|Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||March 2, 2014||Last Sunday after Epiphany||Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21. Matthew 17:1-9|
|Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||February 23, 2014||Seventh Sunday after Epiphany||Leviticus 19:1-2. 9-18; Matthew 5:38-48|
|Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||February 16, 2014||Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 5:21-37|
|John Hines sermon||February 11, 2014||Daily Office||I Kings 8:22-23, 27-30, Ps 84, Mark 7:1-13|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 9, 2014||Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-12, 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, Matthew 5:13-20|
|The Presentation, Year A||February 2, 2014||Presentation in the Temple, Year A||Luke 2:22-40|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 26, 2014||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 4:12-23|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 19, 2014||Second Sunday after the Epiphany||Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2014||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Matthew 3:13-17|
|The Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2014||Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Second Sunday After Christmas, Year A||January 5, 2014||Second Sunday after Christmas, Year A||Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23|
|Christmas Eve||December 24, 2013||Christmas Eve, 2013||Luke 2:1-20|
|Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 15, 2013||Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10, Matthew 11:2-11|
|First Sunday in Advent, Year A -The Circle of the Church Year||December 1, 2013||Advent 1, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Yr C||November 24, 2013||Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Year C||Luke 23:33-43|
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:August 11, 2013
Scripture: Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, Luke 12:32-40
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 14, Year C
“God brought Abraham outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’”
These stars appeared for the first time in the Bible at the beginning of creation. On the fourth day, along with the sun and the moon, God made the stars.
God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was very good.”
So when God led Abraham outside and told him to count the stars, and Abraham saw millions and millions of sparkling lights spangled across the dark night sky,
he could see God’s creativity and majesty written in starlight across the heavens. He could see into the beginning of time, into the majestic nature of God, into the heart of God’s vast and endless creativity.
The stars became God’s sign of promise and creativity in Abraham’s life.
And as Abraham gazed at these stars, God filled him with hope.
The stars were a visible promise that God would guide Abraham through the mysterious journey that he had already undertaken as a result of God’s call to him—the journey that Abraham would continue for the rest of his life.
Throughout human history, stars have provided guidance to travelers. About the time that Genesis was written, ancient navigators were figuring out how to use stars to traverse the mysterious seas and to explore uncharted terrains.
In the gospel according to Matthew, the wise men from the East observed a star at its rising and followed it to Judea in order to bring gifts to a new born king.
In more recent times, in the convoluted history of our own nation, the North Star provided the promise of freedom to slaves who looked to the stars for guidance as they headed north to freedom.
Hints of God’s guidance, mysterious creativity, and promise are hidden within many of our own cultural references to stars.
“Shooting stars, twinkle, twinkle little star, star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, when you wish upon a star, hitch your wagon to a star, reach for the stars, catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day, pocketful of star light, star dust, stars in your eyes, thank your lucky stars, stars in your crown.”
These familiar references (and I’m sure you can think of many others), bring smiles to our faces, because when we hear them, we feel little glimmers of hope, promise and the feeling that we can hold a tiny piece of something greater than we are, something full of light that will transform us—a promise that we can grasp and hold in our own hands.
So let’s go back to Abraham’s story for a minute to see how we can hold onto God’s hopeful promises for each one of us.
When God called him, Abraham left the dark interior of his tent, followed God outside, and looked up into the star filled heaven.
And as Abraham stared into that starry night, “he believed the Lord, the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
Abraham saw into the future, into the rich and infinite light of God’s promises for him.
Abraham saw that God had a place for him in history, a plan written out for him in the stars, although Abraham could not imagine how that plan would come to pass. But he believed, and in so doing, he accepted God’s plans for him.
And by believing and trusting God, Abraham entered into a relationship with God.
God was already in a relationship with Abraham, as God longs to be in relationship with each and every one of us. That is, God was righteous toward Abraham.
And ever since God made us out of the dust of the earth, God has been righteous toward us, longing to be in relationship with us.
In spite of our continual failings and shortcomings, God continues to have faith in us.
And we are righteous toward God when we have faith and hope in God, actively seeking the relationship with God that God has promised to us as God’s children.
The writer of Hebrews elaborates on what it means for us to have faith in God.
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Faith is looking up, seeing the stars, and seeing beyond the stars into the reality of what we have chosen as Christians to believe,
believing that God has a purpose for our lives, that God leads us on a pilgrimage throughout our lives toward the completion and fulfillment of God’s destiny for each one of us, a destiny that stretches beyond the grave and gate of death.
If you’ve ever driven across country, when you get out West, you know that when darkness falls, the only light comes from the stars.
And if you haven’t yet reached your destination for the night, you drive on and on through that star filled darkness, until at last you see what looks like stars come to earth, twinkling on the horizon, the lights of the city you’ve been travelling toward, and you drive on toward those twinkling lights with renewed hope and purpose, because your destination is at last in sight.
The heavenly city that God has prepared for us is a city whose foundation is made of stars sparkling like the rarest of jewels, God’s own foundation, God’s creative promise and faithfulness to all of God’s creation, a foundation so full of golden light that there will be no night in that city, for the glory of God is the city’s foundation full of light.
This is the heavenly city toward which we travel, and above this city a bright and shining star rises to show us the way.
At the end of Revelation, the last book in the Bible, which is the conclusion in scripture of the timeless story of God’s faithfulness and righteousness to us, we hear this statement of promise and invitation.
“It is I, Jesus. I am the bright and morning star. Come to this heavenly city.” And to this call, we who believe issue our response.
“Come, Lord Jesus.”
Jesus is the bright and morning star who for a brief time brought the heavenly city here to earth, became one of us, dwelt among us—and as the Greek says, pitched his tent among us.
Jesus traveled along with us for a while on an earthly pilgrimage and showed us the way to God through his own belief in God and his obedience and faithfulness to God,
and through his faithful service to each and every one of us.
In today’s gospel, Jesus calls out to each and every one of us who are his disciples. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom, and I will return to guide you home.”
God has a place for each one of us in history. God has written our destinies out in the stars, although we see only glimmers of what God’s plans for us are, and we cannot imagine how those plans will come to pass. But for guidance, we can look up into the darkness toward our Lord, our bright and morning star.
And so as people of faith and hope, we accept God’s will for our lives, knowing that God will guide us into God’s vast and endless creativity, and that God’s plans for our lives will come to pass, both now and in that heavenly city that is yet to be our home.
God says, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.”
Come Lord Jesus, and lead us home.