“The Goal of a Legitimate Witness”
November 13, 2016
The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Malachi 3: 16-4: 2/ Psalm 98/2 Thes. 3: 6 – 13/ Luke 20: 45 - 21: 4
Patriarch Craig Bates
In our gospel reading, in Luke 21:3-4, Jesus says, “Truly, truly.” Whenever you see that in your Bible, “Truly, truly,” or “Verily, verily” or “I tell you the truth,” it means to listen real close. Jesus tells us that what will make us free is truth. The truth shall set us free.
Jesus says, "I am telling you this, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, put in all that she had to live on."
There is absolutely nothing that you can do about your past. You can learn from it, realize that you did some stupid things, or thank God for the blessings you had in the past. There is nothing that we could do to change the past. There is no time machine that you can go back to yesterday and make it better or worse.
One of the things that we can do about the past is we cannot bring the past with us. We can ask God to forgive us, and God has already forgiven us two thousand years ago. What we are doing is that we are seeing that forgiveness. It is like God's love. He has already loved us. There is nothing that you can do to make God love you any more. There is nothing that you can do to make God love you any less. God loves you because He is love. God has forgiven you because God loves you and He wants you to be with Him.
There is really nothing that we can do about tomorrow because tomorrow hasn't come yet. God can let us worry about tomorrow, but He can't really do anything about it. All the worry in the world is not going to change tomorrow. It can make your day miserable, but it is not going to change your tomorrow.
What we can deal with is today. This is the day that the Lord has made. We can decide what we are going to do about it. We can rejoice and be glad in it, or we can allow people, circumstances to steal that joy and spend the rest of the day making our lives miserable.
As for me, I will rejoice in the Lord. This is the Lord's day! Today is the day of my salvation. People come to me and say, "Do you think you can lose your salvation?" I would say, “Not today. Today, I have decided to walk with Jesus.” If we miss the day, we miss it fully and completely. What we can today is the things that we have today. In the offering, we can't put an IOU. God doesn't ask us to do anything about what we have done in the past. He asks us to do today what we have today and to make that decision, “Can I trust God today?” “Can I obey God today?” If God asks you to do something today, will you do it? Will you serve God today? If you have decided to do that, you are here. If you are here today, you are to worship Him with all of your strength, will all your mind, and you are going to do it today.
God puts people before us. In my ministry, I had on an assistant Bishop in Louisiana who was a really great man. Before the end of his administration, he was sitting in my office and he said, “I hated being an assistant Bishop. As an assistant, you can only do what the regular Bishop tells you to do. I have always wanted to evangelize and preach the gospel. I am going to retire next year, and I am going to do that.” What happened was that he retired that following year and he died two week after his retirement. He put off what God was telling him to do today. This is a sad story. I am sure he went to heaven; he loved Jesus.
There is a song that says, “Love the one you live.” There is a certain truth to this. Are we going to let go saying to our wife or husband today, “I love you?” We don’t say that we love whenever but we do it today. Are all our children going to know at the end of the day that we love them? To a person we meet, to any person that comes to our presence today, there is an opportunity and God has sent them to us. Are we going to show them Jesus today because today could be the day of their salvation? Today could be that moment for them and Jesus says we have to obey.
If there is somebody y we need to forgive, will we forgive them today? Even now, if we want, we may want to make a phone call. Do not put off today. Our freedom is not in tomorrow. Our freedom is in today. The truth will set us free today. Walk on that one, single day with God.
This is the message of the gospel today about the widow. To be a widow in the first century was really a very hard part because the culture was very male oriented. If a widow did not have any children, she was particularly in a bad shape. She was alone in the world and no one will take care of her. God has a special place in His heart for widows. God tells us that widows and fatherless are supposed to be taken care of because they are special to Him.
The widow in the gospel comes to bring her prayers before God and around her were all the Pharisees and the Scribes and Jesus. Jesus was looking around in what is going on and He has had it with the Pharisees. The battle becomes more and more intense. His real issue with these Pharisees was that they worshiped with their lips, but their hearts were far from God. They were teaching the people with outward things of God but ignoring the issues of the heart.
Jesus was telling us that what God wants from us is our hearts. He wants who we are. God loves us each individually. He knows who we are, and He loves us the way we are. Jesus told us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” Reflecting on this, this is how Jesus loves us. Jesus loves you with all His heart, with all His soul, with all His strength, and with all His mind. Jesus is one hundred percent with you. He doesn’t hold back a single thing, including His own heart. He is a one hundred percent and still is a hundred percent with us.
This is what God wants from us. Today, are we going to be a hundred percent with God? Are we going to love Him with all our heart, not just a little bit? Are we going to love Him will all our mind and with all our strength? If Jesus is not worth of all of our life, He is not Lord at all in our life. It is a one hundred percent both way. The good news about this is that we get the better deal.
We come to Jesus and we give Him a hundred percent even if we have a lot of sins, a lot of problems every time and He gives us eternal life. We are coming to Him today with all of the junk that we have in our lives and we lay it on His feet because He wants it. He wants us to give it to Him. He wants us to give Him our sickness so that He can give us healing. He wants us to pray and say our sins so that He can give us His forgiveness. He wants us to bring the most demonic things in our lives so that He can give us deliverance.
This is the change that we are going to have as we receive communion. We come to give Him everything and He gives His life to us. The widow was poor and how much does she give Jesus? Everything that she had. She gave out of her poverty.
What Jesus wants us to learn is that He is a hundred percent with us and therefore, we can trust Him with everything. He wants us to bring us to that point where we know, deep down inside, that He is all that we need in this life. All we need is Jesus. He will meet us at the point of our need every time we come into His presence. The widow showed that it is God that all she needs because God is all that she had.
When we know that God is all that we have, then, we know that God is all that we need. God brings us to that point where our soul longs just for Him, where we realize that there is nothing else that will satisfy us. There is nothing else that will show us. We try to replace it with drugs, with alcohol, with our favorite sin because we think it will satisfy us, but it doesn’t.
The only satisfaction in life is a relationship with Jesus, like the deer panted for the water, like the woman with the issue of blood that in her desperation says, “If I can just touch the hem of His garment, I will be healed.” Jesus is all that you need. Jesus is what our nation needs. We are looking for the right politicians, but Jesus is what we need Jesus is one hundred percent with us and in us.
Today, we are celebrating - the purchase of land and the beginning of the building of the cathedral after thirty years. Probably, in two years, it is going to be a reality. I am looking forward to coming back and use my crozier to knock at the doors. I said yesterday at the groundbreaking that I am so thankful for Bishop Ariel. He had a hard time for the last few years. He has been faithful. He stayed and he had help from the Bishops, the Rector’s Council, the men and the women and they all stayed.
I am excited! We have the land. We will have the building. We have to play our part. We have to put our effort, our money. We need to give for the building. We don’t stop giving. Give and you will be given. Giving is a blessing. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Jesus is a Giver. Jesus gave all He had, which is the greatest gift.
Having the temple building is first and foremost a place for us to come and meet with God. We will have a place to meet on Sunday and during the week and we know that God is there. There will become baptizing of children. There will become weddings. There will become the burying of the dead. There will become Sunday after Sunday a place to celebrate the Eucharist. Jesus is there. Jesus has never left us and never forsaken us.
We are not just building this for us. We realized that there are some who confessed it who aren’t here. Some are not here but home with the Lord and they are looking down on us seeing our faithfulness. They know and they never saw the building. We are building for the generation to come. We are building a Church to bless the little children, so that they can have a place to learn about Jesus, so that they can have a place for worship and to be part of their lives, and a place that they could call a home and say, “This is my Church. This is where I meet my God.” When they grow up, they will bring their children and their children will bring their children’s children and they will remember that God is all that we need.