Home » Spiritual Direction » Lectionary Sermon for Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Lectionary Sermon for Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

I have a t-shirt that has lettering that reads, “Believe there is good.” However, there is a second message in which the white colored letters spell out, “Be the good.”

In a conversation with a rich young man who had sought out Jesus, the young man calls Jesus, “Good teacher.” Jesus answered, “Why do you call Me good?” Then Jesus states, “No one is good but One– God. (Mk. 10:18 CSB) Only God is truly good. Therefore, to be good, we need to do what God considers important. The writer of Hebrews gives us some insights on what these good things are and how we can offer God an offering of good.

First, the writer tells us to, “Let brotherly love continue.” If there is one thing that defines the Christian faith it is that God loves us, and God expects us to love each other. When we love (not lust, not like, or not a sense of pleasure that comes from our will, but a commitment, connection, and confidence in the way God loves) we come closest to God. This growth in love, and this maturity in our relationship with the Lord is the greatest good we can be involved in.

Loving as God loves is a very difficult thing to do. Why is it so hard? It is hard because our nature tends to pervert love to the way we want rather than the way God intends. We tend to use love as a tool for getting what we want. We use love as a means of control and possession. This is not love. Jesus gives us the best definition of love in the incarnation and in the crucifixion. Here are four verses of Scripture I believe head us in the right direction of “the good.”

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. (1 Jn. 3:16 CSB)

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (Jn. 15:13 ESV)

For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! (Rom. 5:10 CSB)

So what should we do?

“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Lk. 6:27-28 CSB)

This is an offering of good.

Next, we are told by the writer, “Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.” This too is an opportunity to bring to God an offering of good.

What is the greatest commandment? Jesus was asked this and said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:37-39 CSB)

Hospitality is about loving other people. It is about seeking to be a community, a gathering, by opening our doors and tables, sometimes a place to sleep, with those we are fortunate enough to begin building the trust, compassion, transparency, care, and support needed for the relationship to grow in depth and understanding. Hospitality can create God moments in our lives. And as for prisoners, I feel certain the writer was referring to those in physical prisons. It was not safe to be a first-century Christian.

However, I have been physically incarcerated, and I can assure you that such a physical incident was not pleasant. And while it was unpleasant, I have experienced some other prisons of the soul, conscious, circumstances, and situations of my own making and those made by others that were far worse in comparison. What these situations did was to guide me to understand my need of community, of contact, of a connection that assures me I am not forgotten.

And, again, hospitality offers us an opportunity and confirms the reality of being able to commune with angels unaware. What an honor and humbling such an experience would be. How much better if those angels would reveal to God our love for others because of our love for God?

Would this not be a true offering of good to God?

The next offering listed is a controversial one, “Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers.” These words do not mix with the message our culture sends out about sex and marriage. The culture views marriage as a simple contract and looks at sex as “whatever you want goes.” Marriage is not often viewed as a lifelong commitment, but as a consumer option that can be returned if dissatisfied. Again, we see a perversion of love leading to a state of temptation and deception. In my forty years of pastoral ministry, the worse pain and suffering I saw people in was in people who were going through marital conflicts in which an affair had been discovered or people whose spouse had left them without notice.

I have also watched marriages that were living hell for one or both partners. Even though these marriages had a commitment to say together through better and worse, there was the worse without any better. The institution of marriage was a gift from God that has social, legal, and hopefully romantic aspects. It is the first stand against the powers and principalities of this world. It is two people helping each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The last, spirituality, being the one most neglected. God gave us marriage as a means of joining with God in the only ongoing aspect of creation, the creation of humans’ souls. Marriage should be the base for a healthy environment to bring new life into the world.

When we seek to honor what God has given, to understand the commitment that is required as well as the mindset and spiritual endurance and patience, we submit to God’s authority and design. When we seek to love our mates with all our hearts and souls, and they seek to do the same for us, God is honored as well.

Out of a solid, committed, loving marriage, we give God an offering of good.

Now another difficult task. The writer of Hebrews, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, says to us, “Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

I have learned what it is like to be poor. I do truly pray for my daily bread. I am too old for a church to call me, to physically damaged to do physical work for more than a short period of time. I cannot find a job. I have little retirement and less than $5k in savings. But I must tell you I am happier now than at any other time in my life. I must depend on God and “Where God guides, God provides.” (Isa. 58:11) I am finding deep satisfaction in what I have. And, for the first time in my life, I am beginning to like and love myself.

I deeply love my wife. I also deeply love to do things for her. I love to cook for her, care for her when she is sick, and just finding things I hope will make her happy. I cannot verbally express just how much joy this brings me.

It is hard for many human beings, especially in our culture, to understand just how much joy we bring to God by letting God be God to us. God knows how money can hurt us. God knows how money can corrupt us. God knows just how easily we can be deceived, deluded, damaged, depraved, and dark we can become. God seeks to protect us, rescue us, strengthen us, and preserve us. To allow God to be God to us is to give God an offering of good.

And then, we read, “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith.”

Please, please, be careful of who your leaders are. First and foremost, as was just stated, “Let God be God.” Let the Holy Spirit guide you in discerning the good, the perceived good, and the bad. Remember, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. (Matt. 7:15 CSB)

Do not put your trust in men, or women, without first comparing their acts and lives to that of Jesus. Are they loving, caring, humble, serving, quick to forgive, and not judge? Does their lifestyle show a dependence on God or on money? It is not hard to tell if you are willing to let the Holy Spirit rather than some other spirit be your guide. To do so will place one in the right place to offer an offering of good to God.

 To conclude, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Love does not change. Thankfully we can. These are verses needing contemplation. Hopefully, they will lead us to say, “Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices. (Heb. 13:15-16 CSB)

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