Sermon May 5, 2019


Last Sunday we sang a hymn that has stuck with me all week. The first words were “We walk by faith and not be sight”. Our Christian journey is a walk of faith. We have faith in God. We believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. We trust that God will give us the strength we need to continue the journey. As we heard last week, Jesus blesses us on our walk of faith. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 

Our faith is a gift from God. We usually think of the gifts that God has given us as tangible things. We think of food and clothing and shelter and the beauty of nature. In addition to being thankful for those gifts, we are thankful that God has given us faith. Without faith, it would be difficult to maintain our relationship with God. It would be easy to veer away, to become self-centered.

Whenever Jesus healed someone, he spoke of their faith. Here is just one example, “‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’ Jesus told his apostles that God responds to those who ask in faith. “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” The most famous line in Scripture speaks of the importance of faith, “‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Faith is a source of healing, God will respond to those who ask in faith, and faith is the source of eternal life.

Even in Paul’s letters we hear how important faith is, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” Paul wrote that faith is more important than works. But in our lessons today we have at least three examples of good works all of which started through a call God made.

Christians have debated the importance of our works and our faith. Some would say that it is faith alone that saves us. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. Rather than think of works as earning our way into heaven, many think that we do good works out of thanksgiving for the gifts of grace and love that we received from God. I just find that explanation unfulfilling for me. The problem I have is that I believe that God is calling each of us to do God’s work in this world. I often say that it is our job to bring God’s kingdom here to this earth. I think there is a connection between faith and our call. Rather than separating faith and good works, trying to determine which is more important, let’s think about how we are called. I encourage you to think about your call from God and how it is a natural part of your faith and your journey here on earth?

The first reading is a good example of the connection of faith and following God’s call. The reading is about the conversion of Saul. Saul’s life changed in an instant. He became a faithful follower of Jesus and in faith he followed God’s call for him to bring the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles.

This conversion story is also about Ananias. Ananias was simply minding his own business when the Lord called out to him and asked him to go heal the eyesight of Paul. Ananias, just like many before him, was doubtful. Lord, do you really want me to go help this man who has been killing the followers of Jesus? I think my own life will be in danger. But the Lord told him it was going to be allright. Ananias was faithful. He trusted that God would take care of him and God did. Ananias also heeded God’s call for him. He would not have chosen this ministry on his own. Rather he trusted that God had made a good decision for him and thus he followed God’s wishes.

You see, I find this connection between faith and works. I find the connection between trusting in God and following God’s wishes for our lives. We are just like Ananias. Our call from God may not have been as clear as that of Ananias but I believe we do get called. We don’t know exactly when or how. We don’t know for whom God will need our help. But just like Ananias, I hope that we are ready to say yes to God’s call for us.

Our gospel lesson is also about faith and following God’s call. We know that Jesus commissioned his apostles to spread the good news to all people. In last week’s lesson, Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Specifically, Jesus sent them out to forgive the sins of the faithful, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” The apostles needed to have their faith restored so they could heed God’s call for them.

We have another post resurrection appearance of Jesus with a few of his apostles. They were fishing in the sea of Galilee and Jesus came to share breakfast with them. He fed them just as he feeds us.   Then, he gave Simon Peter a commission, he told Peter that he was called to feed the sheep, the followers of Jesus. He first reminded Peter of his faith. He asked, “Do you love me?’ Certainly if Peter loved Jesus he had faith in him. That is when Jesus asked him to feed the sheep. Of course, we hear this three times so it must have been important.

When Jesus asked Peter to feed the sheep it meant something figuratively. Peter was being asked to publicly proclaim Jesus as our Messiah. He was asked to lead all of the followers. He was told to help the followers with all of their spiritual needs. And just as Jesus had offered breakfast to them on that shore, Peter was being asked to literally feed the sheep, to give them the body and blood of Jesus through the blessed bread and wine. The early Christians lived in community so Peter was expected to provide for them as well.

Each person of faith receives their own call. It is something you need to determine with God and possibly in discussion with other humans. Some are called to volunteer at church, some are called to visit the sick, some are called to pray for others or support others on their spiritual path. Some of us are called to provide food for others. We do all we do because of our faith.

Despite the success of our economy, the number of people in need seems to be growing. According to a recent report, the number of homeless people in Phoenix has grown by over 20% in the last year. Maybe the problem is caused by drug or alcohol addiction or mental illness or bankruptcies caused by unpaid medical bills. It might be because of the apparent ease with which people can be evicted from homes. If you feel called to help with the feeding or housing of people in this community, you could join with others in this church who reach out through our million meals program, our chile farm, or join with other volunteers to staff a feeding program.

There is one other opportunity that has become a political hotbed and that is the issue of immigration including the large number of people seeking asylum. My interest today is not to discuss the political arguments about what we should do with immigration. It doesn’t matter whether you want the wall or not. It doesn’t matter if you think we should change our laws to make it more difficult for people to enter this country or not. The simple fact is that there has been little change in our laws for many years and it is unlikely that we will see new legislation. The mayor of Mesa, John Giles, recently said that the problem of migrants in our area is not a political issue. It is a humanitarian issue. The administration asked Congress this week for 4.5 billion in funding just to deal with the humanitarian issue. The government cannot handle the number of people entering the United States. The government drops people off at non-profit organizations and they are struggling to keep up. The vestry had a discussion about meeting the humanitarian needs of immigrants. Dea Podhajsky is looking into how we might get involved. Some of you may wish to join her.

Scripture tells us that people of faith are called by God. We read about Paul, Ananias and Peter but the list goes on. I think our scripture asks us to reflect on our call in faith. Each of us has a different call which must be discerned. You may be called to care for spiritual needs or you may be called to care for physical needs.  I encourage you this week to pray that God will continue to guide you in your call, your faith, and that you will be able to respond through the mercy and grace of God. Amen.  

Last modified on Saturday, 11 May 2019 01:34

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