The text for this message is the Ten Commandments, but this is the second time we have seen them. In restating these commands, central to God's covenant with the Israelites, Moses invites a new generation to claim for themselves a first hand relationship with God. While tradition and knowledge can be and should be passed onto our children and grandchildren, every generation must choose faith and a relationship with God for itself. The same is true for us when it comes to the new covenant revealed in Jesus Christ. We do no inherit authentic faith; that is something that we, with God's help, must choose for ourselves.
We are good at making excuses. This has been the case since the beginning of human history. We even offer excuses as to rationalize decisions and actions that are not in keeping with God's will for our lives. Those excuses are often just a cover up for the truth, that we would rather be in charge of our own lives. Rather than engage in excuse making we ought to engage in discernment and make every effort to follow God. God goes with us and will bring to completion his will for our world and lives.
Jacob's struggle by the Jabbok is not only a pivotal moment in Old Testament History but a great metaphor for our lives as Christians. In one way or another we are often wrestling with God. We are wrestling to make sense of God's plan for our lives. We are wrestling with discipleship. We are wrestling with some of the more challenging aspects of Christian Theology. Yet in our persistence we are blessed and we discover over and over again God's name for us in Christ, we are children of God, sons and daughters.
Abraham and Sarah were confronted with a promise they didn't expect, a promise they found hard to believe. The same is true for us. When we find ourselves in the midst of difficulty, God's promises of hope and joy and peace are sometimes too much to take in. We are sometimes more likely to laugh in disbelief than we are to trust in God's promises. Yet our God is the God of seemingly laughable promises. God has shown that time and time and time again. With God all things are possible; God is faithful. We ought always to be expecting the unexpected. We ought always to be expecting that God, at any moment, may surprise us and make our lives new.
There is so much that can be said when reflecting on the creation stories of Genesis. This particular message focuses on Adam and the authority given him to name the animals. He was given the power to do so. We still name things, and people, and there is still power found in our doing so. We ought to wield this power carefully. The other focus of this message is on the importance of community. It was not good that Adam was alone. The same is true for us. Not that all need to be married but God does invites all to be a part of God centered community. That, in fact, is where we are meant to be.
In our gospel reading, Jesus begins with what might seem like very practical advice. However, when this advice is translated to the Kingdom it is more than good advice, it is a necessity. We must approach God with humility. God is God. We are not. The good news is that God is also gracious and will exalt the humble. That is God's promise.
This sermon was given just prior to a special liturgy recognizing the end of a Ministerial Call, that of Rev. Renee Garrett. While we prepared to mark the beginning of her retirement years and the end of her call to ministry at All Souls, Rev. Poland reminded in his sermon that while not all are called to pastoral ministry, all are called nonetheless. How we respond as Christians is vitally important for the local church and the church universal.