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9th Sunday after Pentecost - August 7, 2022

The Collect brings back to me the memories of the General Ordination Exams that we took at the end of Seminary

The Diocese that sent me to seminary required a passing grade in all seven areas of the GOE’s in order to be ordained…

The exam was five days long that included in class exams in the morning and some afternoons and a ten page, double spaced essay written each evening. We had the weekend off so we started with three days and finished after the weekend with two…

On the last afternoon, I picked up the question… It was an essay that would allow one to be qualified in the area of ethics…

When I read the question… I knew our professor had written it… and with the fatigue I was feeling, my heart sank

The Question: What is the difference in right and wrong; good and evil?

Well really, I could not imagine that I could write a ten page paper on that AND… I had no ideas whatsoever…. Perhaps I would just die right there on the seminary lawn… five years of graduate school and this was the question…

So I first ask you to look at the Collect… I want to take a privilege that I do not have and say that I think it should read, “Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are good…good, not right.

Why… Because I came to believe those many years ago and I continue to believe today that right and wrong are learned responses from our families, from our legal system, from our place in society, from our classmates, from wrestling with the questions of right and wrong…

But more importantly I think that Good and Evil come from wrestling with God… We may reach the same conclusion as right and wrong, but the wrestling is required if one is to follow God in one’s pursuit of ethics and the way to live and to love.

Good as I was taught in seminary is the name of God…the name that describes God to us in God’s kindness, generosity, delight.

Evil is that which does not pertain to God… that which does not result in the good.

Luke has a tenderness to his Gospel that we see in the readings today…in acknowledging his need to describe the goodness of God…

We see it in Luke’s description of Jesus’ respect and tenderness toward women, children, those who are sick, the out cast, and the excluded.

We all know the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke… And in the past could make excuses for priest, the levite…I have heard them all, but they do not stand… the law does not excuse them.

Their only excuse is that they did not feel compelled to do good.

But the Samaritan… an enemy of the Jews… chooses to do what is good… it is certainly not right in the eyes of the Jews or the Samaritans, but it is good… it reflects the nature of God.

Jesus’ response to the disciples asking for prayer is the prayer we know so well and that Miriam so beautifully spoke to in the sermon last week…

Forgive us our brokenness… let us forgive others as well as we are forgiven and do not bring us to the moment where we will choose not to love, not to choose the good, but let’s us always choose the good… not the evil.

So what I am proposing to you is that the good that we choose is extremely important.

It is a lifelong task and it involves wrestling with ourselves, with others, with God to seek out the Good…

The reading for today’s Gospel is very encouraging as we face this life task of discerning good from evil…

Most assuredly sometimes the “right thing” is the good, but we have to wrestle with that or we are not doing our work.

In the opening verses of the Gospel, Jesus describes His Father’s reaction to our hard work…

Your Father’s Good Pleasure is manifest in God’s gift to the world of the kingdom of God…

It is your Father’s nature; God’s very nature; to love and seek the very best in goodness for all of us.

But Jesus warns, that we must do the work also…we must wrestle with hard decisions; we must wrestle with what we believe to be the the very goodness in our lives and actions.

An example that we see in Luke over and over and often do not fully understand is when Jesus talks about selling our possessions; ridding ourselves of those things that encumber us…

Giving to the poor and the needy; embracing the needy…

I think to begin to understand Jesus in Luke, we have to look at the world in which he lives.

In the Roman World of the first Century:

1. One with treasures to share does so to place other’s in their debt. 2. Gifts are given in order to secure or even advance one’s position in society.

3. Inherent to the giving of “gifts” in this economy is the obligation of repayment.

And Jesus is saying just the opposite…Sell all that encumbers you… give alms to the poor; your heart and your treasure will be found in the goodness of your actions.

Giving sets you free… it opens up your circle of friends.

Give generously; forgive generously.

Do not worry if you are inconvenienced by another…seek the goodness and seek to serve; not to be served…

How then will we show mainly our love of God, of creation, and our fellow humans?

Living in grace because grace always begets grace.

Caring for the humble and meek.

Caring for those who are in need.

Seeking the Good:

Seek justice

Correct oppression

Defend the defenseless

Plead for the oppressed

Because apart from God and living in God’s grace, there is no goodness.


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