January 15, 2017

We heard in our first reading Prophet Isaiah’s word:  “The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.” Prophet Isaiah declaring how the promised one – was called from his mother’s womb to be the one who brings salvation to the people of Israel – and more – who is appointed to be a light to the gentiles.  “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations.” What a call that is. The servant of God should not only reach out to God’s own people, but to the whole world. And this servant of God, one we call Jesus Emmanuel this light to the nations, tells us in the same way he is, so we are – we should be: – salt of the earth – to give taste to life and to preserve life – and light of the world – to show all people the presence of God.

We have a task to do.  One that many of us feel uneasy about, thinking – as most people do – that we are not up to it, – that somehow we are not well shaped or well designed enough to give off the right kind of light, – that for one reason or another we are not the ones for this particular calling, – that it is really meant for someone else. Maybe some of us like to think we are praying, doing what we can but we don’t want to be someone like Andrew who said to his brother Peter: “I have found the Messiah”.  Some of us think like that sometimes because we may feel inadequate most of the time — inadequate and afraid. That is why people go about trying to prove to themselves that they are OK – to prove it by striving to be the world’s best parent, – or best wife or best husband, or best lover. So many try to prove to themselves that they are OK by trying to be the one who can ski or bake pies or play golf the best, or by being the one who provides for their families the best or by being the one who can drink the best.So many people are trying to prove to themselves that they are OK.  And so many are afraid they are not, despite all that trying, all that striving. And yet, to our inadequacies and to our fears, no matter how well hidden, or how up front they may, the prophet Isaiah says, Jesus says, God says, “I believe in you.” God says : I have chosen you when you were in your mother’s womb. In other words, God says: My child, I believe in you, I give you everything, for you I sacrifice myself, and for you I am raised.  My son, my daughter, for you I am the Lamb of God, for you I am the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, giving you gift upon gift so that you may be all that I have made you to be. God believes in you. This is the gospel that we are to announce to others. God believes in you. This is the faith that provides the light for the oil, the flame that lights the lamp. God believes in you and me this is the oil of blessing that provides the power for our living, the oil to keep the lamp burning. God believes in you.  God believes in me. God believes in us…..That is incredible.  Perhaps too incredible for us to accept all at once: this idea that God believes in you and me.  Our belief in God’s belief in us makes all the difference. Because God sent his beloved Son to redeem us. To die as a Lamb for us. A tourist visited a church in Germany and was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb near the top of the church’s tower.  He asked why it was there and was told that when the church was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold.  His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him dead.  But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured. How did he survive?  A flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a lamb.  The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man was saved. To commemorate that miraculous escape, someone carved a lamb on the tower at the exact height from which the workman fell.

But consider this — consider the ones whom Jesus chose to be his disciples the ones who were to teach his ways when he was gone – the ones into whose hands were entrusted the life saving message that he came to deliver. There was nothing extraordinary about them. In fact, they were not even ordinary as some might understand ordinary. Some were outcasts, of questionable character to many of the religious leaders of the day – like Matthew the tax collector; – others were poor, uneducated, a few were fishermen, – there was even a zealot who wanted to overthrow mighty Rome. And the women who followed him all his days – some were innocents like Mary, others anxious like Martha, – and some were prostitutes, and some had been caught in adultery,  – and some had had many husbands, others had been considered not fit for decent company.  And yet Jesus entrusted to them as he entrusts to us – his gospel concerning salvation. And he was not disappointed. Consider these disciples, these followers, these ones no different than us, these ones that the scriptures portray with startling honesty as being ones who misunderstood Jesus, as being ones who twisted his words to suit themselves,  as being ones who sought their own glory and honour, as being ones who betrayed and deserted Jesus in his last hours. Consider these ones that to whom Jesus gave the keys of heaven – Peter who denied he did not know Jesus. Jesus tells us what he told all those: I believe in you. You are the light of the world.  You are the salt of the earth. My friends, God believes in us who are sitting here this morning. God believes in you and there is nothing you cannot do, You can shine in your homes, you can shine in this church, and you can shine where you work, You can shine because God believes in you, you can shine because God makes you that way… He gives us the oil for our lamp, He equips us with the wick we need, He fashions every part of us and he holds in hands, or he puts us upon the stand so that we might shine.. The only question is – are we going to light up with the fire of our faith? Are we, by our trust and joyful acceptance of the message of God’s love for us, going to allow the spark to set the flame a going? Andrew did.  Peter did. So did James and John, and Mary and Martha, and that woman by the well and that late comer, that Pharisee called Paul, And so did little Mark – who ran away more than once, and so many more – ordinary and less than ordinary.. God believed in them – even when they didn’t believe in themselves. And despite their weaknesses, their failings, their sins, their fears, they lifted up their own people and gave light to the nations. God believed in them.  And God believes in you. God said: You Sarah, who are old and barren. You will mother a nation. You David, the youngest and smallest of your family, you will father an everlasting dynasty. You Simon, son of John, you who are changeable and spontaneous. You will be a rock for the faith of my people, the church! You Saul, you who persecute me, will be my greatest apostle. You Mary, whose shame was known to many in one town in one time, your love for me will be remembered throughout the world for all time. God says the same thing to you and me God saying: You all in Vestry I believe in you.  You all serving in the Altar Guild  I believe in you. You all working to keep the church & grounds clean and proper -I believe in you. You all in Choir,  I believe in you. You all working with children and youth & in outreach – I believe in you     You all doing everything you could at this church – I believe in you.   You can say it to one another on behalf of God. Look over you pew, tell them, I believe in you and listen to it being said to you. God says: Because I believe in you, you can do anything I ask you to do. You can do it.  We can do it. Yes, We can be what God calls us to be.  And have the joy and the peace that God wills to give to all through the gospel we proclaim. Praise be to God, who believes in us.    Amen.