What Are We Doing with What God Gave Us?
“What Are We Doing with What God Gave Us?”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 13, 2016
Readings: Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126
Today’s lessons give us hope. For the past four Sundays, we’ve looked at what Christ’s death has done for us. Today, we again contemplate the love of God for us. From Psalm 126: “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting”. The psalm talks of “joyful” shouting, a joy that can’t be contained. If we believe that our tears will turn to joyful shouting, we stop looking at life as though it were filled with tragedies and listen to the news and then come out feeling that we are in the last days. God’s Word gives us hope in what Christ has done. When it seems that everything is going against us that we want to give up, we should remind ourselves that we are victorious because of what Christ has done for us.
The Old Testament reading in Isaiah 43 reminds us of how God brought Israel out of captivity in Egypt. “Thus says the Lord who makes a way through the sea and a path through the mighty waters; who brings forth the chariot and the horse, the army and the mighty man….” (verses 16-17). In its exodus out of Egypt, in the wilderness and into the Promised Land, God took care of Israel. They were in bondage in Egypt for 430 years, then God sent Moses to lead them out, and when they did, they brought with them the wealth of Egypt. Consider the Red Sea. It was a large body of water! It is 210 km or 130 miles wide and 55-64 meters deep. Contemplate the massive size of this sea. Yet God saved Israel from the pursuing Egyptian army through this mighty sea. They started to cross it at night and it was morning when they reached the other side. One wonders how fast they were traveling. It’s incomprehensible how God can separate the waters to make a path for His people, even if at that point, they were unfaithful to Him.
Pharaoh commanded the Egyptian army to pursue them in chariots. God caused a massive cloud that forced Egypt to stop on their tracks because they couldn’t see the way forward. When the clouds lifted, Israel was already on the other side. Egypt believed that they were the mightiest nation (they fed the nations during the famine) and could overcome anything. If Israel could cross the sea, so could they. God chose Egypt to save the world during the famine, but in pursuing Israel, they didn’t listen to God, proudly thinking that they were invincible. When they did, the path became muddy, making their going hard; then the waters collapsed on them. The message for us today is we should realize the power of God that is now in our lives because Christ gave His life for us.
Isaiah 43:18-19 “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” In this prophecy by Isaiah, we are to forget the failures of the past because God is doing something new; something far greater. This is a proclamation of the coming of Christ and His resurrection.
Revelations 21:5 “And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” It is done. He has given us new life.
2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.” This new life we’ve been given is from God. We should stop looking with regret at our past and our mistakes, but instead look to God for what Christ has done for us.
Philippians 3:8 “….I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord….” Paul counted all things as loss because knowing Christ is of far greater value. This knowing is not a mental knowing but an experiential knowing. Christ went to hell where everything evil resides to destroy the darkness; then He came back to life, triumphantly destroying sin and death. There can be nothing greater than what He has done, and He did it all for us.
2 Timothy 1:9 “God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” God empowers us to accomplish His purposes for our life. It is not us who will do it but God working through us.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” When we are confronted with challenges, we immediately think they are evil, but we should see that God allows such challenges into our lives to accomplish His purposes, and He will always show us a way out. Romans 11:29 “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” God’s calling on our lives are final and irreversible; nothing can change it, and He has given us gifts to empower us to fulfill this calling.
The Gospel tells the story of a man who planted a vineyard with the best grapes (as told in Matthew and Mark), provides for a wine vat to crush the grapes, builds a wall around the vineyard to protect it, including a tower as a lookout for enemies. He then rents out his vineyard and entrusts its care to vine-growers when he went on a journey for a long time. At harvest time, he sent slaves one after another to the vine-growers to collect some of the produce of the vineyard. These slaves were beaten by the vine-growers and sent home empty-handed. Instead of avenging the treatment given to his slaves, he sent his beloved son thinking that they will respect him; instead, the son received the worst treatment. They killed him, thinking that if he, the owner’s heir dies, the vineyard will be theirs. In this parable, Christ was alluding to what was about to happen. Israel killed the prophets of the Old Testament. In His time, they killed John. Finally, they killed God’s only begotten Son. Yet in spite of the many times we, His people have rejected Him, He continues to love us.
The question posed to us today is, “what are we doing with what God gave us?” Are we keeping them to ourselves instead of living them out so that others may be helped? On this fifth Sunday of Lent, we are entreated not to call to mind the former things because God is doing something new – in our lives and in the world. God wants to do something great in our lives. We are united with Christ because of what He has done – crucified, died, buried and resurrected with Him – and now seated with seated with Him in the heavenlies, far above all powers and principalities. What are we doing with these gifts? Are we giving them back to Him through the work of our hands for others? Or are we keeping them for ourselves?
On Good Friday, we partake of a pre-sanctified Eucharist. The priest wears a black chasuble to symbolize that at that point in time, Christ was dead. Yet in the midst of the darkness, the Eucharist is given to the people to show that Christ continues to care for us, giving us life despite the darkness. This is God’s provision for us, wherever we may be in our lives. This is our hope. We can live in confidence because God is the greatest. Nothing can overcome Him. On this fifth Sunday of Lent, let us make the decision to rise above our problems and give Him glory. Let us experience the greatness of God in our lives.