Revelation 21: 1-6a Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III
Matthew 25: 31-40 January 1, 2017
“...just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Prayer: In this New Year, Lord, please make things new in us once again. In Christ we pray, Amen.
I love it when we can see God at work in our world! And you’re all wondering… “Where?” Well, in all sorts of places! With just a little bit of concentration, we can see that the Church is not the only instrument God uses to bring people closer to God.
Think of the music industry. I used to lead a youth/adult faith formation class called “Sounds of Faith Today.” In the class, we listened to songs that were popular on the radio and You Tube and discussed what it might mean to hear lyrics like “Maybe I’m amazed that you love me all the time, and maybe I’m amazed at the way I love you” as lyrics about our love for God and God’s love for us. Is God at work in the music world?
Or how about the movie industry? With “Rogue One—A Star Wars Story” hitting movie theaters last month, marathon movie events of all the Star Wars movies took place in preparation, and of course, you know what that means… The Force was once again featured as a silent participant in all the movies. And, what is The Force? In at least two of the movies it is described as a life “energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, and binds the galaxy together,” said Obi-Wan Kenobi. It’s not that difficult to translate The Force as a possible, partial description for God and God’s Spirit, is it? So, perhaps God was/is using George Lucas and his stories as instruments to help people draw closer to the real God of the universe? Several adult faith formation classes have been designed around that very concept.
So if God’s spirit is like The Force that surrounds us, then it’s no stretch to imagine that God’s living Spirit is a part of every living thing. God lives in every person.
As Christians we know our faith and scripture support this idea… Paul asks in 1 Cor. 3:16 “Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? ” And a little later in the same letter he asks, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6: 19). Jesus even teaches that we can be born again of water and of the Spirit. And, maybe that’s what John means in the book of Revelation when he writes, “See, the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God will be with them.” Those words make more sense to me if I believe God lives in each of us.
But, what good does it do if God lives in us and we don’t do anything about it? God doesn’t impose anything upon us, by forcing us to make a decision, but we do have a choice. We can willfully decide to have, or to rekindle, or to renew a relationship with God, that living Spirit of life that is a part of you, and me, and part of everyone else and a part of every thing living. We can nurture a relationship with this God of life, or not.
But, if we do… not only are we all of a sudden aware of God’s tremendous “all is forgiven” grace and loving, warm welcome, but I think with our decision to be in relationship with God, that’s when God has us to use for whatever God’s purposes may be, no matter they are. We can become of personal service to God, even if we don’t know what God is doing through us. We simply are asked to have implicit faith in God and in God’s wisdom and goodness, no matter what.
Sometimes, our most elderly or our most infirm of our church members ask Pastor Fred and me, “Why am I still here? I wish God would just take me” they say. We’ve heard that from at least two of our church members during the past month. And I sometimes respond with something like, “Well I don’t know for sure, but I wonder if one reason you’re still here is that you’re giving me, and Pastor Fred, and your family, and your friends the opportunity for us to love you? You’re helping us to do what we do best,” which is another way of saying that even though he or she may not see it, that person still has purpose—by being there, they are of personal service to God because they simultaneously are helping me and others to be of personal service to God as well.
So, you may be the one who makes the willful decision to give food to the hungry or drink to the thirsty, or you may be the person who IS hungry or thirsty. Either way, I think you can be of personal service to
Or, the roles may be reversed at another point in time due to life’s unpredictability. One day you may be the one in need of care, in need of a visit, in need of clothing, you may be the one who suffers loss… some way, some how… a loved one or friend, a job, a game, mental acuity, emotional stability, financial security. Or, another day, you may be the one who decides to be a provider for someone in need because things have changed in your life. Maybe it’s you sharing in the best practices that allows for the real light of Christ to come through you and your actions. Both I think, can be thought of as being of personal service to God.
The point is that by deciding to be in a relationship with God, this life-Spirit, whatever God has you going through right now, we are asked to trust with faith that we can be of personal service to God, no matter what it is we’re going through. I encourage us to trust in God and in God’s wisdom and goodness, no matter what.
And maybe that’s a good place to start the New Year—deciding, with a growing, deepening faith in God, to let God have the freedom to do whatever God wants with us and through us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. You might just become the very best instrument God can use, right now, in your corner of the world, the very best light of Christ for others to see, over and above what the church, Hollywood and the music makers are doing.
Let us trust and believe that our light has come in Christ. Arise, friends. Let us stand and sing of us being God’s instruments for God’s purposes, celebrating the light that has come in Christ has been born, and is in us. Amen.