Sermon Proper 25
Joel 2: 23-32
The prophet Joel is writing about, the devastating loss of crops due to the swarm of locusts, and Israel is suffering; for the people who survived. Anything that affects crop production, floods, insects, lack of rain etc. – had tremendous and lasting effects on the emotional well-being and religious imagination. The Israelites perceived the end of these disasters as a sign that God had not abandoned his people.
Joel reminds the people of Zion, to be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God. Joel’s prophecy is that God’s spirit will be poured out richly on God’s people and all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Psalm 65 begins by recognizing the need for all our transgressors to come to God. One of God’s gifts to us is forgiveness, our sins are stronger than we are, but God will forgive them, as Christians we have the joy of knowing God’s presence resides in us throughout each day, along with the Holy Spirit. The Psalmist points out that God cares a great deal about our lives and longs to bless and affirm our work. Let’s shout for joy, and thanks for his love and care of us.
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Paul is writing this letter while under arrest in Rome, shortly before his death. The words are those of a man looking back over his life. Paul faces death at peace with his life knowing that he did his best in carrying out the work that God had given to do. In verse 6 Paul has allowed himself to be poured out as a libation, a drink for others of God’s grace. Paul teaches us an important lesson – our lives are not about us. We are called to be poured out for others, and it is only in that great act that we will find the peace and satisfaction that Paul talks about in this scripture. God is faithful and will never abandon us, no matter the circumstances.
Gospel Luke 18:9-14
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus teaches us a message that most of us don’t want to hear. The way up is to do down. We cannot “earn” God’s approval by showing ourselves to be loyal, disciplined, rigorous soldiers. We fall into God and God’s mercy, compassion, and love through humility and our acknowledgment of our brokenness. The crack in our hearts – the broken place that this little tax collector seemed to be keenly aware of – This is where the light gets in. The things that the Pharisee is doing fasting, praying, Almsgiving – are all good and necessary parts of good religious practice. But the Pharisee has committed the greatest sin; he has given in to the greatest temptation – doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Basically, his worship is directed towards himself, not God. God does not seek empty piety; God seeks genuine and authentic relationship with us. We can only do that when we come to God, like the tax collector, in a state of humility and honesty.