a sermon for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost
When you hear the word, “lavish,” what do you think of? Marketing people use that word a lot to imply abundance and luxury. We hear of lavish spending or lavish parties. It’s a word that comes to us from the French language, lavasse, which means a torrent of rain or a deluge. When someone is giving us lavish praise, it’s more than just a sprinkle, it’s a deluge of praise. And so, when we hear this word in the letter to the Ephesians, we know that God isn’t just giving us a little bit of love. It’s a deluge of love, a flood of blessing. In fact, it reminds us that God is determined bless humanity.
Fort Jackson is one of the largest military training facilities in the world. One day, a drill sergeant was barking out orders to a bunch of new recruits: “Alright all you lazy, no good excuses for soldiers – listen up! I want all you dumbbells to give me 10 laps around the parade grounds on the double. Get moving!” All but one obeyed. Angered by his seeming defiance, the sergeant marched up to him and growled, “Well?” The young recruit replied, “There certainly were a lot of them, Sir!”
Wouldn’t it be great if more of us felt that good about ourselves? To have so much spiritual self esteem that whenever someone tried to tear us down, we’d wonder who they were talking about? And yet it seems that too often we are the first ones to condemn ourselves, and the last to believe in our spiritual self worth. But as today’s epistle reading tells us, God thinks we’re pretty special; so special, in fact, that God lavishes us with grace and love.
Lavish. When you hear the word, “lavish,” what do you think of? Marketing people use that word a lot to imply abundance and luxury. We hear of lavish spending or lavish parties. It’s a word that comes to us from the French language, lavasse, which means a torrent of rain or a deluge. When someone is giving us lavish praise, it’s more than just a sprinkle, it’s a deluge of praise. And so, when we hear it in the letter to the Ephesians, we know that God isn’t just giving us a little bit of love. It’s a deluge of love, a flood of blessing. In fact, it reminds us that God is determined bless humanity. Listen to the richness of this passage:
[read Ephesians 1:3-14]
Now that is a lavish blessing. God has blessed us in Christ. God has chosen us in Christ. God holds us blameless and worthy to stand before him in love. God has destined us for adoption as his children and revealed the mystery of his will through Jesus Christ. In Christ we are forgiven and given an inheritance as God sees fit. And God has done all this so that we, who set our hope on Christ, might live.
That is amazing! With love so abundant, how can we possibly doubt that we are blessed and beloved by God? And yet, I sense that some of us in this congregation struggle to see the blessings that God has so graciously given us. We think back to a time when the pews were full, and our Sunday school classrooms were packed with children, and we were all so full of life and vitality and fellowship, and we wonder, “where is God’s blessing, now?”
Well, I’m here to tell you that God has still lavished abundant blessings on this place. We only need to look around and see that we are blessed and called by God to bless others in his name. We are a community that, just last week, was called to bless the marriage of Jonathan and Jamie Wallace, and baptize their infant son. In that single celebration, more than 250 people came together to worship and praise God’s actions in their lives. We are a community that blesses and feeds more than 100 homeless people every week. Dozens of our members give their time and talent for Hotdogs for the Homeless, and as a parish we have given financial support to keep that important ministry alive. We are a community that blessed 27 children who participated in vacation bible school, several of whom had never been to church before. We are a community which blesses hundreds of people who are recovering from addiction to alcohol, drugs, and domestic abuse, by providing a clean and safe place for them to meet. We are a community that has blessed more than a thousand young people over the years through the Scouts and Venture programs.
God has blessed us richly at St. Simon and St. Jude, and calls us to be a community of blessing. Our church exists to bless God and our neighbors through worship and service, through discipleship and by just having fun. God has lavished blessings on us so that we might live as a community that bears witness to the world that the Church is a place love and blessing for all. I look around this morning and I see that some of us have are tired, and need to take a rest. For God’s sake, take a rest. Others of us are missing, waiting to hear what God is calling them to do here and now. For God’s sake, I say it is time for us to come together and renew our life in Christ. Because the fact of the matter is that we, who have set our hope in Christ, are called to live together in community – to live together in Christ – to rebuild this parish.
This is why I am calling us all to come together for a special day of praise and thanksgiving on Sunday, August 26th. I am asking that first we come together for breakfast that morning, that we start the day with a family meal. Then we will join together for a special combined worship service – young and old, seasoned members and newcomers, generations and generations – to pray and give thanks for God’s lavish blessing in our lives and in this place. Our goal is to get 100% participation on that day. It will be a day of reunion and communion, a day of worship and celebration, a day of reconnection and recommitment.
God has deluged us with the riches of his grace so that we, who set our hope on Christ, might live to be a community of blessing. May we continue to live and to thrive in the fullness of his grace through our common life in Christ.
Thanks be to God.