I’ll Take Care Of You
“I’ll Take Care Of You”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time
September 3, 2017
Readings: Jeremiah 15:15-21, Psalm 26
We believe that we have a great, powerful and Almighty God. We believe that He created us in His image and likeness so we can be like Him. If we stop and think, will we ever find in history an instance where God defended Himself? We think our strength is in our ability to take revenge on those who come against us. We allow ourselves to get so affected and upset over something said against us that isn’t true that we want to fight back. But if it’s not true, won’t the truth be seen and the one who accuses you end up being the foolish one? Still, we find ourselves in the middle of conflict, in turmoil, bitterness and stress, sometimes even fear because of what someone has done or said against us.
People hurl all sorts of accusations against God but we don’t see Him taking revenge or fighting back. What we see instead is patience, mercy, and compassion because He understands that the person attacking Him is, in common language, ignorant. We consider ourselves strong until someone says something negative about us and we lose it, becoming upset, losing sleep and getting an upset stomach and headache.
God speaks to us about this in today’s lessons. He tells us to live our lives righteously and ignore the negative talk. Jeremiah was a prophet at a time when Judah and Israel had been in captivity and they were led by false prophets to turn against God, even to engage in idol worship in some cases. God spoke to Jeremiah: “Go tell them, ‘What right do you have to be in My house when you’re living this way? You need to turn away from evil.’” But the people didn’t do it and they attacked Jeremiah because he was speaking to them the word of God. In today’s reading we see that Jeremiah was upset, saying, “Father, I’ve done what You asked me to do, but look at what they’re doing to me. They’re persecuting me. Go against them; put them down”. Of course God didn’t put them down. Instead, He told Jeremiah, “Set your life according to how you know is right. Choose what is right, good and beneficial. Ignore the things that are evil and wrong. Repent, return to Me and I will take care of you, build you up and bless you. To this people you will be like a bronze wall, unaffected by anything they say or try to do to you” (Jeremiah 15:19-21 paraphrased). Then God said something very challenging: “Do not return to them. They will return to you” (Jeremiah 15:19b paraphrased). Sometimes we try to build unity according to our understanding, like two nations entering into a peace treaty. They sit down to sign the treaty which they don’t really agree to, then in a few years they’ll violate the treaty because they didn’t really believe in it. God said to Jeremiah, “Don’t try to restore them. Leave them alone. You take care of your life, find the things that are right and return to Me. I’ll take care of you. Don’t go to them; they’ll be the one to come to you because you repented and are doing the right thing”.
This tells us that we shouldn’t let the enemy affect us because if we’re walking with God and doing what’s right, He will restore us and give us the strength to stand against any attacks that may come our way. It doesn’t matter what they say against you. You don’t have to defend yourself. Just take care of yourself and God will take care of the rest. That builds you up and will put those attacking you on a spot because they haven’t been telling the truth.
“I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord. I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked and I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent.” This is what God promised to Jeremiah. As God’s people we must realize that God is with us, so who can be against us? Why do we react to the attacks against us? Why not just go on doing right because in so doing, you put down the one attacking you and you cause them to look like fools because you’re not getting upset or angry. I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t react when they are attacked, but God is telling us to have peace despite the attacks because He will take care of our attackers. As He told Jeremiah, “Don’t try to go to them. I’ll take care of it. If you do the right thing, they’ll come to you. You’re not going to be in shame but be exalted because you obeyed God”.
How many times have we said things against God and blamed Him for things He didn’t do? We blame Him for earthquakes and typhoons. God builds; He does not destroy. We’re the ones who destroy, but does He react and put us down? No; we bring the bad things upon ourselves because when we react, we attract a force that opens the door to an attack against us. This is why God is showing us how we are to live to prove that we are His children. And we need not worry because He will watch over us and take care of us. Never mind what they say. This is what God said to Jeremiah. “I told you to warn them and you did, but they rejected you; so leave them alone. You straighten out your life, show that you’ve returned to Me and are doing the things that are good and righteous and I will restore you. I’ll take care of you. I’ll build you like a bronze wall and all that they’ve tried against you won’t prosper.” Here’s God’s promise and provision for us.
Romans 12 tells us to renew our mind. God has given to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. The old has passed away; behold, all things are new. All these new things are from God and if they are from God, they have to be good and perfect because God is perfect. Christ has given us a new heart. The old law was written on stone, but now God has written the law in our hearts. He has given us a soft heart, one that is sensitive to Him, and in this heart we’ve been given everything; we lack in nothing. Read Ephesians 1 and Colossians; they show who we are because of Christ. There are two parts to us – the heart and the mind – and if one is out of sync with the other, they won’t work. We must believe what God has given us. “By the mercies of God, present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice….” This was written at a time when the sacrifices were all dead. If you sin, you brought a lamb or a dove to the temple and they killed it. The sacrifice was always dead. Now we come to a new time of God’s communication with man where the sacrifice we present to Him is no longer dead because He wants a living sacrifice. This means a dying to self, a setting aside of our pride. This means we don’t have to defend ourselves but we stand firm in what God has given us. We worship and obey even when we don’t feel like it because we’re now giving ourselves as sacrificial offering.
“I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” This means obeying God, not what we think is right. We may not fully understand it but if God said it, we will do it. “And do not be conformed to this world….” How much of the Church today has taken on the concept of the world rather than God’s? We think we’re being separate from the world but in many ways, we’re becoming like them. The world wants us to conform to it; it wants to control everything. But it doesn’t because God is the Master of the universe. Just a snap of His fingers and He can change everything instantly, by His love, mercy and compassion. He’s waiting for us to come to Him and be renewed. But in many cases, we are conformed to the world rather than to the ways of God. Much of our music today is adapted to the world system. Do not be conformed to the world. We’re different. It’s like God saying to Jeremiah: “Don’t be one of them. Instead, maintain your righteousness”.
Sometimes we think we have to straighten things. God will do that. Our problem is we’re not living according to God’s standards but by our own standards. Are we listening to what He says and doing what He wants done? It’s a real challenge to us because we are a sensitive people and we react very quickly, only to find out later that we were wrong. We immediately react even before we know the truth and all the details. God wants us to prove to the world what the will of God is, that which is “good, acceptable and perfect”. He wants us to be the living witnesses to what He has done for us in Christ. He wants us to be an example for others to follow.
God has given to each a measure of faith, given to each gifts, and we should not think more highly of ourselves that what He has given us to be. We think we can do everything, but God is telling us that we’re doing things that are contrary to His will. It’s not the way He intended our life to be. In order for us to hear Him, we have to communicate with Him through His Word. Let Him speak to us through His Word because the world is going a different way – same sex marriage, transgenders, etc. Many in the world have lost the concept of normal but we don’t have to accept that. We only live according to the pattern set by God for our lives. Many will not like it but don’t worry about them. When we do what is right, God will take care of us. And they will come to us rather than us going to them.
The conflict in the world today is great. Christian persecution is more serious than we are being led to believe. Media has been mostly quiet about it but more Christians are being killed every year, even more than the casualties of wars. But even if Christians are being martyred, we must stand firm and not be afraid because God will take care of us.
Romans 12 continues that there are many members in one body and these members don’t have the same functions. You’re not like me and I’m not like you. My function is different from yours. But we function in unity until the body is complete. Scripture uses the body as example. If my feet don’t want to do what my mind says, I’ll be crippled. If my hands don’t do what they’re supposed to do, I’ll have a big problem. Each part functions according to how they are designed to function, yet why do we feel that we’re the elite; that they in another church are wrong and we’re right? Are they not part of the body? Isn’t there only one Church, one Christ for Baptists, Catholics, Iglesia ni Kristo, etc.? But each of has a different responsibility and gift that God has given.
God has given Father Fernan a tremendous gift of healing. Many miracles take place when he prays for the sick. But he’s not as good at teaching. I’m not putting him down, don’t misunderstand. But his gift is healing. He goes to Middle Eastern countries healing many, even non-Christians. This doesn’t mean that he has to have a separate organization or church. Healing is his function, not his membership. Our membership is in one Church and we all have different gifts from God. We are many but one body in Christ. We have to stop this segregation; we are one. We’re Christians. This is why the Table of the Lord is open. You don’t have to be a member of this church to come to the Table. It belongs to all.
We have these gifts which differ according to the grace of God and we are to use them for excellence. I believe you don’t have to lay hands for people to be healed. I believe you can be healed just by taking the Eucharist or by being one with God, allowing His healing to flow through you. There are many ways of healing. Father Fernan lays hands because there are people who need that. We must be open to the different areas of ministry and do what God wants us to do with excellence. This means doing the best we can, whether serving, teaching (preparing for it by listening to what God wants us to teach), or exhorting (in excellence, not defending what we think is right but what God says); being diligent in doing our work for God.
The Gospel today challenges Peter with this. Last week Christ asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Then He asked them, “Who do you say I am?” Peter responded with “You are Christ, the Son of the Living God” and he was given a blessing because of it. Christ said that upon that understanding, the Church will be built. After He made His disciples understand who He is, He then prepared them for what was about to happen. He told them that He was going to die. Peter, in his exuberance and without knowing all the facts was quick to say, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You”. Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan. You are a stumbling block to Me….” Jesus wasn’t calling Peter Satan. He was talking about the thought that Peter spoke because it’s a temptation (“You don’t want Me to die, so maybe I won’t”). That was the enemy who didn’t want Jesus to die because he knew what would happen if He did. Jesus said to Peter, “….you are not setting your mind on God’s interests but man’s”. This is why we have to know the will of God; it’s all that matters. Things fall apart because we don’t listen, don’t seek God’s will. If it’s God’s will, it will be perfect, successful and bring forth what He intends us to have. We must learn to listen to Him and not to the things around us. We listen to many voices today – the Internet, social media – and they aren’t true if they go against the will of God. If you follow them, they could lead you astray and even destroy you. Your faith must be in God. Do you know as much about the Word of God as what you see in the Internet?
The Bible will give you more wisdom and understanding than anything that this world can give, on Facebook, YouTube and the Internet. The Word of God is the only source of wisdom, yet we spend so much time on other things. This is why the lessons today draw us back to Him. Forget the other things. Take care of yourself by setting your life right. That doesn’t mean you’re not concerned about others, but you don’t defend yourself because if you do, you won’t be reaching out and showing others the life Christ gave you. We’re so consumed about taking revenge that we don’t see any good. It’s like Jeremiah asking God to defend him by putting them out. What he was really saying is “Kill them”. But God doesn’t want to kill them. He wants to restore them. Jeremiah was offended. He was hurting. God said, “Ignore them. Come back to Me. Choose the good things. Ignore the bad. I’ll take care of you. I’ll bring them to you; you won’t go to them”. This is a direction for us in this Ordinary Time; to learn that we have enough of God in us to protect us against all that may come against us. Greater is He in us than he who is in the world. Don’t worry even if taxes and prices go up.
We are encouraged this week to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice; not dying but living. We die to self, pick up our cross and follow Him because that’s where the hope and victory are. So let’s forget the other things. What really counts is our time with God and eternity with Him. That’s what we should be preparing for. The other things will pass away.