“Built Up in Obedience”
Sunday, January 22, 2017
The Third Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 8: 20 - 9: 2/Psalm 27: 1 – 8/1 Corinthians 1: 26 – 31/Matthew 4: 12 - 23
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
It is good to be present in the Lord. The Lord is here because Jesus promised that where there are two or three are gathered in His name, He will be in their midst. God is not summoned by certain things like the prophets of Baal tried to do. God is not present when there is fanfare and sensationalism. God is in the midst of His people when they are gathered together in His Name. Sometimes, He can be in the whirlwind. Sometimes, He can be in the earthquake. Sometimes, He can be in the still small voice. The bottom-line is when two or three are gathered in His Name, there He is. He is with us today; and whether you feel it or not, this is the truth.
The gospel today has Jesus calling His first disciples. One word that is used several times in the gospel is the adverb ‘immediately.’ Immediately, the disciples responded. Immediately, they dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus. Immediately, they left their nets and their fathers, and they followed Him.
The Collect today says, “Give us grace to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ to proclaim the gospel and the good news of His salvation to all people that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of His marvelous works.” Our readily answering God’s call will result in us and the world perceiving the glory of His works. It is immediately because there is a need for people to hear the good news. There is a need for people to be given hope. There is a need for people to experience God’s love. Many times, if not all the time, the need is the calling.
We’ve got it confused sometimes because we think that, “The celebrity preacher is my calling.” “The bucket seeds and the nice building is my calling.” “The lively music is my calling.” “Their theology is what calls me to this church or to do this thing.” What about, “I hear the poor calling me.” What about the blind or the people in chaos like sheep without a shepherd. Wasn’t this what Jesus felt in His heart? The compassion for the sheep without the shepherd? This is why Jesus fed them, preached to them, taught them and healed them because the need is the calling. Many times, what we sense calling us is what is good for us. We think that our need is our calling. Our calling should be others’ needs.
Jesus stripped Himself of His Divine privileges. He left the Father’s right hand because there was a need. He was being called to a people who were sitting in darkness. He, the great Light, came to them, and shed light upon them.
I was told years ago that many Americans feel that they are called to minister in the city of Paris, France. Very few compared to their number felt that they were called to Africa, to Muslim countries, or to the Third World countries. There may be something wrong with their hearing because one is called when there a need, not where there is something that he wants. It is not the prestige, the comfort, the glamor or the credit. It is not what we want, but what we can give. God calls us, but before He calls us, He equips us first for us to use that which He has equipped us with, so that we can bring His good news with us and proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom.
Jesus became incarnate because of a need. For us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven. This was Jesus’ calling. His motivation was compassion. He saw sheep without a shepherd, which is why He shepherded them, fed them, and healed them. He had compassion in His heart. He went where there was darkness, and then, He shed His light upon them.
I came across this illustration that is very confrontational. It made me think. I am not intending for this to condemn us or to put us down, but to evaluate our spiritually.
For one, it says, “The story of the Cross no longer moves you.” We say, “Oh, I have heard that before. What is its significance?” Another point says that we have left our first love. The third point is, “The Church service is boring.” Fourth, we have no interest in saving souls anymore. We have no interest in saving souls anymore. Remember the time that we were on fire that we even talked to the bus driver about Jesus? We sit in the bus, and we would evangelize the person beside us. Fifth, worldly things attract us more than spiritual things. We research about the features about the next iPhone and we know more about it than how to locate where the prophet Haggai is in the Bible. Another point is we fail to do what we should be doing. Then, we have frequently been absent in the worship services and lastly, we have no participation in the work of the Church.
These are reminders for us to get back on track. Are we getting bored? Are we burning out? Are we losing our first love? If we don't have the fire in us anymore, how can we sense that people need the good news? How can we sense that they are sheep without a shepherd? Compassion was what moved Jesus.
The gifts and the callings of God are irrevocable. There is no expiration. When we were called then, He doesn’t stop calling us now. We are still being called because there are still people out there who are like sheep without a shepherd; who are lost; who are sitting in darkness; who are hungry and need to be healed; who need to be made whole, and who need to know God. This is why we are to know Him and make Him known. This is why we are supposed to be where we are doing what we are doing.
Our calling has nothing to do with the externals other than the need of the people and God leading us. We are to be proclaiming and healing out of compassion out of our obedience first to our God because this is our statement that indeed, the kingdom of God is here. We are not to preach that, “Cathedral of the King is here.” We are not to preach our religion or the name of our Church. We are not even to preach the three streams or the convergence movement. We are to preach the love of God and the good news that His kingdom has come to us. He has drawn near to us. People should not think anymore that God is mad at them because God loves them. God has forgiven them. God is not angry at them and not counting their sins against them.
People need to understand this so that they don’t have to resort to drugs, to alcohol, and those things which they go to, looking for that peace that only God can give to them. Do we have compassion for such people? How are we doing spiritually? We are to proclaim the good news, but not just proclaim the good news and leave them, but going through the work.
There has been a fire in Marimar II. It is good that people were bringing food and clothing. Many times, the tendency of people is to be niñgas cogon, and sometimes as Christians, we are like that too. What we plan to do as a Church is to feed them every day for the next several days. We help because of the need. It is not for credit, for recognition as what I saw during the first few days where there were the tarpaulins of politicians and of organizations. God gave us the gift that we can share with them. We have the hope that we can impart to them.
The need is the calling. Preach the good news of the Kingdom. Show God’s love not anything else. Have we grown cold? It is good to stop once in a while and ask ourselves this. It is not just to answer it, but with the answer, we ask ourselves, “Now, what do I do?”
We have been called by God – a humble group of people. We can relate to what St. Paul said to the Corinthians in his first letter. “Consider your calling, not many of you are noble, wealthy, and influential and powerful.” We probably used to have these people in our Church. We were a mega Church. We had politicians, celebrities and influential people, but we don’t have them now. Not many are rich, not many are noble, not many are high-born and wealthy, but God called us nonetheless because what He is looking for is not the mighty according to man’s standard. What He is looking for are people who will yield themselves to Him, to His molding, so that He could use them as instruments of spreading His peace and His love.
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away. The power and pomp of nations shall pass like a dream away. God is looking for people who will yield their hearts to Him even if they don’t have silver or gold. Peter did not have money. He told the lame beggar, “I don’t have money. I don’t have silver or gold, but such as I have, I give to you.” We all have something to give. God gave it to us. This is what the world needs. The world has money, but what God gave to us, the world cannot give to needy people.
What do we have? Have we been hiding it? Have we been burying it underground? I really believe in my heart that we have such a treasure in us that is lying there dormant. God is yet to use us mightily. Watch and expect. Anticipate it. It is not because we are such a great people, but because God uses the base things of the world to confound the wise. I am not putting us down, but making us realize that God can use us. God will if we yield ourselves to Him.
I have heard of newcomers say to us, “You don’t know what you have. You are probably used to what you have and you are taking it for granted. People need to see what you do. You have something to proclaim; you have something to share and to give.” Let us not bury the gift and the talent underground. Look at your hands and realize that healing, comfort, hope, and lives are in your hands waiting to be released. Inside of you, in your heart, and in your life, miracles, deliverances, proclamation of the good news, hope, the peace and the love of God are waiting to happen and waiting to be proclaimed. We should be excited.
What we have done is we buried it. We gave excuses for not releasing it. We say, “I have been hurt. Somebody offended me. Somebody stepped on me. Somebody destroyed me. Somebody victimized me. There is too much chaos and hatred.” These may be our excuses, but where there was chaos, that was where Jesus went. Where there was hopelessness, that was where Jesus went. Where there was disunity, that was where Jesus went. Jesus did not run from them; He went to them. Where there was darkness, that was where He went because He realized that there was the light, the peace, the hope, the good news in His hands. In my mind, probably, He thought, “What am I doing here at the right hand of God in heaven? I should be down there preaching the good news to the people – people sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. They need life.”
Jesus came down for us and for salvation. We need to stop giving our excuses. We have done that long enough. Now is the time to realize, “Look at my hands waiting to release the gifts.” I know that we have gone through a lot, but experiences in history are there for us to learn from. We are not to be destroyed by it, to be pulled down or to be held back by. They are there to teach us, to make us grow, and for us to grab it as an opportunity to display the works of God.
In John 9, the disciples saw the man born blind and asked Jesus, “Who sinned? This man or his parents?” Jesus said, “Nobody. It doesn’t matter. You don’t evaluate who sinned and who is the culprit. What you need to see is the opportunity because he is an opportunity for God’s works to be displayed in him and through him.”
In the Parable of the Sower, the seed that fell on rocky places did not grow. It said that it had no depth of soil, and when it sprung up, the sun scourged on it and it died. I ask you, “Is the sun good or bad for the plant.” The plant died not because of the sun, but because it did not have depth of soil. Some were supposed to be part of its growing, but it had no depth of soil. Things we thought are bad for us are actually good for us. Turn them around as opportunities to display the works of God.
I have been sharing about the caterpillar who was struggling and trying to get out of its cocoon and was held by a boy. It did not develop wings because the requirement for developing wings is secreting certain fluids on the inside of the body of the caterpillar, which only happens when it struggles out of its cocoon. This makes us think that maybe there is a reason that a baby struggles out of the mother’s womb. Sometimes, in our politically correct minds and dense thinking and technology, we try to make things easy and we turn not being merciful but actually cruel. The boy who helped the caterpillar was actually cruel to the caterpillar because he stopped it from developing its wings.
Experiences, hardship, challenges, tests and trials are supposed to be good for us if we face them with the right attitude and thinking. James said, “Consider it joy when you experience trials and tests of your faith because they produce good results in you.” They are meant to build you up, not tear you down. God knows what to give to us to build us up.
I have learned that in body building, the muscles grow not while you are working up, but when they are being repaired. When you are lifting weights, your muscles are being damaged and stressed. The growth takes place after the work out when it is being re-nourished and recovering. What do you do to make your muscles grow? You put a load of stress on your muscles that is greater than what it has been used to. The main way to make the muscles grow is to lift progressively heavier weights because additional tension on the muscle helps to cause changes in muscle chemistry, allowing for growth.
If I can afford, I take a supplement called creatine. It actually doesn’t make you stronger. What it does is to help your muscles recover after a workout. It nourishes your muscles after it has been stressed. It won’t do good to you if your muscles don’t work. The actual purpose is to help in the growth, but there can be no recovery if there is no work.
In the principle of Sabbath, Sabbath is comforting and fulfilling after a week of work. If you don’t work and rest and you spend Saturday as another Sabbath, it becomes too much. The spice of life, the difficulties we experience. It was good for the disciples to be in the storm. It was to build them up, not tear them down.
What we need to do is ask God, “What is He saying through this experience? What does God want me to learn from this experience? What does God want me to do henceforth? We have the Holy Spirit as our creatine – to help us; to strengthen us; to comfort us. Comfort is not to rest and not to work. Comfort means with strength. The Holy Spirit gives us strength because He doesn’t expect us to rest and do nothing anymore. He wants us to face future trials much stronger.
We can be the creatine to each other. We can strengthen and encourage others. We need to build up the Body in love. There are Scriptures that are talking about building up, not tearing down, for we have been called by God not to destroy each other but to build up.
Romans 14:19, “So then we pursue the things which make for peace (animosity) and the building up of one another.” 2Corinthians 10:8 and 2Corinthians 13:10 says “Our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you.” Gifts and talents are for building up and not tearing down. Ephesians 4:12 talks about the leadership ministry which is for the equipping of the saints for the work of service to the ultimate goal of building up of the Body of Christ.
Ephesians 4:16 says, “Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” Romans 5:12 says that each is to please neighbor for his good, to his edification. 1 Corinthians 14:12 says, “So also you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek to abound not with the gifts but for the purpose for which the gifts are given - for the edification of the Church.”
It is God’s divine purpose that we are getting ready to build the building. The physical building is didactic that reminds us and proclaims to us what we really need to be doing in God’s spiritual building. Build it up and put our efforts towards building it so that it stands as a proclamation of God’s love, His glory and His good news.
1Corinthians 14:26b says, “Let all things be done for edification.” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
Building up each other is our calling. This is the time to do it. This has always been and this is the way it is and this is the way it always is going to be in the kingdom of our God.