Welcome! I am the Reverend Kenneth H. Saunders III (Fr. Ken). I am an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of Maryland. Here are some of my sermons delivered in the context of worship. I serve as the 7th rector of the wonderful community of Trinity Church in Towson, MD.

[NOTE: Sermons (or Homilies - commentaries that follow scripture lessons) are specifically designed to be heard (and are written for the ear) so they may contain sentence fragments and be difficult to read. They are NOT intended to be theological discourses or academic papers.]

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Year A - Christmas II - January 5, 2014

The Rev. Kenneth H. Saunders III
Trinity Church
Towson, MD
 
Year A - Christmas II - January 5, 2014
 
 
One of the greatest Bible study techniques that I know of is to put yourself in the context of the story as one of the characters. This way you can become one of the characters, see the landscape from their prospective and live the story as if you were them. I find this most helpful when we’re dealing with stories we know very well, or think we know very well. This method helps us gain a deeper understanding of what the story may be telling us.
 
There are a few characters in today’s reading from the Gospel according to Matthew that we can use as our lens through which to view the world around us… The obvious are the Magi or ‘wise men’… I am not sure why the church (or the carols of the season) call them Kings. Maybe it was to fulfill the prophecy that “All kings will bow before him.” (Psalm 72:11)
 
Nothing from the scripture leads us to believe that these guys were royals. They were, however, obviously foreigners – believed by scholars to be Astrologers – Zoroastrians from the east… followers of Zoroaster, the ancient religion of Persia that still exists today. Our scripture doesn’t give them names or tell us how many there were… it just says that they brought with them 3 gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh and were in search of a child that was born who they knew to be the King of the Jews. They didn’t know his name, or where he was to be born, but they followed a bright star (or comet) that led them to Jerusalem, the land of the Jews.
 
Then we have King Herod Antipas, who was the son of Herod the Great. Antipas was a puppet king, put on the throne by Caesar Augustus and ruled Judah as a client state for the Roman Empire. He wasn’t a very popular character as he was always on guard for people who were seeking to assassinate him or have him disgraced and removed from power.
 
The scripture tells us that he even needed to call together the chief priest and scribes in order to find out where this child might have been born, who was thought to be the messiah. A child called “King” by the strangers, a child that could be a threat to his throne.
 
This morning, for our consideration, I would like to put ourselves in the position of the strangers, the wise men… the Magi…  I saw an interesting sign in a yard the other day…  it said “wise men still seek him.”
 
If we put ourselves in the story as the strangers…  (the foreigners, the magi)… we find ourselves on a journey to find someone. Someone who we know is worthy of our respect (or homage.) Someone to whom we should go to and welcome… Someone worth our time and effort to bring gifts and enter into relationship. This person’s worthiness has been revealed to us by our study of the heavens – the stars. We have located a bright star that directed our path and brought us to a foreign land – the land of the Jews.
 
When we got there, we asked their King, King Herod, where we might find this newborn child, worthy of our respect, who was born to be King of the Jews. He was extremely surprised, and we were shocked that the current King didn’t know of anyone who was born to be king. He acts peculiar and seems to be in great fear of the news… But we follow his guidance and head out toward Bethlehem to find the child.
 
The great star continues to be our guide and it lingers over the place where we found the child and his mother. We are so glad to be able to pay our respects and offer our gifts to this great child who is to one day rule the nation of Israel.
 
The strangest thing, though… We were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, so we returned home by another road… 
 
There are a few things we can learn from our focus on the magi this morning… We can learn that God’s revelation comes sometimes through outsiders. In this case God was revealed to strangers from another land not the Jews. Revealed to gentiles, folks outside the realm of God’s chosen people. God revealed God’s self to strangers in a foreign land and sets them out on a journey.
 
What is somewhat ironic for us who hear this information today, is that these strangers are from an area of the world at odds and at war with our country today. These magi were more than likely from the area where the modern countries of Iran and Iraq exist today. So there is something else for us to think about… God’s revelation doesn’t just come through strangers in this case… but God’s revelation may come through enemies or those we may deem unworthy of God’s love.
 
It seems to me that the Jewish leaders, King Herod and the scribes and priests, have closed their hearts and minds off from God’s revelation. So, we in turn should learn to keep our hearts and minds open in order to fully receive and understand God’s love and how God may be working through us and among us. God’s revelation comes through in ways that sometimes defy our own religious and cultural norms: we should realize that even outsiders can be bearers of God’s revelation.
 
We also learn that God speaks through the non-human as well as human world. Many things reveal God’s truth: the heavens above, the deer walking in the snowy woods, the flying eagle, or our own animals – like my cat curled up next to the fireplace. The whole earth reveals God’s presence. Science as well as scripture can reveal divine truth.
 
God even speaks to the magi through dreams… God can speaks through the unconscious as well as conscious mind. Every aspect of our being can become a vehicle for God’s divine revelation and God’s divine grace.
 
Finally, we learn that the magi return home by another road. In response to God’s inspiration and revelation in a dream, the wise men take an alternative journey home. Many of us, as a new calendar year begins, are not where we thought we would be, and some of us may not think we are where we should be. We are all struggling with many different changes and challenges in our families, in the economy, our health, and our relationships. We are all traveling by different roads, different roads than we expected to be on.
 
However, we, like the magi, can experience divine revelation in these different, alternative, and often challenging pathways of our life.
 
I believe what it says on that sign, that “wise men, still seek him.” And in order to find him, we should remain open to the revelations of God’s love that exist in the world all around us… 
 
Today is the 12th day of Christmas and tomorrow is January 6th - the Feast of the Epiphany. The wise men from the east had an Epiphany… a revelation and realization that there was a great thing happening in this ordinary world… And they understood, and they watched and they followed… In the coming season that follows today, we are called to do the same…  to seek to understand, and to watch, and to follow. Because the glory of God has been revealed to us, so let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Year C - Proper 24 - October 20, 2013

The Rev. Kenneth H. Saunders III
Trinity Church
Towson, MD

Year C - Proper 24 - October 20, 2013

Scripture Readings

We live in a world of instant gratification… from the human desire to have immediate pats on the back for a job well done, to the microwaves oven sitting on our kitchen counters. In the world of our rushing around to find the source of that instant “feel good” – an unhealthy sense of urgency has taken over our culture. It is displayed in our culture by the fast paced trading on the stock market – causing our stocks to rise and fall in a matter of seconds.
 
It is even seen in commercials on TV… We are told that we need everything from instant weight-loss to those work from home businesses that will make us instant money… I even went to staples the other day… They are actually selling the “easy” button that is so popular on their TV commercials… You have probably seen the one, where when you press the big red button, and what you want from their store instantly comes to you. And those state farm commercials where you sing the jingle and get instant service… The images in our society of this “instant” need will make your head swim…
 
The internet is a direct result of this need for instant gratification… It is an instant source of knowledge – to can know what the weather is here or in Katmandu, what the current news issues are here or in Katmandu, and it even gives us the real time sports scores… I remember in the course that I took this past June it was common for us to look up facts on the internet concerning what the instructor was talking about, and then cut and paste them into our notes…
 
This need for instant gratification and spontaneous reward has even worked its way into our prayer life… When we pray to God, we want instant results… It is somehow that we want the Almighty, Omnipotent, creator of heaven and earth to be reduced to our easy button. We think that if God doesn’t give us instant answers, then we believe that we are somehow not good enough, or deserving of God’s infinite graces.
 
We fall into that rut again of thinking our faith is quantitative and not large enough or our prayers are not sincere enough… We think that God isn’t listening… It is then that we often either give up, or feel defeated… Jesus tells us a parable this morning about a widow, and a judge… The widow has a need for justice in a time and place when widows did not rate anything in society. They were on the bottom rung of the ladder and had no rights and they were often exploited and oppressed. Unlike today, widows were not even allowed to inherit their husband’s estate, and if they didn’t have any sons to take care of them, they were often forced to return to their father’s family.
 
Interestingly enough… The Hebrew word for widow (almanah) means “one who is silent” or the “one unable to speak” So this widow, who was not even allowed to speak in society on her own behalf, is pleading with a judge for justice… She knew the judge… he didn’t respect anyone or anything, not even God, do you think he had the time or even the desire to spend a second discerning the appropriate justice for this widow?
 
The widow is persistent in her pleading and doesn’t give up… It almost seems like she gets a bit feisty in her pleadings because there is some language in the scripture that indicates the Judge may have thought she would become physical… 
 
So the judge takes action and grants her justice… almost as if to brush her off or somehow get rid of her. But Jesus takes this image and puts God’s love for the faithful in contrast… If this Judge, who doesn’t respect anyone, not even God, grants justice to the persistent widow…  How much MORE will God do for us… us who cry out to God?… How much will God bless those who are persistent and faithful with their prayers?
 
Over the past few weeks, we have really started to fill our tool box for discipleship…  fill it full of useful equipment that we will need   in our ministry to others as we seek to proclaim the kingdom of Jesus Christ to the whole world. We have learned to be moving forward, and mission focused… Jesus has made sure that we know how to receive others with radical hospitality, and how to serve them without prejudice… We have loaded up our tool box with prayer, love, and faith… We even learned a couple of weeks ago, that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed, the tiniest of seeds, then we could do tremendous things like move mountains.
 
Today, Jesus adds to the metaphor of the mustard seed of faith, and teaches us about persistence. Yes, we must have faith, but our faith requires persistence… Persistence to keep close to God, even when it seems to us that God is far off… Persistence to keep praying even though it seems to us that God may not listening… The scripture indicates that we should to show our faith in God through the persistent actions in our life.
 
This parable often gives folks the false impression that we can somehow conform God to our needs for instant gratification. That we can somehow “wear down” God and get God to do what we want God to do by our persistent prayers… But – that’s not the point at all… Our persistent prayers to God are NOT a means of controlling God… God is not some genie in the sky that grants us wishes. God will not be controlled like that…
 
Our prayers to God are the mechanism that guides our hearts and minds… that causes changes in our life as we grow to be formed, informed, and transformed by God’s love for us and God’s will for our lives. Our prayers to God are the way we all grow and are formed in our faith.
 
This is how our minds focus on and how our soul connects with the One who created us. It is the way we know who we are and who’s we are… As our Prayer Book says prayer is our response to our God with or without words. In faith, we keep praying, and in faith, God keeps listening. We show our faith by the fact that we are even praying at all. Trusting that our God hears us and will respond to us…
 
When we pray, there are rarely any instant answers or even any instant gratification. There is no easy button that will automatically give us what we desire… But we keep on praying with persistence hoping and trusting that God will deliver to us what we need.
 
We know God is always faithful. But we also know that God will always acts in God’s own time, and if we are paying close attention, we may even recognize it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Year C - Proper 23 - October 13, 2013

The Rev. Kenneth H. Saunders III
Trinity Church
Towson, MD
 
Year C - Proper 23 - October 13, 2013
 
 
I hate to say it…  It is sometimes too easy for us to forget God… Have you ever noticed that when good things happen, God is rarely – if ever – given any credit? At the same time, if something bad happens, God is the first to be blamed… Even the folks that say they don’t believe in God, give God all the blame for everything bad that happens to them… I have heard folks blame God for everything from the Earthquakes in San Francisco to the World Trade Towers to Hurricane Katrina and most recently to the Boston Bombings…
We live in a materialistic, individualistic, narcissistic society.  We think it’s all about us and our stuff, but we often forget the ONE whom we owe everything… all that we have – all that we are.  The God in whom we live and move and have our being…
In our Gospel story this morning, death and the cross are still before Jesus as he continues on his way to Jerusalem.  We learn today that Jesus has made it to a place between Samaria and Galilee, where he happens upon 10 men sitting on the outskirts of town. They were on the outskirts of town because they had leprosy.
People were scared to death of leprosy in those days. Governments even regulated how close they could get to other individuals. They were required to yell out, “unclean, unclean” if someone approached.  These 10 guys knew the rules, so they kept their distance… But they didn’t call out unclean, unclean… They recognized Jesus and his caravan. So they called out…  “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"
Jesus’ reputation preceded him… The men with leprosy knew of him and called out to him by name. They even referred to him as “master”… “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They were not asking to be healed…  they were more than likely seeking pity from him in the form of alms because they were forced to beg for a living because of their condition.
Jesus has compassion for them and Jesus has mercy on them, but the story doesn’t say that Jesus gave them any alms… The scripture does say that Jesus told them to present themselves to the priest… See, we forget sometimes that Jesus is a good Jew and he follows the law of Moses… Some of us may remember that it says in Leviticus that only a priest can certify that the person is no longer contaminated with the disease of Leprosy.
The miracle that follows is hard to understand because so much is left up to our imagination. We can imagine that the Lepers were obedient and did exactly what Jesus asked them to do. They started out on their own journey south to see the priest… They didn’t ask Jesus what the expected consequences or even the outcome would be…  but they were obedient, none the less.
We can picture them possibly talking to each other along the way… What would they do when they got to the priest? Then, on the way, they start to feel themselves change! They became aware of changes in their skin, and perhaps felt their ugly rash disappearing. When they turned and looked at each other, they could not believe their eyes. One of them feels the gratitude bubbling up inside of him….
The former leper immediately turns around and runs back… He knows that what is happening to him is good, and he knows that the source of that goodness is not ahead of him in Jerusalem, but it was behind him with the one who responded to his cry for mercy… So He runs!
The 9 Jews probably don’t even realize that the Samaritan is no longer with them. They have been restored to their own health and restored to Jewish society, they would have been just as glad to see him gone. The Samaritan runs back and throws himself at the feet of Jesus, laying prostrate – a position of complete submission praising God and thanking Jesus…
So what do we learn from this story?
Some folks have suggested that it is a story about how right it is to “give thanks.” To borrow words from the prayer book “While it is meet and right and our bound and duty – that we at all times and in all places give thanks” to our God, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth…  I don’t think that the fact that the Samaritan was “thankful” was the actual point of the story.
This story for us today is a deep look into the restorative power of God… Of how God restores the faithful, and delivers and heals those who are obedient to his will. God is always eager to re-new creation… and it is only God who brings order and wholeness out of our chaos and destruction…  Out of all that WE have contaminated or deteriorated, God is able to heal and bring new life In ways that we don’t expect or by means we couldn’t even imagine.
Jesus heals 10 lepers – and only one returns… It is not a Jewish man that returns – the scripture plainly tells us that this man was a Samaritan, a stranger, a foreigner. And Jesus tells him that by his faith he has been made well…
When the restorative power of God touches our lives, this story reminds us not to make light of the graces and healing that we have received… We should never take God’s blessings for granted. In response to the restorative power of God, the Samaritan overflows with gratitude… Like the Samaritan – we feel grateful to God for the many things that God does for us, has done for us and continues to do for us… This fills us with the need to praise God by our thoughts, words, and our actions…
When we cry out for mercy, God through Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ always hears us and responds to our cry… The choice of how to respond is left up to us… What we do with the many blessings that God has provided is ultimately our choice and our responsibility… We can choose to let God in…  let God in to restore us and heal us and then give thanks where thankfulness is du; like the thankful Samaritan who was restored to health and given a new lease on life… Or like so many in our society do we can choose to continue along on our own way and ignore God and forget that God had anything to do with it.
The choice is ours, and we should all choose very wisely… Our ability to flourish in faith depends on it.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Year C - Proper 22 - October 6, 2013

The Rev. Kenneth H. Saunders III
Trinity Episcopal Church
Towson, MD

RCL Year C - 20 Pentecost (Proper 22) - October 6, 2013

 
When we come to church, we hear a lot talk about faith. We read about faith in the Bible and we even sing songs about faith… But what is Faith? I have often heard people mistakenly say that faith is the opposite of doubt. But we know that the opposite of doubt is certaintySo, what is Faith?…
 
In today’s gospel story, Jesus’ disciples made what would seem to be a logical and obvious request… “Increase our faith!" We can just picture them there on the road… prepared for discipleship…  carrying with them all the stuff they needed to build up the kingdom of God  They were ready for mission, and have packed wisely for the journey… They were welcoming the stranger in their midst, and they were even eating with tax collectors and sinners… Jesus taught them well… He taught them how to be steadfast followers, and how to use all the money and stuff that they were entrusted with to glorify and build up the kingdom of God…
 
I get the image of the young rookie football player, all suited up in a new uniform, helmet on…  looking right in the coaches eyes… We all expect him to say “put me in coach, I am ready to play.” But instead, the young player is saying… “help me please...  what if I get hurt?, what if the others don’t block for me?...”  "What do I do if…  and his worries go on and on and on…
 
The disciples are prepared…  Jesus knows they are because he was the one who prepared them… But with all the preparation, the disciples still don’t get it, they still don’t trust that God will be with them… So they ask Jesus for and increase in their faith…
 
They think they can top off their tank with “faith” and be ready to continue the journey. Sort of like a “fill-er up” with super holy octane! Jesus’ response to his disciples relates directly to the power of faith itself… The power so strong that even the smallest bit of it could prove to be a tremendous force… Then Jesus takes the discussion to the unexpected level.
 
He basically says, to do the Job I have given you to do… to be my disciple… isn’t going to require very much faith at all. All we need to do is obey God and do our duty… Jesus then depicts each of the disciples as a humble servant, who’s duty is to be hardworking, not expecting to be thanked.
 
He says that this… This is what faith is… Our duty within the relationship to our God… I think, most simply, when we say that we have faith, it means that we trust God to be God. Sometimes, most often where people are ill, folks will say, “if you have faith, you will be healed.” Or worse yet, “your faith isn’t strong enough.” We assume that if Jesus says that our faith can move trees… then if we had any faith at all, we would certainly be healed…
 
I think that we fail to realize that this means we would be manipulating God…  In other words, we get hung up in the world of, “If I have enough faith, then God has to do exactly what I want God to do!” That’s not what Jesus is saying at all!
 
Jesus makes it clear that we are expected to have faith… it is part of being a follower of Christ, just like serving is part of being a servant… Our faith doesn’t require God to do anything. God does not heal us because we have faith. God heals us because God is God. God loves us simply because God chooses to love us...
 
God is active and present in our everyday lives, and gives us more than we could ever ask for or deserve… Neither our faith nor our actions can earn us God’s favor or  salvation! (which is another misconception and another sermon in its entirety)…
 
I heard a story the other day about an example of faith… you may have heard this before, so bear with me… One day, a little girl got lost in the woods on a farm near where she lived. The farmer who owned the land found the little girl and said to her, "Don't be afraid; I'll take you home."
 
The little child looked up at him with a smile, said, "I'm not afraid.
I knew you would come; I was waiting for you."
"Waiting for me?" said the man. "What made you think I was coming?"
 "I was praying that you would." she said.
"You were praying?" the farmer asked.
"When I first heard you, you were just saying 'A B C D E F G.'
What was that for?"
 
She looked up again and said, "I wasn't sure exactly what to say, so I was praying all the letters of the alphabet and letting God put them together the way God wanted them. See... God knew I was lost and God knew how to put the letters together much better than I do." She had faith that God loved her and cared for her. She had faith that if she asked God to help her, God would.
 
How much faith is enough?  
Do we need to have a lot of faith,
or will just a little bit do?
The answer may surprise you.
 
The followers of Jesus said to him, "Increase our faith." Jesus answered them, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." When we have faith in God, our faith isn’t quantitative… it isn't a question of how big or small our faith is, it is qualitative…  it is a question of how powerful our God is, and with God all things are possible!
 
As we approach the holy table this morning to receive by faith the body and blood of the Lord our Savior Jesus Christ, my prayer is not to ask God to give us more faith. It is simply to ask God to help us use the faith that we have, and trust God to do the rest.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Year C - Proper 21 - September 29, 2013

The Rev. Kenneth H. Saunders III
Trinity Episcopal Church
Towson, MD
 
RCL Year C - 19 Pentecost (Proper 21) - September 29, 2013
 
 
A few weeks ago, I spoke about living in a paradox…  The tension we find in our lives between good and bad, right and wrong, normal and not normal, rich and poor…  Once again we are confronted with a paradox.  The lections this morning speak to us a lot about the rich and poor. Last week we learned about misused wealth, and called it the “unrighteous mammon,” and how, if chose to serve that unrighteous mammon, we were not serving God.

In Amos, there are woes presented to those who think that they are better than everyone else because they have security in there beds of ivory, anointing themselves with the finest oils, and drinking wine from bowls…

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul warns Timothy about the uncertainty of riches, and that because everything comes from God, he should be rich in good works and create a good foundational practice that will lead him to “take hold of the life that really is life.”

Jesus tells us a parable this morning...  a story about a rich man and a poor leper, and the consequences that surround their circumstances…  as I said last week, wealth was a serious issue during Jesus’ time... The rich often got rich on the backs of the poor. Their "riches" and “richness” was typically the only thing that mattered to them…  How they horde the money they have, and the scheming ways to make more, dominated their lives.

Their greed separated them from others, and even from God... Jesus’ parable was contrary to what they thought…  Back then (and sometimes today), folks think that their richness was a direct result of God’s blessing on their lives, and that the poor somehow deserve what they get – because of some ill they have done. Jesus takes some more time this morning to unravel this wrong thinking…

Jesus presents us with the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus…

The rich man is as pompous as the folks we hear about in Amos… He is dressed in the fine purple linen that was often reserved for royalty – this was even mandated by Roman law. We get a clear picture in our head of him prancing around with that “everybody look at me” attitude.

The poor diseased man, Lazarus, sat outside the gates of the rich man’s home, longing for something to eat. We can imagine that the rich man passed him every time he left his home to go somewhere. Jesus’ parable tells us that they both eventually died, and the rich man went to the torment of Hades while the poor man was carried off by angels to be with Abraham.

Even from the depths of Hades, the rich man still doesn’t get it…

He thinks that he can appeal to Abraham and have his agony relieved. He pleads with Abraham to have Lazarus sooth his ailment, but Abraham reminds him that he already been rewarded with good things, but despite warnings by Moses and the prophets, he chose not to honor God in his life by caring for his neighbor Lazarus. He even begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his fathers house so that his brothers won’t suffer the fate that has taken him and Abraham tells him that the fate of his fathers house is up to them… If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, it won’t do them any good to hear from someone that comes back from the dead.

One would immediately jump to think that this parable is about heaven and hell… Perhaps thinking that the poor get in but the rich don’t… But this parable it is more about life, and what we do with what we have in this life, and how we use it to directly honor God.

There is a story about a preacher that had been assigned to a new congregation… He had never met the congregation. Before the Sunday church service, this preacher dressed in the shabbiest rags he had, marked up his face, and rolled around on the ground and got all dirty.  Just before the congregation was to arrive, this preacher laid in the walkway at the entrance to the church. The parishioners started coming in, dressed in their Sunday finest, and walked right by him laying there. Some even stepped over the preacher as they tried to enter the church.

Some pretended that they didn’t even see him. No one tried to help him at all, no one even stopped to see if he needed medical attention, they just walked by. After they were all in the church, the preacher jumped up and walked in the church – right down the center isle to the front, where he started to preach –

He preached on the ills of being comfortable, of not wanting to be bothered by someone that they saw as a “lesser” human being.

That is what these readings are about... In Jesus' story, the rich man has it all, what more else could he want?  He walks right by Lazarus every day, and doesn’t even have the decency to throw him a crust of bread. He didn’t want to be bothered by this “lesser” human being. The sad part to the story is, that only in death does he realize what he really should have done, then it is too late.

Jesus continues to upset the social order as he travels on his way to Jerusalem. So far this season, we have heard what he teaches about what it means to be a disciple, to move forward in mission and minister to those that don’t have the gracious abundance that we have. We have heard about what it means to be a neighbor, to reach out in hospitality to everyone that you receive, and to be humble.

Now Jesus is warning us about our stuff and our money. He doesn’t want us to give up everything that we have worked for. But he does warn us that our obsession with stuff and with money will make us loose sight of the kingdom of God  If we become comfortable with how we think that God has blessed us, if we do not live out the Christian witness in our lives by serving the “least” among us…  If we give honor to the “unrighteous mammon” in our lives…  Then we are in danger of loosing sight of the kingdom of God and possibly our souls.

It is said that the famous humanitarian, theologian, and later doctor Albert Sweitzer, after hearing a sermon on this parable decided to give up his day – job.  He had a vision that the western world, in all of it vast riches was the rich man in the parable, and Africa’s poor was Lazarus… He spent the remainder of his life dedicated to a medical mission that he founded in Africa, feeding the hungry and curing the sick from Malaria, and Leprosy… His life was one of the main triumphs of the twentieth century, and it took its direction from his study of Christ.

Those of you that know me, have heard me comment on the Apostle Paul before. While I may personally feel that Paul has his own struggles and issues that he is working through – Trying to live in the ancient world while spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, Paul always stays true to his message.

In his pastoral letter to Timothy, Paul reminds Timothy to tell the rich not to be self-important, and snooty – not to bank on the “unrighteous mammon” in their lives… but to rely on God, be generous with what they have, and build a foundation for the future and take hold of life that really is life. Paul hits the nail on the head… some may say "this sounds like works righteousness," but it is works that are a result of the love and joy we have for Christ… It is our witness to the gospel.

So – are we honoring God with our life in how we use our stuff and our money? Are we witnessing to our love of Jesus in our daily actions? Our challenge this morning is to look inwardly – to examine our own lives and our mission as a people of God…

We should think to ourselves, are we like the rich man who “passes by” Lazarus laying out by the gate? Are we the church goer that “steps over” the vagrant laying in our pathway?  Or are we honoring God with our lives, achieving justice, healing and peace… and witnessing to the love of Jesus Christ with our thoughts, our words, and our actions?