Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9A

Track 1: The Path of Life

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45: 11-18
or Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Abraham sent his head servant back to his home country and to his relatives in order to obtain a wife for his son Isaac. He did not want his son to marry a daughter of the Canaanites. When his servant questioned Abraham about the matter, Abraham assured him that the angel of God would go before him to intervene on his behalf.

The servant obeyed Abraham. What he reached his destination, he was wise to pray to the Lord first. Then he preceded. In today’s Old Testament, Abraham’s servant recounts his experience of how God responded to his prayer.

“I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also”—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’   

“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels.   (Genesis 24:42-46)

We know the story well. Rebekah eventually became Isaac’s wife. But that was Abraham. He had made a covenant with God. He was to become the father of many nations. Is God that involved with our lives? Yes, if we allow him. We, too, have a covenant with God.

In Proverbs we read:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.   (Proverbs 3:5-6)

God has a plan for each of our lives. Following his plan, though there may be hardships, will ultimately bring us great blessings. We may not grow financially wealthy as some preachers are promising today. True wealth is a relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Jesus promised:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”   (Matthew 11:28-30)

Entering into God’s rest is a path which we may choose to take, or not to take. Jesus is that path. He said:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.   (John 14:6)

God is concerned about every aspect of our lives. Jesus said: “All the hair on our heads are numbered.” A daily walk with God is the answer to today’s turmoil and stress. As we walk with him we will not miss the opportunities and blessings he is sending our way. When we exclude God from our decisions and try to follow our own path, we greatly limit what God can do for us and through us. In Proverbs we read:

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.   (Proverbs 16:25)

The psalmist wrote about a different and a different outcome:

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

That is our path if we choose it.

 

 

Track 2: Struggling with Sin

Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 145:8-15
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Have we ever made New Year’s resolutions and found them difficult to keep? How about Lenten disciplines? We may not be alone. The Apostle Paul shared this with the Church in Rome:

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.   (Romans 7:15-20)

Perhaps the great apostle and missionary to the Gentiles, who wrote a large part of the New Testament was just writing about himself before his Christian conversion? No. This is what he was saying about himself before his conversion:

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.   (Philippians 3:4-6)

In his mind, his religion had helped establish his righteous. It was a false sense of righteousness that Paul would ultimately declare it was like a filthy rag. The holiness of God, when experienced in the presence of the Holy Spirit, will always convict us. This is a good thing. Paul’s dilemma over sin in his life was not going to be solved by any religion.

Having written concerning the futility of overcoming sinful acts on his own, Paul makes this declaration:

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul’s struggling with sin stopped when he turned his struggle over to the Lord Jesus. Jesus said:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”   (Matthew 11:25-30)

We must first enter the rest Jesus has provided for us before he can continue to do his work of sanctification or cleansing in us. When we do, then he will teach us his ways. He will impart his ways in us. He will not browbeat us. His is gentle and humble in heart. We learn and grow much better when we are not under a burden of guilt.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We will experience conviction, however. This conviction is a good thing. It should not hide from it. The Apostle John tells us how to deal with it:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   (1 John 1:8-9)

Jesus is ready to rescue us from our body of death. Are we ready for him to perform his skilled surgical work? Now is the time to come to him with all our hearts, putting our full trust and confidence in him. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly he will renew us day by day. Amen.

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Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year A

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