To the Glory of God…

Kenora            Proper – Ordinary 29 / Dedication Sunday

Pentecost + 20             Trinity + 19

18 October 2020

Genesis 28:10-17

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

1 Peter 2:1-5, 9-10

Matthew 21:12-16

O God, whose image we bear and whose name we carry, yours is the world and all it contains. Recall us to our true allegiance, so that above the powers and rulers of this world you alone may claim our loyalty and love. We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Dedication. And in this idea, I want to look at all of the ways we dedicate, not only our belongings and memorials to the use of the church, “to the Glory of God”, but that we, ourselves, are equally dedicated “to the Glory of God.”

Peter points this out when he says “9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Pe 2:9)

Unfortunately, a lot of us fail to remember this “calling,” this “appointment,” this idea that we’ve been marked for a special purpose by God. We fail to remember that we, each one of us has been dedicated to service toward God, and in the world.

And I can understand this. We don’t like to talk about our lives of faith. It’s personal to each one of us.

After all, a lot of us have a difficult time in talking about the fact that we’re Christians, in the world, much less Anglicans, or Lutherans, or members of any other of the branches of the church’s family tree.

We have difficulty in talking about our lives of faith at home, so how much more difficult is it to talk about it with people who don’t know us as intimately or as well as our own immediate family members.

I remember when I felt a Call to Ordained Ministry. I had a difficult time discussing it with my husband, as well as our local minister. But that was nothing compared to the discomfort of telling my immediate family.

It was more difficult to tell the rest of my family because it felt, and it, was an ‘out of the blue’ conversation to discuss with them.

But this is where and how God has directed my life, so that I, for one “proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Pe 2:9b)

And it doesn’t stop there, after all, you’re encouraged to join me in that proclamation, that act of talking about how God has moved, and directed, and guided each of our lives, as well.

It doesn’t stop with the office of the minister to share how God continues to direct and to call each one of us, calling us into the light of God’s love, and encouraging us to urge others, from all walks of life, to join us in the light as well.

And I admit this is often not what we think of when we think “dedication”, especially when it refers to a church.

I remember going to my grandparents’ church, in Toronto, as a child, and after the service was done, my sister and I were walked around the sanctuary, and we were shown which branches of the family had dedicated what items that were found in the sanctuary. All dedicated “to the Glory of God” and gifted by various, moved individuals, to enhance the worship of the community.

Each place and item neatly demarcated, and in whose name such an item was dedicated, and when. 

And when we go into pretty much any denomination, we can see such plaques, or words on stained glass windows, each dedicated in someone’s memory for a specific commemoration in the life of the church.

But we get confused by the ‘things’ that are dedicated to the church, to the life of the church, and the beauty of the worship environment, and we forget that each one of us, similarly, in our baptismal vows, has been dedicated to “the glory of God” as well.

We forget that we are also dedicated to God, to the glory of God, to the work of Christ in the world, shining the light of God’s love on all who sit in darkness.

At the same time, we forget to return to such places of worship to be renewed, and reinspired for the work of being that shining light of God’s love in the world.

So, here we are, in a bit of a conundrum. In a stew of our own making.

We’re urged to share our lives of faith, but we see this as being pushy, as intruding on the lives of others. We see it as a task better suited to someone else. We see it as the idea that someone else can talk about faith, lives of faith better than I can, … and so forth.

It reminds me in the 7th Harry Potter book, when they Harry encourages Ron to destroy the horcrux that was Slytherin’s locket. Ron protests that it affected him more than it did Harry or Hermione, and for that reason one of them should kill it.

But when Harry continued to encourage Ron to do it, and he did, it felt cathartic, it felt liberating. It felt like a weight was off his shoulders. He’d banished all of the negative that the locket attempted to instill in his heart and in his mind.

There was power in Ron being the one to kill the horcrux because it had been such a weight on his mind and heart.

Now, I don’t want to encourage us to ‘kill’ our lives of faith but rather to take them out for a walk, to exercise them, and perhaps an opportunity to share our faith will come out of that, and wouldn’t that be a marvelous thing? To share our impressions of the intimate relationship we have with God with someone looking for that same kind of relationship?

But this is where we fear of our message being rejected comes from. We actually fear how people are going to receive our words, our invitations, and the stories of our lives of faith. After all, this is a very personal area of conversation, and the person who we share it with might not accept it as we’d intend.

Or worse yet, we might stumble in the telling and feel that we have ‘egg on our face’.

And maybe that’s just what someone else needs to see – that we’re not polished, we’re not ‘professional’ in the telling of our stories. That we’ve had setbacks and difficulties along the way, and it’s not all been a bed of roses. Sometimes we’ve had to figure out how to make lemonade from lemons, and deal with rose thorns, all at the same time.

So, I’ll invite you to ponder, to journal about, and to discuss with like minded friends and family some aspect of our lives as Christians that we particularly enjoy.

Maybe its attending and participating in bible studies, or you really enjoyed attending Sunday School as a child. Maybe its helping to put on a pot of coffee for others to enjoy.

Perhaps it makes us feel good to read the lessons aloud in the worship context, or to aid in worship as a Steward, or as a worship assistant / Lay Reader. Or maybe, just maybe God is calling you to be a deacon, or a priest.

After all, we’re all dedicated to the glory of God, through the words of our baptismal promises, affirmed in our confirmations, that each one of us is called to share, to proclaim, in word and deed, the kingdom of God, the love of God in the teachings of Christ and in the actions of Christ as well.

About 15-20 years ago there as a great emphasis on the phrase, the question “What would Jesus do?”

It came out in the letters WWJD, and was meant to remind those who wore the bracelets, the necklaces, drank from the coffee cups, etc. to use that catch phrase/question to frame their words and actions in a way that would promote the idea of sharing the love of God, the teachings of Jesus with all whom we meet.

But when we turn to the gospel, for today, we’re reminded that WWJD includes a strong streak of social justice, even to the point of being countercultural in its approach.

Todays’ gospel shows us Jesus overturning the tables in the temple, and pointing out that those selling the requisite things for sacrifice weren’t acting in a way that was compassionate or fair for all.

12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
    but you are making it a den of robbers.”” (Mt 21:12-13)

We often forget this because we want to look to the good that is able to be done in Jesus name. But standing up to social injustices just makes us uncomfortable because we are often unknowingly complicit in such violence without even thinking about it.

So, being dedicated to the glory of God, then, is an uncomfortable place to be.

It’s uncomfortable because it’s outside of the perceptions of society, of going with the flow that doesn’t require any active thought from us, but also doesn’t necessarily encourage us to stand up, share our faith, or address the injustices we see being committed in the world, either.

After Jesus overturned the tables, he didn’t storm away in a huff. Rather his actions encouraged the blind and the lame to come to him for healing.

Peter points out to us that we are all called into the light of God’s love, not for a bit of sunbathing, but to show others how and where the light of God’s love is able to be found. Because it’s only in the light of God’s love that we receive the love, grace, and mercy of God.

Peter tells us: “10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Pe 2:10)

Being dedicated to God means we have a gift to share with those who are out in the cold, whether that’s physically, socially, or by issues of injustice in the world around us.

And when we share that gift, we strengthen our own lives of faith, we show others the light of God’s love, every day.

We don’t just dedicate ‘stuff’ to the glory of God to enhance or make the worship experience more beautiful. Instead, each of our lives is dedicated to God’s glory. Each of our lives is the most profound story we’ll ever share with another, and it’s more glorious than the most beautiful window we’ll ever see in the life of a church.

All to the Glory of God.

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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