Choose To Serve The Lord
“Choose To Serve The Lord”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
June 25, 2017
Readings: Jeremiah 20:7-14, Psalm 69:1-18
Last Sunday, we saw the life of Christ as He was preparing to depart. He was ministering to many people and He felt compassion for them because they were confused, without direction and hurting, and He realized that they had no shepherd to lead them and show them the way. They needed a shepherd who is unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees who have brought them to bondage and slavery, thinking only of what they could get from the people, even from the most vulnerable like the widows and the orphans. Christ then talked to His disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits and every kind of disease. Why did Jesus say diseases and sickness? Aren’t they the same? The Greek dictionary says there are different reasons why we get sick. Some people become weak because of sickness; some who are weak become sick, and there’s a difference in how we control it. If we are weak in our spirit, then disease and sickness can easily come to us. When we are depressed, weary, emotionally and mentally spent, anxious or afraid, we become physically sick. On the other hand, a person who is strong (spiritually, emotionally and mentally) rarely gets sick, and when he does, he recovers fast because that strength comes out of him and heals him. Christ gave the disciples authority over both sickness and diseases. He asked them to heal the deliver people even if it might be their fault that they got sick. Jesus wanted the people to become whole and restored to what they were at creation. This is the opposite of what we find in some areas of society today where people are encouraged to be weak, lazy and have no drive. In the cyber world, sometimes nothing is really brought forth. Virtual reality tries to make something not real as though it were and no benefit comes out of it, and so we become weaker because we don’t have responsibilities; we don’t want to take on responsibilities. We want to be taken care of rather than reaching out and touching the lives of others. Christ sent His disciples to heal these areas, to bring man back to what he was in the beginning.
God put Adam in a garden that He had planted, then He instructed Adam to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. That means work. Adam had to take a little garden and make it fill the earth. To cultivate and keep the garden was a tremendous responsibility. God didn’t ask Adam to sit down and think or dream, but to work and take on the responsibility he had been given. In the same way, the disciples were given the responsibility to give to the people the compassion that Jesus had for them. In today’s Gospel, He said, “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves”, in areas where the people were already perverted in their thinking, looking for what they can get for themselves at the expense of others. Jesus was sending out the disciples to correct this, to bring light and hope. And so He gave them power and authority over evil spirits. He wants the people whole, as He created them in the beginning. This was His mission upon the earth; He was getting ready to be taken up so He sent out the disciples to continue His mission. As He sent them out, He warned them that they will face opposition from people who won’t believe them because they are happy where they are, taking advantage of others and prospering in the process. Jesus exhorted them not to get discouraged, but to speak the truth. “Do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given to you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” Jesus told His disciples not to fear those who come against them because He will take care of them. They are so valuable that even the very hairs of their head are numbered. Imagine the amount of work needed every moment of everyday over the millions of living people! Does God count the hair when it’s just a root, when it’s full, when it’s long? Yet Jesus says He knows the number of hair on our head. And if He cares and provides even for sparrows, how much more would He care for us? He wants to see us living the fullness of life.
Look at Jeremiah. He was imprisoned for what he was saying, and he accused God just for a moment of being deceitful and for a moment, he no longer wanted to speak what the Lord was asking him to say. But something within him wouldn’t let him stop. It was the anointing, the power that God had given him that caused him to continue to speak even if he knew that it could harm him. There’s going to be situations where God’s love will be spoken but it will not be received because man’s heart is evil. Romans 5 talks about how powerful what God has given us in Christ is. “For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to many. The gift is not like that which came from the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand, the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.” A very interesting thing caught my attention. In some translations it says “many” instead of “all”. What’s the difference? When God created Adam, He formed the body out of the dust, then He breathed the breath of life on him, and Adam became a living soul. Notice the terminology: living soul. Anything that receives life from God doesn’t die. That’s why Jesus said even if you die, you live. That soul in man is always alive; however God created man with free will so that man wouldn’t have to be controlled by his living soul. He could make choices that are contrary to what God put in the soul. Adam was instructed not to eat of the fruit of the tree of life or he’d die. This death does not mean death as we know it. Death here means the separation of man from God. When Adam ate that fruit, the soul could no longer reach out because he made the decision not to listen to the heart/soul. He chose to do his own thing. That disobedience brought sin into the world which affected man’s choices/will for many generations. In the Old Testament there were some righteous men, and this is why in Romans, it says “many” instead of “all” died. There were some who didn’t listen to their will but chose to listen to God, and so they didn’t sin like Adam did.
The New Testament says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There’s a difference between sinning and being a sinner. We can make a mistake which can be erased because we didn’t intend to sin. A sinner is one who habitually sins; it’s his way of life. He doesn’t trust God and he constantly does his own thing. God is showing us here the importance of walking in line with what’s within us. This was what Jesus told His apostles, that when they go out there, they will be in the midst of wolves but that shouldn’t stop them from speaking the truth. Even if they were arrested and taken to court, they shouldn’t fear; shouldn’t plan what they are going to say but just let the Holy Spirit do it. We live in a world today where we think we have to be in control. In reality, the Spirit that God put within us gives us life and if we don’t pay attention to it, we will be confused, stressed, anxious and experience all kinds of evil in our lives.
“The word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it” (Deuteronomy 30:14-16). God gave this instruction to the people so that they would understand that what they say or choose to do can cause them problems. The choices we make will bring us life if we choose to do God’s commandments. We were given two commandments: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. These are the two commandments which should control every aspect of our life. If we love God, we’ll do all we can to please Him. We don’t even have to be concerned about the other commandments that He gave in the beginning because loving God will keep us walking the way God intended us to walk. Loving your neighbor as yourself means you have to love yourself also. Some people don’t love themselves; they have no good image of themselves because they don’t see the reality of what God has given them. We must first recognize the necessity of loving what God made us to be before we can love somebody else. God created us in His image and likeness. He couldn’t have created us with a higher potential than that. He then empowered us with the Holy Spirit to bring out that image and likeness that would give us the ability to do all things. When a man lies, we get upset with him, but when he lies to himself, he does an even greater damage to himself. When a man does not believe or receive what God has given him and he says “I can’t or I don’t want to”, even if all that God intended us to be is within the spirit, that living soul, he does damage to himself.
In Deuteronomy we see what God said in the beginning. It’s not something that just happened after Christ. He gave Adam the responsibility to fill the earth and subdue evil, but Adam failed when he submitted to the deception of Satan. He chose to rebel against the will of God and as a result, the structure of the body began to be affected and all of nature reacted. The sun became hot and burned the crops and the weeds overtook the plants. It’s all part of the curse. This is why Scripture says all creation out is crying out for the revelation of the sons of God so they can be delivered from the curse. Because of one bad choice, the curse came upon all. Some did not fall under the curse, that’s why Scripture says “many” and not “all” were affected.
Christ had two wills – the divine and the human. The human will had to be in line with the divine will, that’s why He spent a lot of time in prayer to find out what His Father would ask Him to do. He said, “I speak only what I hear the Father saying”. He only did what the Father would do in the many situations He faced. When it comes to setting the course of our life, the very core has to be the obedience to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We don’t do anything that will destroy others. In everything we do, to the best of our ability, we won’t hurt anyone. It doesn’t mean we won’t discipline and correct, but we do them for one purpose – to bring them back to perfection, not to destroy them. When the intent is to destroy, it is sin. Now we understand what God meant when He said that on the outside will be the dogs. These are those who will not be accepted in heaven because they chose not to be what God created them to be. The choice is ours.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I’m being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (James 1:12-14). When we overcome these tests and temptations that come our way, we will receive the crown of life. When our will is contrary to God’s will – we don’t put the understanding of loving God with all our heart, mind and soul, we do want we want at the expense of others, we break the law to enrich ourselves – we will find ourselves in great difficulty. When one is tempted by his own lusts, not caring who gets hurt in the process, and when this lust has conceived, it will bring forth death. When we meditate upon evil things, they will eventually give birth to sin, and that sin causes death. Adam originally had a pure heart toward God until he came to the tree in the middle of the garden and was tempted by the serpent He meditated on what the serpent said till he gave in to the temptation and sinned. This sin brought the curse upon us. We must understand this because we live our lives doing what we want, without regard to God’s will. We don’t ask God, “What is my purpose? Why am I here? What should I be doing?” Instead we do whatever we want and so rebel against what God has given us. Each of us has been given a gift (1 Corinthians), a purpose in life. Are we using this gift? Do we even know what our gift is? We are the most blessed people. This generation is one of the most blessed generations because we have the ability to change things so that they give glory to God. He gave us this life so we can be a blessing to others, to restore them and help them any way we can, and not just to look after our own interests. I have a terminology – “Me-ology” – where all we’re concerned about is me, me, me. It should be God, not “me”. We submit to Him, walk with Him, and I think His thoughts. Scripture says those who meditate on His laws bring hope and joy. Life is going to have conflicts. Jesus said, “I’m sending you out in the midst of wolves”, but He also gave us authority and power to overcome and conquer. If we don’t give up, we will be saved. It’s the one who will endure to the end who will be saved; the one who will not give in to the circumstances, but face them head on in faith. The Dept of Agriculture is encouraging people to go back to the farms and plant, but most people don’t want to take on that responsibility. We’ve lost direction of what God created us to be. When God created man, He put him in a garden, not a city; and it was perfect. Today we think perfection comes through our way, not God’s. I know that when I speak this way, some people don’t like it, but I’m like Jeremiah. I’ll tell you anyway because I want us to rise above the corruption of society. We should be on top. We are the royal priesthood, the holy nation; we should be the ones that people look up to. Instead, many don’t respect the Church, belittling it and God because we don’t live out the life God gave us. And we are influenced by them, rather than us influencing the world. We’ve taken their direction rather than direction from God.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart. He is our God. He has delivered us from the bondage caused by Adam’s failure. He has given us free will and we must choose His ways. We still make mistakes; we’re human. We still fail, but that doesn’t make us sinners as long as we correct and learn from them. We must recognize that He is the Lord and Master. This is what Ordinary Time is all about. Up until Pentecost, we have been on the receiving end. We learned that we were given every blessing in the heavenly places. We were chosen, made holy and blameless, and empowered by grace. This grace gives us the ability to do the things that we think we can’t. We’re overcomers, created in the image and likeness of God. We have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring forth that image in its fullness. Jesus asked His disciples to cast out evil spirits and heal all manners of sickness in people. Inside of us is the healing, and when we let that flow out of us, we will be restored to what God created us to be.
Choose you this day who you will serve. Do we serve ourselves or God? When our pockets are empty, do we still serve God? When our body is manifesting sickness, do we still serve Him? In the midst of sickness, can we still bring glory to God? Even if we’re in prison, can we give God glory? The disciples continued to worship God even when they were thrown in prison. Even if we find ourselves in such trying situations, God will still be God. There are times when we find ourselves in darkness, but remember that greater is He in you than he who is against you. So don’t be afraid, but trust God. As we begin Ordinary Time, this is the instruction God is giving us: “I’ve set before you life and prosperity….” That means God wants us to choose. He finishes this by saying, “Choose to serve the Lord”. And so the choice is really not a choice. If you want to live, walk with God. So we begin this Ordinary Time by preparing ourselves to do the work that God has given us and to be the people that He intends us to be by letting Him be the Lord of our lives.