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February 5, 2023

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany

Isaiah 58:1-9a

Psalm 112:1-9

1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Matthew 5:13-20

Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,

grace and peace to you from the one who acts. Amen

There’s an old saying:

Actions speak louder than words.

It points to the reality

that if there is a discrepancy

between what one says and how one acts,

the actions are often the better indicator of true values.

How we act is a more reliable way to gauge what is important to us.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love words,

I believe in a God who spoke the world into being

what we say and how we say it matters

But if what we say and how we say it isn’t matched by how we live

Their meaning falls short

And this tends to be a particular problem

among religious folks who can talk a good game

but sometimes have trouble following it with actions,

we are still human after all,

and sometimes God has to get real with us,

encourage us to move beyond words.

Today’s texts are such a call to action,

reading after reading we heard God’s call to us

to be active in our partnership with God.

First we heard the prophetic voice of Isaiah

rousing the Israelites out of their complacency,

in their exile

they were relying only on sacrifice and fasting

to relate to God

and in the voice of the prophet

we hear God telling them,

“ sacrifice and fasting might work for those pagan gods around you

but I expect more from our relationship,

I expect our relationship to leave the place of worship

and impact all your relationships:

This is the fast, the way of worship that I prefer

that you loose the bonds of injustice

undo the thongs of the yoke

let the oppressed go free,

if you want to be in relationship with me

share your bread with the hungry

bring the homeless poor into your house,

and when you see the naked cover them,

mend broken relationships in your family,

then you will see the glory of the Lord. “

It is time to put your faith into action God tells them

That is when you will see the longed-for change in the world

The psalmist reminded us

that righteousness is the antidote to fear.

We get distracted by all the opinions around us,

what will people think? we worry,

but when it comes down to it

the only one we must answer to is God,

if we live in a way that is pleasing to God,

that is righteous,

we have nothing to fear.

Of course we are human,

and humans, no matter how hard we try,

tend to fail at living in a way that is completely pleasing to God.

which is why we need Jesus,

the one, the only one

whose entire life (and death)

matched what he said and taught,

matched the desires of God for the world.

We need Jesus,

we need his teaching

and we need to experience,

even for a moment,

life lived in accordance with those teachings

Actions speak louder than words

it’s time to show before we tell.

This was Paul’s strategy with the Corinthians

and it worked.

Paul came to the Corinthians

not with lofty words but with a demonstration of the spirit.

In our second reading today He’s reminding them of this,

Currently they are a divided community

parts of whom have been lured away

by people who have impressed them with fancy speeches

but what made them part of the community in the beginning

was the power of God,

a power they felt so strongly

that they chose to join this minority group of believers,

outside the mainstream,

often outside the protection of family

that didn’t understand what they were doing and cut them off.

You don’t give up your inheritance and place in society

for fancy sounding words,

there is more going on than that

it is the power of God at work.

Paul reminds the divided Corinthians

That God has acted

through grace God has redeemed them

and called them to be partners in the spread of the gospel

and that this is the purpose that unites them.

Paul acknowledges to the Corinthians

that according to the reasoning of the world

the message of God is foolishness

but since God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom

just as God’s weakness is stronger than human strength

we are called to act foolishly in our partnership with God

depending on the power of God

To work through our actions to spread the good news.

Paul came to the Corinthians in weakness

and the power of God shone through,

allowing Paul to show rather than tell

the life changing message.

Showing works much better than telling

this is our call as Christians.

Jesus puts it even more succinctly

at the end of the sermon on the mount.

Be who you were created to be.

If you are salt be salty,

if you are light, illumine what is around you,

that is how you honor God.

Now to be clear

this call to action isn’t about salvation

or getting right with God,

this is not works righteousness,

the thought that if we work hard enough

or do enough good or pray in the right way or make sacrifices

that we will fix things.

We don’t have that kind of power,

salvation is up to God and God has saved us.

Past tense on going action, that’s taken care of.

And it’s not about the prosperity gospel

the lie that says if you pray in the right way

or give enough or go to the right church

that God will bless you with lots of money and power and things.

God just doesn’t work like that either.

It’s about being who we were created by God to be.

Children of God,

made out of love for love

each endowed by God with unique gifts and talents.

If you are salt season,

if you are light illumine what is around you,

how can you do otherwise?

It seems simple

and yet the way of the world

is the way of distraction,

of tempting and telling us to be more than we were created to be-

this was the serpent’s method in the garden,

tempting our first parents

with the thought that they could be more than themselves,

they could be like God

other times the world tells us to be less than we were created to be

the Israelites were slaves in Egypt,

told that they were only good for making bricks.

Did anyone believe that fishermen and tax collectors

in a backward province of the Roman empire could change the world?

And why would anyone listen to you? You’re only________

God knows it is hard to hear through all the noise,

which is why even as God calls us to action,

God also calls us to rest,

To take time to listen to the Holy Spirit,

to discover our God given gifts,

to quiet the voices of the world

so that when we return to action

it is for the sake of God

And God has given us gifts to help us on the way

the holy spirit to help us understand, discern, who we are

the waters of baptism

to remind us who we are and whose we are

the bread and wine of the table

to strengthen and forgive us

reminding us that we are enough,

enough to take the body and blood of Christ into our own bodies.

God acts to show us just how much God cares for us,

As that infamous verse John 3:16 puts it God so loved the world that he sent his only son…

And as verse 17 continues “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

God has acted.

Creating, redeeming and sustaining us.

Now God calls us to action,

the action of being who God has made us to be,

The action of letting our light shine

And in the shining of our light, glorifying God. Amen

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