Twenty First Sunday After Pentecost
Sermon starts at 15:50 in the recording
Gospel: Matthew 22:34-46
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ 43He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
44 “The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?
45If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ 46No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
What will you worship?
At a very basic level, the word worship means:
When people hear the word, they rightly associate it with the worship of God, but the act of placing worth in something is not beholden only to the God of the universe.
Jesus says things like, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24) and “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
He speaks of the deeper truth about worship: that which we place value in dictates the direction of our journey.
We have a choice.
We can worship the temporal (temporary and earthly) or the eternal (God). If we worship the temporal, we will be heading down a path that reflects those things that are temporal.
Temporal things that can become objects of worship are things like:
· Political leaders
· Spiritual leaders
· The act of worshiping
Quite the list. Now, what I mean to say by listing these things is not that are things that we all worship, but that they are things that we can worship.
They can be something that influences our journey. They can be something that distracts us from the good journey.
In and of themselves, and in the right place, these things are a part of life and, mostly, necessary.
Out of balance they create other issues in the journey of the soul.
They can keep us from seeing that which is important for our lives and well-being.
Jesus addressed this in His conversation with the Pharisees found in the Gospel reading.
If you remember, they were coming to Jesus to, again, try and catch Him in a misstatement, a misspeak or worse, a heretical view. They were threatened by Him and, like I have said before, when the status quo power structure is threatened, those who are a part of it will do everything to maintain their position.
Really, a great illustration of this are the attacks that befall all politicians in an election year. (I hope that you, like me can see through this and are disgusted in the poor character on display in our elections.)
Jesus was on the receiving end of these kinds of attacks in His day.
In the reading from Matthew, Jesus is asked what He thinks the greatest commandment might be.
Choosing one of the ten was not allowed.
It could get you killed.
How could you possibly place the importance of one over the others?
So, Jesus summed it (and the larger Law) up with:·
Love God with everything you have.·
Love your neighbor in the way you most dream of being loved.
The Pharisees were silent.
He had put them in their place by rightly understanding both the vertical (God-oriented)
horizontal (people-oriented) nature of the commandments and the rest of the Law.
They understand the Law as a list of boxes to check off.
God intended for it to be a way of life; a way to view the intentions of the heart.
Then Jesus went digging.
He went after their understanding of who messiah would be.
The Jews had become accustomed to being led by men and women.
But it was God who was always meant to be their leader.
But they looked to their heritage as the source of their strength and inspiration.
So what’s the problem with that?
Those we look to for leadership can always fail us.
People, in lapses of judgment, can behave in a way outside of what we have known or come to expect.
The story in the Old Testament is filled with stories of well-intentioned people being, well, human.
In the Old Testament reading from last Sunday, Moses finds himself experiencing the consequences of one of his lapses. He finds himself looking into the Promised Land from a high place knowing that he would never step foot into it. He led God’s people for years, dealt with their complaining, stepped out in faith before Pharaoh, performed many miracles, and yet, he was prohibited from entering the Promised Land because he slipped up.
The story is from Numbers chapter 20.
The children of God were whining.
So Moses went to God.
So, God gave Moses specific orders to help the children of Israel have faith that the God of the universe would take care of them.
Like many other orders that God had given Moses that required his faith be placed in God to accomplish, this particular directive did.
The children of Israel complained about a lack of water.
Even said they wished they were still slaves.
Moses was frustrated.
He went to God.
God told him to go to a specific rock and call out water from it.
Think about that for a minute.
Talk to a rock and command water flow forth from it.
If I watched someone do this, it would definitely affect the way I view that person, life, God.
Which was the point.
The children of Israel were new to this whole, “I’ll be God and take care of you, you be My people and trust me” thing.
God’s provision through Moses’ act of faith would inspire faith in God from His children.
But Moses, instead of “simply” calling water from the rock, took his staff and hit the rock twice.
Now, we could quibble about the how of the water thing, but, clearly, Moses had done things HIS way and not in the way he was asked by God.
I think of this from my perspective.
Someone speaks to a rock and water comes out.
Someone hits a rock and water comes out.
One is, in my opinion, an act that inspires faith.
This is what God had asked of Moses.
And there were consequences.
He got to lead the people of God to the Promised Land, but he himself was forbidden from entering.
Moses was a great leader of God.
But, he was human.
And made errors.
Just like us.
Which is why it is so, so scary to put that much veneration into a man or woman.
People fail us.
And to get back to the point about the Pharisees and their expectation messiah, another man would indeed fail them.
Like their beloved David.
Which is why Jesus was trying to get them to understand that messiah would be different than their expectations.
Messiah WAS different than their expectations.
Jesus was different than their expectations.
They worshiped the process and allowed the process to lead them away from the wonderful plans He had for them.
They made their “truth” their God, worthy of their adoration, and it led them astray.
Now, mind you, they were well-intentioned.
They wanted to be right before God.
But it led them to wanting to just be right.
And they missed messiah.
How much of what God has for us do we miss?
What, when we are looking somewhere else,
To someone or something else,
Do we miss God’s blessings?
Again, we have a choice,
We can worship the temporal.
Or we can worship the eternal.
If we worship the eternal, we place our veneration, faith, and trust in God to lead us through this journey of hope.
This type of life is best seen in the life of Jesus.
In fact, it was a part of why He walked amongst us.
We hear all the time about His sacrifice on the cross to redeemed that which was lost.
But He also gave us the pattern for this life.
Not a prescription for life.
But a description of the life God has provided.
A life that places the focus not on our efforts or solely at the feet of those who lead, but squarely in the intentions of a God who loves us.
And seeks out a life for us that is abundant.
The difference is palpable.
Worship of things other than God can and will leave us empty.
Worship of God places us in life we were created for.
So what will we worship?
· A place of esteem
Or will we worship God and allow Him to bless with all good things.
Will we heed the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount when He encourages His followers to:
Let us seek the Lord in all the ways He reveals Himself to us that we may follow where He leads, living a life of faith centered in His goodness.