9th Sunday after Pentecost, August 11, 2019
– Genesis 15:1-6, Luke 12:32-40
– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –
Abraham is one of the three most intriguing characters of the Old Testament, the other two being Moses and Satan, the reason being that only these three have the audacity to challenge God’s assumptions and change God’s mind. Moses does so by convincing God not to wipe Israel off the face of the earth when they start worshiping a pagan idol while he is away on Mount Sinai receiving God’s commandments. Satan does so in his capacity as an angel, who has not yet fallen from God’s grace, and who convinces God to lift the hedge of protection around Job so that he might test him to prove whether his faith is as strong as God assumes. In each instance, they insist that God be true to the divine promise of being faithful and just.
Abraham is no less insistent in his effort to remind God of the divine promise that compelled him to uproot his family and venture into the unknown, assured that God would grant him and his wife, Sarah, an heir and descendants as plentiful as the stars of heaven. In today’s reading from Genesis you can hear the urgency of Abraham for God to do something quickly, or else his heir would not be one of his own lineage, for he and Sarah in their advanced years did not expect to live much longer. But God is equally insistent that a promise made would be a promise fulfilled, and that they must continue to live and act in the certainty of that promise.
In other words, if God is to do something remarkable and life-changing for us, we must also do something in being faithfully active as God’s children living in the conviction that God’s promise will be fulfilled.
“Do something!” This this the cry that greeted our president as he arrived in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas following the mass shootings that robbed these communities of precious, innocent lives.
I was particularly unsettled by the words from today’s Gospel in which Jesus said, “If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.” (Luke 15:39) For gun violence, like thieves, has robbed our homes of invaluable lives that can never be replaced. Yet these are thefts that will continue to repeat themselves until we have finally heeded the voice of God through the cries of the victims to “Do something!”
This is not simply a cry against gun violence. This is a cry against all kinds of injustice that rob humanity and all creation of our divine potential. Amid overwhelming, indisputable evidence that demands action, the voice of God is insisting that we do something to stop the mass incarceration of people of color; do something to stop global warming and environmental degradation; do something to address our unjust immigration policy; do something to provide affordable healthcare, housing and quality education for all; do something to stop racial and ethnic bigotry and homophobia; do something to enable all people to live the fullness of their God-given potential. Do something now!
Whenever Jesus tells a story involving master-slave relations, I read with caution, even though I understand the master as God who expects faithful and unwavering obedience. For such parables were used by slaveholders to elicit unsavory devotion from the individuals they enslaved. But this particular parable was one that required some editing on their part in that it involved a cooperation they could have never tolerated. “Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes,” said Jesus, for “truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.” (Luke 15:37)
God is inviting and calling you into a divine compact in which you are no longer passive servants waiting for the master’s presence and instructions to act. We know the goodness that God desires. It cries out from the mouth of every person victimized by the callousness of corporate greed; victimized by the hardened hearts of political leaders and presidents who have betrayed the trust of the people for the monetary benefits of material gain, ignoring the words of John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address who said, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
Miraculous divine intervention will amount to nothing until we, God’s offspring, take to heart the conviction that we as free citizens of this nation and God’s world are also the agents of God’s divine intervention who, through our voice, our active involvement and our vote, can turn the tables, move mountains, and make miracles happen.
Kennedy, who was far from perfect in his actions, nonetheless, articulated the ideals of a people struggling with many social, political and economic divisions, yet hopeful for the future when, in the closing remarks of his inaugural speech he said (and I paraphrase) “With a good conscience as our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking (God’s) blessing and (God’s) help, but knowing that here on Earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
The motto of our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is “God’s work, our hands.” People of God, do something now! Amen.