Christina O'Hara leads Intervarsity Campus Ministry here in Sioux Falls, and is also studying at Sioux Falls Seminary. She and her husband, Augustana College Prof David O'Hara, have three kids, one of whom just returned from a mission trip in Mexico. God keeps sending quality Christians to Good Shepherd to compensate for the Rector. And yes, we do open the pew Bibles during sermons, usually asking for someone from the pews to speak up and read the verse.
Bible Lessons of the Day
Live a Life Worthy of the Calling You Have Received
What is sin?
For an Episcopalian? – bad taste? Bringing a jello salad to a potluck? Eating dinner with the salad fork? Preferring Rite I/Rite II?
Often we think of sin as the odious and obnoxious habits of other people. Sometimes I think I find most detestable those habits in other people that I don’t like to look at in myself. One Hebrew idea of sin was of an arrow missing its mark on the target. Another image is of going astray. The prophet Isaiah also described sin and we sinners like sheep, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” So there is a turning in sin; a turning from God’s way in order to go our own way. Humanity, from the beginning, has decided that God’s rules are all very well and good, until I want to do what I want to do. Like Frank Sinatra, we sing, “I did it my way!” But as we turn from God’s way to our own way, we put ourselves in the place of God, saying that we know better than the God who loves us and wants the best for us. When we break from God’s plan, the repercussions are tremendous: we hurt ourselves, we hurt our relationship with God, and we hurt our relationship with other people around us. If we are going to live together in community as the church, we need to learn to deal both with our own sin and the sin of others.
In the Old Testament lesson, we see the prophet Nathan caught between a rock and a hard place. How is he to deliver God’s word to David who does not recognize that having an affair with Uriah’s wife and then having Uriah killed on the battlefield is a sin. David is Nathan’s king and has the power of life and death over him. Nathan tells a story, a parable, and brings it to David as if it is an ethical dilemma for David to judge. The rich man who has all the flocks he could want or need, but who still kills the poor man’s only ewe lamb, which he considered like a cherished daughter. David doesn’t see it coming! He too has all the women he could want, but he takes another man’s wife for his own, and then has the man killed.
Nathan had to feel fear about confronting his king, but he used a story that got around David’s defenses and helped David see the reality of his own sin. David’s sense of justice is aroused by the story and his is angry at the wrong caused by the rich man. How astounded and horrified he must have been then to hear that he was guilty of the same thing. Nathan then reports from God the consequences of David’s sin: because David has taken Uriah’s life, now “the sword will not depart” from his own house. Because he has taken another man’s wife in secret, his own wives will be taken from him in broad daylight, “before all Israel”. David and Nathan don’t know it yet, bu it will be David’s own son Absolom who will oust David from the throne and take his wives.
To his credit, when David is confronted with his sin he admits his wrongdoing. He says to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” The beautiful penitential psalm that was read today is how David expressed his sorrow at his sin: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your lovingkindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses…” He recognizes the seriousness of his sin, his need for God’s forgiveness, and the hope the God will forgive him and wash him clean.
So, what does David’s story mean for us today? Paul’s letter to the Ephesians calls us to “live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We are called to live a life of community in the church, not being wrapped up in our own needs, but seeking the best for the whole community. Part of living in community is realizing our own sin and gently and lovingly helping others to realize their own sin and need for God.
Essential for living in community, according to Paul, is humility, unity, and love, building up the body of Christ.
Humility – having an appropriate picture of ourselves, including a knowledge of our strengths and our weaknesses. Like David, we have blind-spots and avoid looking at our own sin, but can see it quite clearly in others! It’s much easier to see how badly everyone ELSE is driving! Matthew 7:3-5 in your pew Bible: Take the log out of your own eye, then take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye. We need to examine ourselves before we start judging others. But notice that Jesus doesn’t say, don’t take the speck out of your brother’s eye, he says, take the log out of your own eye, then take the speck out of your brother’s eye. We need God’s strength to do this.
Unity and Bearing with one another in love – it takes patience, self-sacrifice, like exercising a muscle. Take the slow line at the supermarket, treat a perfect stranger like they matter to God and to you, show special love to someone you live with, even if they don’t notice, speak positively about someone behind their back, and then to their face! And if you have a conflict with a brother or sister in the church, Jesus gives us instructions on how to deal with this conflict: Matthew 18:15-22 in your pew Bible. Jesus is saying, don’t be passive aggressive and just steam about a wrong done to you. Don’t be nit-picking and petty. But if someone in the church has wronged you, confront the person gently and in love. Speak grace and truth. Confront them to restore them to God and to you. We need God’s strength to do this.
Building up the Body of Christ – using our gifts to strengthen and build the church, God has created you for a purpose. Seek it out and do the good works God has prepared for you to walk in. What gives you joy? What inspires your passion to serve? What do people see in you that makes them better people? Do what you are good at for the glory of God and for the good of the church. We need God’s strength to do this.
How do we gain God’s strength? We need to believe that Jesus is the one who can save us and help us. We need his life within us. He says that he is the bread of life and we need to eat that bread – we do this as we share the Eucharist with one another. As we take “the body of Christ, the bread of heaven” into our own bodies, we take Jesus’ character, his self-sacrificing love into ourselves. As we do this together in community, we say that we need God’s power within us to do the good works that God has prepared for us. We also say that we need God’s power within us to live together in unity and love. We also say that we need God’s power within us to reach out to those who do not know the love of Christ. This Communion that we share is a coming together as a community to gain God’s strength to do the work he has prepared for us to do. Every time we take the bread and the wine, let us sacrifice our own way for God’s way, and let us go to the places he has called us to bring his light.
As we come to church this morning to hear his word and worship him, our “sacrifice of praise,” let this nourish us and spur us on to love God more and to love his people. As we offer up our prayers for the church and the world, let us be open to how we may serve each other and the world to the glory of God.
NPA note: I was in Brookings today for the installation of Fr. Ryan Hall as Rector at St. Paul's. In a fine sermon and exhortation, Bishop-elect John Tarrant also focused on "Live a life worthy of the calling you have received." I will post some notes tomorrow.