9 August 2015 The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Year A Color: Green
Scripture Reading:Romans 5:1-5
Research studies indicate that up to 45 percent of adult siblings have relationships marked by rivalry or distance. A story from the Wall Street Journal featured Al Golden, 85, who still chokes up when he talks about his twin brother, Elliott, who died three years ago. The brothers shared a room growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., graduated from the same college and then married within a month of each other in 1947.
Yet Mr. Golden still remembers how their father often compared their grades, asking one or the other, "How come you got a B and your brother got an A?" Elliott Golden became a lawyer and eventually a state Supreme Court judge. Al Golden went into the mirror business then sold life insurance. He says he always envied his brother's status and secretly took pleasure in knowing he was a better fisherman and owned a big boat.
Once, Elliott asked him, "I am a lawyer. How come you make more money than me?" Mr. Golden says. "He meant: 'How come you are making more than me when you are not as successful?' But it made me feel good."
One day, Elliott accused him of not doing enough to take care of their ailing mother. After the conversation, Al didn't speak to his brother for more than a year. "It might have been the built-up of jealousies over the years," he says. His brother repeatedly reached out to him, as did his nieces and nephews, but Mr. Golden ignored them.
Then one day Al received an email from his brother telling a story about two men who had a stream dividing their properties. One man hired a carpenter to build a fence along the stream, but the carpenter built a bridge by mistake. Mr. Golden thought about the email then wrote back, "I'd like to walk over the bridge." "I missed him," Mr. Golden says now. "I never had the chance to miss him before."
Elizabeth Bernstein, "Sibling Rivalry Grows Up," Wall Street Journal (3-20-12); submitted by David Finch, Elk Grove, California
The Bible says that we, the human race, declared war on God. We made ourselves the enemies of God. We were the ones who parted ways with God. We sued for divorce. The distance was caused by us. But the Bible also says that through Jesus, we have been reconciled to God.
Jesus’ coming to earth was God building a bridge across the barrier we had erected between us and and God. It is now possible for us to know God relationally.
To really grasp this fact, we need to get it out of our minds the idea that God is simply a bigger version of us. God is a personal being. He can know and be known; however, he is not simply an inflated version of us. The human mind has been so warped when it comes to God, that the thought of God knowing each of us get’s picture in absurd ways.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Some picture God as busy switch board operator, trying to keep up with all the incoming calls is silly. God is infinite and infinite in his capacity for knowing each of intimately, as if we were the only person in the universe he had to keep up with.
Jesus came to bring us peace
Jesus gives us right standing with God. This is an objective truth, not subject to how we feel about it. Our feelings about our relationship with God are not a good index for judging our relationship with God. If we are in Christ, we have solid ground under our feet when it comes to God. Feelings come and go and shift like the sands of time. They are unpredictable; but God is solid and dependable.
Because of what Jesus has done for us, we can run into the arms of God with gratitude, even in times of suffering; knowing that we share in the Father’s work in this broken world.
Our sufferings are not caused by God, but are a sign to us that God is still at work in our lives. He uses our trials and sufferings to slowly mold us and transform us, building in us a Christ-like character.
We are people of Hope
To the world, Christians look foolish to be looking for and anticipating something we cannot yet see. But when we look out upon this sad world of ours, we see rays of hope and remember the promises God has made to us and to our father Abraham and our mother Sarah.
Our hope is built on something deep and profound. We are part of the family of God, to whom precious promises have been entrusted.
Isn’t this being a bit Pollyanna?
The 1960 film Pollyanna starring Hayley Mills, based on the novel by Eleanor H. Porter, written in 1913 was released. The lead character's full name was Pollyanna Whittier. After the death of her parents she went to live with her wealthy but rather unpleasant Aunt Polly in Vermont. The approach Pollyanna took to life was highly optimistic, to say the least. She called it "The Glad Game". Regardless of the circumstances in which you find yourself, you must always find something to be glad about. Pollyanna first thought of the game when instead of a doll for Christmas she ended up with only a pair of crutches. She made up the game on the spot, determined to look on the bright side of things. In this case, she was glad she had crutches because she didn't need to use them! And that's something to be glad about!
Playing "the glad game" is about the only thing that enabled Pollyanna to survive in the house of her Aunt. When she is confined in the attic, she is "glad" that there is at least a beautiful view from a high window. When she is punished for being late and her dinner is only bread and milk, she is again "glad" because she at least has something to eat.
Pollyanna's philosophy of life is genuinely put to the test when she is hit by a car and loses the use of both legs. Lying in bed, she comes to grips with the severity of her situation. But instead of falling into depression or bitterness, she decides she can at least be glad that she has her legs, even if they don't do her much good. Pollyanna eventually is sent to a hospital where she learns to walk again and thus once more finds a good reason to be glad.
Pastor Sam Storms asks, "So, is this how a Christian is supposed to view life and adversity and heartache? Does God ask us to play our own version of 'The Glad Game' in order to cope and survive in a fallen and corrupt world?" Although we can commend Pollyanna for not complaining, "The Glad Game" is a far cry from true biblical hope. Biblical hope isn't wishful thinking; or thinking, at least we are not as bad off as someone else. Instead, it’s an act of trust in the bedrock promises of God.
Sam Storms, "Pollyanna versus Christian Hope: Discerning the Difference," sermon given at Bridgeway Church (4-6-14)
Our hope is not wishful thinking or based on something we have dreamt up. We believe in the historical reality of Jesus Christ, and the concrete actions he took on our behalf, to save this world. He is the reason we have for hope. He our Chief Cornerstone; that which holds our lives together when they seem to be falling apart.