St. Matthew’s Sermon 08-06-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 08-06-2017

We Need Some Respect

Genesis 32:22-31, Psalm 17:1-7, 15, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:13-21

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Today will be one of those rare days when I diverge from the lectionary and preach to you on current events instead. But, not working directly with the text at hand doesn’t mean that I won’t include, or actually focus on, the Word of God! It’s just that what has been on my mind this week isn’t contained in one or two pieces of Scripture; rather it is spread throughout a great amount of Scripture.

It started last Saturday when we were sending off our Youth Group on their mission trip into Appalachia. One of the young men, not of our local Churches but one who came from New York, was brought down to meet us by his parents. As I spoke with them I learned that he had concerns about fitting in with a Christian group when he, himself, wasn’t very familiar with the Christian faith; he was fearful of not being able to join in prayers or songs recited from memory, or understanding concepts if presented in Christian lingo. “But”, they added, “he really wants to do this, he thinks it’s important to ‘give back’ and this is a way he has found to do that”. They also took responsibility for his lack of religious background, the mother saying that she was raised Catholic but wasn’t attending Church and the father stating that he was raised Buddhist but was also not in formal practice.

Instinctively I reassured them that their son, and they, had no need to worry; that with Bryan and Cindy in the lead and knowing the loving acceptance of the other young people, he was in good hands. And, to offer further assurance I added “…by the way, I respect all religious faiths”.

After the sendoff, I gave a lot of thought to all that was said in the multiple conversations of the morning; especially to my part in them. But I kept coming back to this particular young man and his parents.

I thought about his desire to “give back”. I thought about how few people of the world, even those of Christian faith, have a sense of the need to give back and how many lack the courage he showed by getting out of his comfort zone to join an unfamiliar group of strangers to get it done. I thought about, with great admiration, his dedication to the mission; even showing up with a braced ankle, a walking boot and crutches owing to a basketball accident a few days before. With his fears and reservations, if he wanted an excuse to back out at the last minute, he certainly had a valid one. And I thought about his parents admirably for allowing him to pursue his goal even with his reservations and injury.

With all this, I was reassured of the appropriateness of my words to them in the occasion. I was offering them assurance, but I meant it when I said “…I respect all faiths”.

I’ve often been challenged for that kind of thinking; more than once I’ve been called a heretic for it; and many times I’ve endured bashing words from other Christians like “How can you say that and call yourself a Christian”! Or, since my Ordination, “You can’t be a Christian Minister and have respect for other religions, you’re a hypocrite; it’s blasphemy”!


One of the many points that needs to be considered here is that my having “respect” for other religions doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with them.

Perhaps a better word to be used here is “deference”. Whereas, in our modern use of ‘respect’, there is an underlying sense of something earned or being deserved; ‘deference’ simply carries a sense of ‘courteous regard’. Unfortunately, it is not a word in great use in this day-and-age; perhaps because, in our world of ever increasing divisiveness, there are too few situations that allow its proper use. And this is what called me to stray from the lectionary today.

In that combination of thoughts regarding our ASP participant mixed with the dreadful social, economic, and political happenings surrounding us, I came to the realization that one of the biggest causes of suffering is found in the lack of respect that infects humanity worldwide.

It can be seen everywhere: Democrat vs. Republican; capitalism vs. socialism; native born vs. immigrant; rich vs. poor; powerful vs. powerless; white vs. color; straight vs. gay; believer vs. nonbeliever; my belief vs. your belief… and on and on it goes. And none have respect for the other.

But is this the way it’s supposed to be? Is this Bible based?

For many, it is. They take their few selected verses to make their point and stand fervently beside them. They latch on to God’s Old Testament condemnation of those who worship “false Gods” and Christ’s words “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” among others.

This is okay, in my opinion, this is truth and I do not condemn it. What I will condemn, however, is when these verses are used by mere mortals to usurp the authority of God and Christ to judge and condemn others; an authority that belongs to God and Christ alone; while ignoring many other verses that call us to love and respect others.

So, let me give you a few of my own selected verses to make my point.

Regarding vengeance: Do not say, “I will do to others as they have done to me; I will pay them back for what they have done.” (Proverbs 24:29)

Regarding immigrants and foreigners: “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”. (Deut 10:17-19)

 Regarding the poor and abuse of power: “Thus says the LORD: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals– they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way…  …they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge; and in the house of their God they drink wine bought with fines they imposed”. (Amos 2:6-8)

And one example so important that it is found in the Old, and New Testament: From Isaiah, “The Lord said: Because these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote; (Isaiah 29:13)

And Christ’s version, “So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.'” (Matt. 15:8-9)

And another from Christ: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”. (Matt. 5:9)

One more; this one not from the Bible but from Rev. Tex Evans, founder of ASP: “We accept people right where they are and just the way they are”. (You can ask our ASP missionaries to explain that philosophy in its context).

I cannot speak for everyone, it seems there are many people who do not want peace on earth, but as for me, I do. And for there to be peace there must be love, grace, and respect by all, for all. Exhibiting love, grace, and respect doesn’t necessarily mean (or require) that I agree; but disagreement DOES NOT call for degradation, retaliation, or vengeance. Love, grace, and respect can bring peace; degradation, retaliation, and vengeance can only bring conflict.

Let there be peace on earth, let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, let it begin with us!



Genesis 32:22-31
32:22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
32:23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.
32:24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
32:25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.
32:26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”
32:27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”
32:28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”
32:29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.
32:30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”
32:31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Romans 9:1-5
9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ–I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit–
9:2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
9:3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.
9:4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;
9:5 to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Psalm 17:1-7, 15
17:1 Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.
17:2 From you let my vindication come; let your eyes see the right.
17:3 If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress.
17:4 As for what others do, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.
17:5 My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.
17:6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words.
17:7 Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.
17:15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.


Matthew 14:13-21
14:13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.
14:14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.
14:15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”
14:16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
14:17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”
14:18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.”
14:19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
14:20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.
14:21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.