GOOD SERVANT, BROKEN SERVANT, PERFECT SERVANT

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67, Romans 7:15-25a, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

MESSAGE
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle th, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to tWe hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,and the pursuit of Happiness.
So begins the Declaration of Independence. This document lays out the reason that our ancestors sought freedom from the rulers of England.
It also recognizes that all human rights are based in the will of the Creator.
What a remarkable statement of faith. The 56 signers put their honor, their lives and their fortunes on the line for their beliefs.
The parallels to the lives of the early Christians is easily seen. Men, women and whole families put everything on the line to accept this new covenant between God and man.
As we owe a debt of gratitude to those who stood against the injustice of the English rulers and created the nation where we live, we owe our salvation to God and to the brave people who first believed and spread the Good News that
God lived among us, that He took our sins upon himself and died a sacrificial death, that He was buried but rose again from the grave, ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of the Father and acts as our intercessor with the Father.
Praise God!
What does it take for us to be as true to our faith as these early Christians were?
Love!
This is not the kind of love that we see in the movies. This is not romantic love, this is not lustful love, this is not conditional love – you love me, so I love you.
This is the kind of love that is given without regard to the worthiness of the recipient of the love.
This love is a commitment. Love that is given without strings attached. Non-revocable love. The way God loves us. That is the kind of love He wants in return.
Our reading in Genesis gives us the example of a truly devoted and trustworthy servant who loved his master.
An unnamed servant is entrusted with a key part of God’s plan to “make a mighty nation of Abraham’s seed and to be a blessing to all people.”
Throughout the reading are clues that the servant did not expect Abraham to live long enough to see him return with a bride for Isaac.
Hear his words, “Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has.”
This indicates that the inheritance has already been given to Isaac. Normally the inheritance only comes after the father’s death.
Then he continues “My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites”
This shows that Abraham did not expect to be at the wedding. Otherwise he would be able to stop it without the servant having anything to do with it.
Later when Rebecca said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.”
Since the servant is saying that Isaac is “my master” and not “the son of my master” it seems that he expected that Abraham would have died in his absence.
What does this all say about the relationship between servant and master?
First of all, it shows that Abraham had faith that this slave was able and willing to complete the task given to him: To return to Abraham’s home land. (This was probably in modern day Turkey,) where Abraham lived after leaving the place of his birth (which was most likely modern day Iran) This was a long journey in miles and time traveled.
He trusted this servant with his wealth (camels, gold etc) and more importantly, he trusted this servant to help bring about the promise of God that he would make a mighty nation from Abraham’s seed. It was extremely important to Abraham that Isaac not have his faith corrupted by the Canaanite women in the land where they lived. He recognized how important it is that the man have a wife able to support him in all his beliefs.
And last of all, he trusted the servant to carry out his wishes even past Abraham’s death when the servant would no longer be bound to his master.
For the servant’s part it demonstrated the kind of unconditional love for his master that we as servants of God should strive toward. To be willing and able. This is a good servant.
Our reading from Romans gives us the reality of being a Christian; the broken servant. Where Paul says, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
Most of the time we tend to think of the apostle Paul as one of those mighty men of God. Nearly a superhero of the Christian faith.
This is Paul who stood before the council in Jerusalem and defended his calling to share the love of Christ to the non-Jews!
This is the Paul that when arrested by the Jews demanded his right as a Roman citizen to be tried before the emperor in Rome.
And when he stood before the emperor he preached a sermon outlining his faith that Jesus is the Christ, the long awaited Messiah who was hung on a cross by the Roman government at the demand of the Jews.
This is the Christ who died, was buried and rose again on the third day. The same Jesus who appeared multiple times to his followers and to a multitude of 500.
And most of all, this was the risen Christ who appeared to Saul of Tarsus and blinded him to the past and opened his eyes to the truth.
Imagine the strength it took to stand before an emperor (literally a king of kings) and preach that sermon.
It is easy for us to place someone like that on a pedestal. But Paul himself would never have wanted that.
He knew himself too well. He knew that as much as he strove to be as perfect as Jesus his example, he too often fell short of that goal.
He recognized that, though he was willing … he was not always able, that he had to constantly war within himself to avoid sin.
I have known many Christians that I respect and admire for the strength of their faith. However,I have not yet met a person who can honestly say that they perfectly follow Jesus.
We are broken by the sin in our lives.
We do that which we do not want to do and we do not do that which we should.
So, what’s to be done about this inability to do the right thing? To avoid sinning?
Let’s take a look at our reading from Matthew.
Here Jesus shows his disappointment in those who do not follow His teachings. He compares us to children who pout because we did not get our own way. “We played the flute, but you would not dance”
He points out that if he played by “their rules” he would be in a no win situation. If he did NOT eat and drink, they would say He had a demon. If he DID eat, He was called a glutton and a drunkard.
We call that “damned if I do – damned if I don’t”
So what is the answer for us who have been struggling to do what is right?
Hear the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
You see, the problem is not with our will – it is our ability. Jesus says that we fail because we try to do it alone. He is our strength and our redeemer.
If we seek to carry the load alone we will fail.
If we accept the help that He is for us, He is there to do the hard part. It is His yoke.
He says, “Learn from me”
What are we to learn?
He says, “I am gentle and humble in heart”
That is what we are to learn. We should not strive to be supermen, caring the load ourselves. We already know that in our weakness we can never lift the load or finish the race.
By becoming gentle and humble we can come to Christ and have the load shared by the one who is able!
His yoke is easy and His burden light. He is the perfect servant.
©Thomas E Williams 2011

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