Here is the sermon I gave at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Brownstown, IN on June 18th for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Privileges and responsibilities. Part of life as an adult is a greater scope of freedom and privilege. You can do so much more as an adult than you could as a child. Along with the privileges of adulthood comes much more responsibility. Some would see this as a trap, or a catch in life. You can picture an adult warning a child, careful for what you wish for, all those things you want bring with them a lot of responsibility.
But whoever said responsibility is such a bad thing? To the person who desires to never grow up, in the manner of Peter Pan, responsibility may seem like a bad thing. But to those who desire to live in Christ like service of others- responsibility is an opportunity for blessing. Responsibility brings fulfillment and purpose to life.
In our reading from Exodus we have a picture of privileges and responsibilities. God describes the circumstances by which the people of Israel have been rescued and brought to be a people of the Lord’s own prized possession.
“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on Eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.”
As if escorted on Eagle’s wings Israel was brought from slavery to the highest pinnacle of creation, communion with God. To be escorted on Eagle’s wings is to be carried completely by God, a free gift- nothing that Israel did themselves brought them to God. It was without doubt a great privilege.
Israel was made God’s own possession. Of all the peoples all over the earth created by God, Israel alone was set apart to be a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. As Israel obeyed the laws of God and worshiped God as they were instructed, they would show to the world how just and perfect God’s laws were. What a responsibility!
If Israel acted no different than the other nations and worshiped the gods of other nations, they would fail in showing themselves as God’s possession. Their responsibility was simply to be the people of God.
As a priestly nation. Israel had the special role of obtaining God’s blessing, and mediating God’s blessing to the rest of the world. We don’t often think of Israel in the Old Testament this way, but through sacrificial offerings and priestly responsibilities they were acting as intermediators between God and all people of the world.
Even though Israel did not chose to become God’s people, she could choose whether or not to carry out His mission or not. If Israel listened to the voice of God and kept the liturgical and ethical commandments given to her by God, then God would be able to use Israel to fulfill His purpose for Israel. Then God would with joy call Israel His treasured possession.
It is interesting to look at these details of exactly what role Israel played in the ancient world. But you might also wonder, what does that have to do with us? Israel’s treasured role as God’s possession connects with us because we are the direct spiritual descendants of Israel. We are God’s own treasured possession, the church.
In this privileged role we receive God’s blessings abundantly and have the role of sharing this blessing to the world. We have the privilege of being called a treasure possession by God, and we also have the responsibility to distribute God’s blessing to the world.
Part of our faith is making a choice, in light of the privilege we have as God’s people, do we embrace the responsibility or do we minimize our responsibility whenever we have the chance?
Both as a church and as individuals we have choices to make on a daily basis. Every day presents many small choices about how we spend our time. Should I spend my spare time with media consumption, following the ebb and flow of the 24 hour news cycle worrying about what implications the news has for our world?
Or should I spend my time treasuring God’s presence with me in the form of quiet prayer, hearing God’s Word, practicing love and forgiveness to others whenever I have the chance?
One series of choices leads a person to worry about the same things everyone in our culture worries about. Certain choices lead as to think just like our culture thinks. And even to covet material goods, or certain experiences.
In contrast the series of choices that we make in Christ lead us to a quiet enduring peace and joy. In Christ we see the world through God’s perspective.
It sounds like such simple choices we have in life, yet one of the great temptations of this time is the belief that you can learn the basics of God’s Word at one point in life, and then go your own way, living life to the full without too much thought to spending time sitting through Church or hearing God’s Word.
But if faith should become something in the background of your life, then how open can you really be to be used by God to bless others? We carry little responsibility as God’s treasured possession if faith is way in the background in life.
Today our nation celebrates Father’s day. It is certainly a good thing and pleasing to God to acknowledge and give thanks for the role of Fathers in our families and in our congregation.
We know that responsibility is an essential part of God’s design for fathers. Research shows that when Fathers play an active role in a congregation, there is a 90% chance his children will follow in dad’s steps.
When a Father stays home, only 50% of children have been shown to continue in church as adults, even if mom attends regularly. What power fathers have to bless the church! What a privilege to have such an influence. What a responsibility!
Just like Israel could choose whether or not to carry out God’s mission, we too have this choice today. Today is a good day to give thanks for fathers, and it is an especially good day to be thankful for the spiritual leadership fathers play in our church.
Whether a father or any other role in life we can all ask ‘What are the blessings that we show to the world when we accept the mission God puts before us as the church?’
Most importantly and most directly we share the blessing of knowledge of salvation when we proclaim the gospel to the world. When people hear the word with gladness, they have received the same blessing God first gave to us. Essentially we have passed on the blessing we have received to others when we share the gospel.
Whether we have opportunity to share the gospel with others or not, many in the world may receive God’s blessing through us when we act in a priestly manner by praying for those in the world. Just think about it, nothing is holding you back from praying for others in the world. And when you pray for others, you are standing as one of God’s treasured possessions speaking before God on their behalf.
Even if people reject the teachings of God’s Word, the extent to which we follow God’s Word in our lives and in our families, will provide people with unseen blessings, and a living testimony of a blessed way of life that otherwise would become forgotten. This is the blessing of the responsibility God gives his people.
Sometimes we might resist any idea of responsibility to bless others with our faith- the thinking being, what do I have to offer to others? But it is not ourselves that we offer, instead we offer them Jesus. We don’t have anything else to offer than Jesus.
With Jesus, our choice as to whether to carry out God’s mission is clear. Abiding in Christ we gladly make the choice to listen to God’s Word and be shaped by it for the blessing of the world.
In Christ it is simply unthinkable that we would starve ourselves of God’s Word. It is unthinkable that we would take little or no interest in how our faith may serve as a blessing to the world.
President Matthew Harrison notes that whatever flaws we have as a synod, for that matter whatever flaws an individual congregation may have, We are still here! We are still confessing Christ, even 500 years after the Reformation. In the case of St. Peter’s even over a hundred years since its founding.
As a synod and as a congregation you are part of a bigger picture. Lutheran Heritage Foundation has translated Luther’s Small Catechism in 50 languages. The LCMS has full time missionaries serving all throughout the world. Lutheran Hour Ministries broadcast in country after country.
KFUO the radio station of the LCMS broadcast on the internet all over the world. One program Issues Etc. applies Lutheran theology to contemporary issues with a passion and quality that stands out not just in our church body but for all Christian church bodies.
In light of what we have, the many privileges that belong to us as part of God’s treasured possession, it is a great time to dare boldly to be God’s people to the world. The time is ripe to show mercy to those who are in need. To extend blessings to those who most desperately need the good news of Jesus. It is a great time to embrace the responsibility we have as God’s treasured possession.