Fourth Sunday in Epiphany: “Walking in Love of Service”
Behold and how good it is for brothers to dwell together and gather in the household of God. It is such a blessing to come and be together because this is a very significant day in the life of our Church. We are here for a reason, and that reason is the mission that God has given each of us. Why are we here? What is the purpose of our lives? Why were we born? All of these things are being brought to an answer as we come to Church because the puzzle is slowly being fixed and the picture is becoming clearer in the life God intends for each of us to have.
This is the day that will forever be marked in the pages of history and throughout eternity. What a privilege for us to be here, chosen by God to fill this house with the praises and prayers of His people. We have journeyed for 40 years from one place to another, and finally, we are here on our own land. God is faithful! I am thankful to God for having the privilege to be a part of this Church almost at the beginning. God is working mightily!
God has showed to us the wonders of His law and He entrusted His law to the Church. The Church is the perpetual, continuous relay of the truth of God. From generation to generation, the task of each Christian is to live out the Word of God. It is the life that God has drawn from His Word and from the sacraments, and each one of us is responsible to pass this on to the next generation. It is to leave a lasting and living legacy, an everlasting inheritance to the next generation.
In 2 Timothy 1:5 New Living Translation (NLT), Timothy, who was a pastor in a huge church of 70,000 Christians in Ephesus, was remembered by Paul to say, “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.” You and I do not know what happens to the life that God has given to each of us as an inheritance, as stewards of lives to guard and to mentor. We need to tell the children “the story of faith in a living God.”
Our gospel today opens with the same verse that ended last week. Jesus was in Nazareth and He enters the synagogue, which perhaps has been His synagogue as He was growing up. It was His custom to go to the synagogue during Sabbath. It is a pattern that almost all of us must follow. Jesus is calling us to make sure that we follow His custom. Like anyone of us, He was tempted in all things. He was tempted not to go to Church and just do whatever He had to do.
The gospel today starts with verse 21 of Luke 4 in the Living Bible and it says, “21 Then He added, “These Scriptures came true today! The words in that book we hold are meant to be fulfilled in every generation.” God is in the business of fulfilling His promise. Fulfilled means accomplished, completer and finished. Psalm 138:8 says that God is committed to His promise. He will watch over His promise in our lives. Whatever it is, no one is exempted from this. When Jesus says, “By My stripes you are healed,” He is committed to make sure that this will happen. When He says, “I will supply all your needs according to My riches and glory,” He will surely meet this need, but we need to rise in faith, and we need to tell our children and others this story of a living God and that faith in Him.
The setting is in Jesus’ hometown, perhaps in the very synagogue where he was taken by his parents as a young boy until the appointed time for His ministry. Scriptures and history do not indicate what age He left Nazareth but we can assume that He was much younger than the 30 years that He was when He started His public ministry, marked by His baptism at the Jordan River. He left Nazareth as a youth in the eyes of many of his town mates, a young man, the son of Joseph, the carpenter. When the people saw Him, they had so much awe, not because He was Jesus, but He was a son of a carpenter. So the people thought, “What can this lad teach us? What can we learn from Him that we don’t know already? After all, was He not that young person who walked these streets, who was just like all the young ones at our time? What can a young man do?”
In Psalm 71: 17, it says, “Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.” There is something about youth that is so much vital and valuable in God's eyes. In Jeremiah 1:4-10, it was a conversation between God and a young man named Jeremiah who probably was just out of his teens.
Today, specifically for us, Cathedral of the King, there is a call of God on this very significant day in our Church for a message to be brought to the youth. Pope John Paul II says that the youth is not only a period of life that corresponds to a certain number of years; being young is also a time given by Providence to every person and given to him as a responsibility. One of the greatest ability that you and I have is the ability to respond, which is called responsibility. Being young has a lot to do with this because youth is a state of living where responsibility is given and accepted. There must be someone to give and there must be someone to accept.
Youth is phase of life where one searches for the meaning of life. The rich young ruler came to Jesus and the question he had despite of all he had was, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He had everything. He was rich, young and had so much future ahead of him, but he wanted to know the meaning of life. Like many young people, he searches for answers, concrete tangible answers that will tell him how to live out this life. Every adult, every parent, every Church leader, every teacher must realize this fundamental aspect of the youth. They are crying out for an answer. We must know how to identify it in our children, and then, we must learn to love this aspect of young person’s stage and quest for life.
Every person was created by God unique, different from one another. All throughout our lives, each one of us will seek this meaning, this purpose that God has. We seek this purpose out, but this urge and desire is even stronger, more intense in the young people. This is why they get so insecure when they are not at par with their peers. They want to conform. They desire to find love, which is really a desire to love and to be loved.
Every weekday morning, I have a wonderful privilege to be a second father to 22 young men, ages 12-16. Every morning is a wonderful experience I look forward to and to set aside my other agenda, even my personal comforts in order to guide and mentor these young men. This is something I have been involved in for the past 15 years. These young persons are aspiring to fill in that God given desire. Many times we misunderstand the signals they send out. We brand them as rebellious, lazy, lacking drive, hopeless, inconsiderate, disrespectful, pleasure seekers, not knowing that these are all their way to say, “We need your help.” It is all a cry for help. It is all of them saying, “We need the Jesus, who was once young like us, the Jesus who was rejected by His own family and people, the Jesus who was just the son of a carpenter, the Jesus who was disdained and ridiculed, and later persecuted and murdered.” We need Jesus, the Jesus who comes to each young person’s seeking heart, and who says to them, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing and in your life.”
Sometimes, it is not so much what we say to the youth that is important. Sometimes, it is what they are saying to us that are important – their actions, their words, their songs, their over-all behavior, and their zeal! Within these seemingly rowdy and even disrespectful actions of our young, there is the reflection, a spark of the original joy of God when He created man. It is the joy that cannot be expressed in some ways so they express it in ways that they know. The adult’s task is to help them find it and not quash it.
How do we approach this? I do not think that we need any deep theology to make this happen. For one, we can tell them that the world is unfair but God is Lord over all. He is Sovereign. Keep on doing what He is telling you to do.
In Jeremiah 1:6-10, it says “O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”7 The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. 8 And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” 9 Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said, “Look, I have put my words in your mouth!10 Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant.” There are things that are coming in the youth's life, but let him understand that God is Sovereign and he is going to follow Him no matter what it is.
The second point is that the world is cruel, self-centered and filled with hate but God is LOVE. As a pastor, I realize that our young people are threatened, bullied, pressured to conform to the ways of the world. All they see are ways to promote self. We must teach them about the true LOVE which comes from the Father. Pope JPII “Love is not something that is learned, and yet there is nothing else as important to learn!” Love leads men to see the beauty in everything because there is beauty in love. In the youth’s passion and pursuit for models amongst the advertising world, there is a call for true love that is not found not in external beauty because we live in a world of facades.
1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” In another translation, it says, “It is not fancy hair, gold jewelry, or fine clothes that should make you beautiful. 4 No, your beauty should come from inside you—the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. That beauty will never disappear. It is worth very much to God.” Even though one ages, the beauty will be there because there is the gentle and quiet spirit which is love. Ultimately, they will know that it is only God who can give them this love. Christ is seeking the young and the young are seeking Christ. In the youth, there is a great potential for good, for creativity, for hope, for immense possibilities. Love transforms them all.
In 1 Corinthians 13:11, it says, “11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” Love transforms the immature to maturity. Love transforms a child to become an adult. When our young discover their true love, when they have a living encounter with God, in Christ, when the love which seeks out for them, like Jesus seeking His lost sheep, and which they seek for settles in their lives, then, we are where we will see the power of God in human lives. It is the power that will change the world so badly seeking for help.
Thirty years from now, some of us may not be here, but the youth of our Church will be the ones to build not just this building, but the lives of many who are destroyed by sin, by drug addiction or by the vices of the world. They will come to our Church and they will know that our help is in the Name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. They will draw out from the Word and the Sacraments and they will go out with the power of God. Then, the young men and ladies, some of them whom we call as careless, disrespectful, or lazy will suddenly be transformed because of the transforming power of the love of God in our hearts.
I leave with you this Scripture from 1 Corinthians 13:4-13, in the New Living Translation (NLT) which you can consider as your daily bread for this week. Read it and watch God transform you every time you do so. “4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[a] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.[b] All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
We can never be so filled with God. We can always have something more because He is the God who is Spirit and Life, and He wants us to share this with the young. Tell the young “the story of faith and the story of God’s faithfulness” and see how they make a difference in this world.