Strive for the greater gifts
This week, one of our Church members, Rich, gave us our homily.
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Well, I have read or heard at least one of these passages many times. Corinthians is well established in all the parts of my body. The old Testament reading however, is new to me. And I must confess I’m not a big fan of old testament readings. I prefer the “good news” of the New Testament and everything that changed after Jesus arrived.
But I can no more pass over the old Testament “body of wisdom” than I can cut off my own foot and expect nothing to change.
In the passage from Nehemiah I was particularly interested in the “Water Gate”. Capitalized, I knew it must be important. So yes…I googled it! And this is what I found:
“The Water Gate is a place of cleansing, and we need the word of God as a cleansing agent in our life on a continuous and daily basis. The Water Gate is a place of sanctification, a place where your thinking is renewed, a place where “your thinking is cleansed and purged by the washing of water with the word.”
It was the place from where the truth flowed.
In Corinthians, Paul compares all baptized Christians to parts of a body that cannot function properly without the other parts. What came to me right away was how we, as a fractured church, with Evangelicals, Catholics, Amish, Episcopalians, Mennonites, Protestants, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Eastern Orthodox, blah blah blah and according to my research, 45000 denominations globally, can’t seem to get to the TRUTH.
But here we are. Fractured and arguing about how to worship, why we worship, if Jesus showed up in North America, If we should shun mechanized society, if the Pope holds court or if Mary should be honored or not. Can you imagine why we can’t seem to get much done? The ear doesn’t want to see, they eye doesn’t want to hear, the foot couldn’t care less about holding the bible and the brain….well….we can see where that has gotten us.
All of the problems we face that matter, and all our responsibilities that Jesus told us were ours, have not gotten the attention they deserve because we have ignored the water gate. We keep trying to complicate the message. We keep trying to read between the lines. We parts argue constantly about who is more important…the knee or the toe. Are we, as Paul encourages, striving for the greater gifts, or arguing about which of us is already greater?
Why is it that 2 billion of us can’t resolve hunger, violence against women, homelessness, poverty and most of the ills that befall people who have less?
Could it be because we have lost site of the Truth? And what is the truth anyway?
But wait….Here’s Luke
Here it comes….
Wait for it…
Jesus “filled with the power of the Spirit” returns to Galilee.”
He didn’t just return to Galilee empty handed…he came with the Spirit….He came with the TRUTH.
He stood up in that synagogue and told everyone who listened…..“The spirit (the Truth) of the Lord is upon me”
Jesus made no bones about it. He proclaimed Himself as “The Truth”.
No reason to argue any longer; you eyes and noses and hands and feet and brains…..
The prophesy foretold has been delivered.
“I am the Truth”
And oh by the way I should mention what matters:
Comfort in your homes? Nope not mentioned
No sickness or suffering? Missed that one
Vacations in Thailand? Sorry not there
Great paying jobs? Nope again
Power and Influence? Not even close
Sight to the Blind (those who can’t see the truth)
Good News to the Poor
Release of the Captives
The Oppressed to go free
He could have editorialized or added His personal take, standing there that day. But that’s not what He did. He spoke the Truth and what responsibilities are brought with it.
In recent conversations I have had with many of you about Christ Church and where we used to be and what we used to do. I have sensed some regret in those conversations, and I want to try and remove it from any who might still feel that today.
When Paul writes in the end of our second reading ‘strive for the greater gifts”. He is not talking about looking backward. He talks about the moment now and the future ones yet to come.
In life, today, none of us are where we were 1 day ago much less 5 years ago. Our lives and our church continue to evolve and change. We are, like it or not, exactly where we are supposed to be at this moment, with these challenges and these opportunities before us.
We are still striving for the greater gifts that are needed at this moment, unfettered by the old challenges and opportunities that had us striving in the past. So, I submit, take strength and solace in the work you are performing. It is designed and given to us for this day not yesterday. I see what every active member does at Christ Church, and I submit it is a “joy to the Lord”.
As Nehemiah taught us; “do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is our strength”
So maybe it’s time that we all stand before the water gate, drink again from its waters of truth and then; all as one body, set about doing what it and the son-of-man told us to do.
Enjoy our blessings and continue to send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared.