25th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Purity of Service
Proverbs 2:1 says, “If you will receive My words and treasure My commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding.” There is an effort on our part to hear, to incline, and to open our heart. In the Old Testament, it says, “Hear, O Israel.” In the New Testament, it says, “Hear what the Spirit is saying.” Ignore the things that are not being said, but hear what is being said. What is the message or what is the messenger trying to convey?
When we read or hear a story, what we want to get is the moral of the story not the other details. Don’t pay attention to what is not being said, but get to the main point. It is like telling a joke that instead of people getting the punch line, other non-essentials are being pointed out. In the parable of the unrighteous judge in Luke 18, it starts with Jesus telling them a parable to show the purpose – that at all times, they ought to pray and not to lose heart. The point of the parable is to encourage, to instruct the disciples and to pray and not lose heart. It is not about a widow who was persistent in approaching an unrighteous judge to ask for legal protection. We need to get the main point, not that which is not being said or the peripherals..
The Holy Spirit speaks to the Church that which will benefit her. However, some have built doctrines on what parables don't teach. The Holy Spirit speaks through His earthen vessels. The point is not that the vessel, the speaker, or that the messenger is infallible/worthy or has no wrong. The point is that earthen vessels may not be perfect, nonetheless, the Spirit uses them because even in their weakness and in their flaws, they are to speak and convey a point. I am not saying that teachers or preachers don’t have a responsibility to purify them; the point is that the Spirit speaks and uses people.
Proverbs 2:5 says, “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of the Lord, and you will understand what is right, fair, and you will be led to every good path.” Look to where God is. In the story of Elijah, he thought that God could be found in the wind, the earthquake or fire like what we sometimes do, but God was in the still small voice. We look elsewhere when God is whispering right into our ears, so we need to incline our ears.
The Word of God is not in the mouth of big-name preachers. God is not present in mega-churches alone. Moses said that the Word of God is not beyond the sea, not in the heavens, but it is near us, right before our eyes, in our mouth and in our hearts. What we need to do is to incline our ears.
I can tell you that sometimes, there are Sundays that you don’t want to go to Church for one reason or another. Whatever the reason or whatever you feel, it doesn’t change the fact that God is here waiting for you. God is always present. We believe in His 100% presence here. The question is: are we wholly 100% present also in the church? Are our minds off somewhere – looking into our concerns and plans after church? God is here every Sunday, but do we show up to our appointment? I am not saying that God is not in other places because He is everywhere, but where does He want us to meet Him? Where is the appointed place for us? We need to incline our ears and not miss out.
Our hope is in God – not in the sensational or super powers. It is not in the economy of the first world countries or Middle Eastern countries. The question we ask: is God not speaking or are we not hearing? Hear and get the point because if you don’t, you will be discontented and you will look in the wrong places for fulfillment and for peace.
In the gospel, Jesus’ soul struggled and as a human, He had emotions and He knew the suffering, the humiliation that He will face plus the unthinkable amount of pain of being crucified on the cross. However, instead of getting the support from His disciples, they argued about who was the best amongst themselves because they found security in man’s praise.
In social media, we find people posting accomplishments of themselves or their families because they derive security, joy and peace from it when their posts our liked. However, they don’t post their failures. God alone in our joy. If we put our trust in temporal things, they will come; they will go. They can; and they will change. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Our work, our identity is not defined by the things we own, by our accomplishments or the things around us. It is defined by God’s love for us. One’s identify is not in titles as lawyers, architects, preachers, doctors. One’s identify is “the beloved of God” or “The redeemed of the Lord.” Our hope, our life, our strength is in God. Our peace is not in temporal things like money, youth, beauty, and health, praise of men that can seemingly bring joy, freedom, and order in our lives. Rather, the peace that surpasses all understanding will remain when all of these temporary things in our lives are gone. Job said, “Naked will I come to this world, naked I will go, blessed be the Name of the Lord.”
We sing, “Blessed be Your Name in the land that is plentiful where streams of abundance flow. When the sun is shining down on me, when the world’s all as it should be, blessed be Your Name.” What if if we are found in a desert place and we walk in the wilderness or on the road marked with suffering, and where there is pain in the offing,” will we still say, “blessed by Your Name?”
An American hymn writer in the 19th century named Horacio Spafford lived a very tragic life. He lost his two-year old son and much property in a Chicago fire which affected his business. Because of this event, he decided to send his wife and his four daughters to go to Europe, however, they encountered a shipwreck where his four daughters died. His wife survived. A few years later, his other son died too. As a Church elder, he was told that what he experienced was the judgment of God pointing to something that he must have done wrong. With all the unfortunate things that happened in his family, and when he was about to meet his wife as he was riding on a ship that passed through where his four daughters died, he was inspired to write a hymn entitled, “It Is Well With My Soul” that says:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
God provides the peace, not the things or circumstances around us like our work, our business, or our relationships. These things are good and we need these, but the one thing that will remain forever is Jesus Christ because He is the same, today,and forever. He promised to be with us until the end of the age. The peace that surpasses all understanding is not anchored in circumstances, but in the love of God, which will never ever change. The peace that we have can affect our decision
2 Corinthians 5:14 says that the love of God controls us, therefore, we recognize man not according to the flesh. The love of Christ controls us, not the things around us like our circumstances or our relationships. Our family, our job, our relationships is important, but ironically, the freer we are from our attachment to these temporal things, the better stewards we are of them. If we are so attached, we fear losing them and we become possessive; but if we are secure that the Lord is our Shepherd and we shall not want, our disposition towards these things will be in order. The more we become givers because we are not possessive. We give not because we have to but because it is our joy to do so. It frees us from what affects the weak in faith and the world. We look at these things not according to the world’s standards, but according to the love that we receive from God, and this makes us content. We do not need to prove that we are better or more important than others because of what we have. The Lord is our Shepherd, and we shall not want. We are content. We don’t need to compete with our fellow apostles because the love of God controls us.
Our security, our worth, our identity, our well-being should be anchored in God alone. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. It is not about titles or positions. Our identity is that we are the child of God. We are the beloved of the Lord. We are the redeemed of the Lord. The Lord is our Shepherd and we do not want or lack. Our peace remains. Many people may not understand it, and it may be beyond our comprehension, but our faith, our hope and our life is in God.
If we are anchored in this, we become better stewards and handlers of the wealth that God has entrusted to us, of the relationship that God has entrusted to us, of our commitments and vows, and of all that God has given to us. The stronger this is established in us, the purer our service becomes.
May we find that only in God is our peace. This is the moral of our life and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.