirit which enlighten us, or keep us in our faith. Gifts need to be used. Faith is at the same time the work of the Spirit and our work. But I think far too long Lutheran have used the excuse that God does all the work and I do not have to be involved at all. Which translated into living by, I don’t come to church, I don’t commune, I don’t read my Bible, I don’t go to Bible Study, I don’t talk about my faith with others, I don’t become concerned about another’s faith, and we could go on and on.
Paul speaks about a work of faith among the Thessalonians.
Their work of faith can be described as laboring to keep their relationship alive with Christ. As we stay in our relationship with Christ, we become new people, a new creation. Paul says in Romans 8,"it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." We must keep our relationship with God alive and fresh. God will never leave us, but we can leave him.