St. Augustine of Hippo


Episcopal Church

 


Master, Who is Yours?


July 9, 2017


The Reverend Nathanael Saint-Pierre 


Have you already had a vision you thought grandiose and shared it with a close friend and she goes “Tchuip?” Have you already prepared a big event or celebration and the very people you wanted to celebrate did not take the time to show up? You took the time to clean, to decorate, to cook and buy drinks and when the time came, you sat and waited and waited but no one was at the door. You might even have heard the doorbell but it was just in your mind. Because when you rushed to the door and opened it, no one stood in front of it?

“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

Jesus came to redeem the world. He did not ask for much. See, Jesus was not a preacher like me or Father So-and-so or Mother So-and-so. He did not have to discuss salary with a vestry (although some may consider the apostles the first board of the church) and did not have to please them in order to become their rector. He was getting ready to give it all. He was ready to give his life for people who did not give him back anything but betrayal and disappointment. But he did not care. He knew his mission and was determined to accomplish it.

Focusing on a mission entrusted to him by God, he came to discover what people were saying about him and about John, his cousin and predecessor in ministry. The snippet of scripture in Matthew 11 is Jesus’ response to his detractors but also a response we should behold because we also will face detractors in our ministry, in our job, in our family.  

It is essential to depend on God for the strength to minister his people because there will always be a group of antagonists, or dissidents, people who, because of reasons that should not be your priority to justify, will always find something wrong about you. “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

John came leading disciples to fast over Israel's sin (Mt 9:14; 11:18), but Jesus came celebrating the kingdom like a wedding feast (9:15-17; 11:19). The charge that John the prophet has a demon may suggest a familiar spirit, such as those that belonged to magicians (Kraeling 1951:11-12), a capital offense. Likewise, the charge that Jesus was a glutton and a drunkard alludes to the "rebellious son" of Deuteronomy 21:20-also a capital offense (see Jeremias 1972:160).

God has different kinds of servants for different missions, but we need all the kinds of servants God sends (Mt 11:18-19). Neither Jesus nor John accumulated earthly resources for earthly pleasure; but Jesus accepted invitations to upscale banquets, while John was a wilderness prophet. Jesus came partly as God's ambassador to initiate relations with sinners (9:10-13), whereas John primarily took the role of biblical prophets in times of persecution (3:7); Jesus was a missionary within the culture, John a critic from outside it. Both models are biblical but suit different situations.

This text is telling us to know what God is calling us to do and not be so eager to seek and get the approval of the people we minister. John and Jesus had two different personalities but people criticized both. When we can influence a culture from within without compromise, we should do so; when the culture becomes so hostile to our mission or ministry that we must stand as witnesses outside it, let us do so without regret. Thus, Paul had friends who were Asiarchs (Acts 19:31); but a generation later, during widespread persecution from the imperial cult, believers had to "come out from among them" (Rev 18:4). Christians today need more sensitivity to both kinds of prophets; often each kind of prophet also needs to recognize the value of the other's call. It is important to know that, ultimately, the one to please is God and not our listeners.

The day we let our actions be dictated by the appreciation of the people we minister, our ministry is not godly. The day we look for personal glory and we conform to the demands of the people we are called to serve we may lose contact with what God is calling us to do, and instead, do what pleases people.  “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The are times in life, employment, ministry, we need to choose who is our master.  We need to remember that it is not the fact to call God master that makes him our master. What makes God our master is to do his will. Sometimes, we need to sacrifice all personal outcomes, all interests to do God’s will.

Oh, I get it that we love to be loved and often all we look for is for people to tell us how good we are and how great what we do is. But when what we do goes against what God is calling us to do, what good do we think we are accomplishing?

  1. Tell people how good they are when we know they can do better.

  2. Avoid difficult topics in sermons/conversations to keep congregants happy.

  3. Don’t hold people accountable to buy their love.

Yep, when we do all that, some may be happy about us, but will God? It is better to carry heavy burdens for God because we were not invited to carry a crown we were commissioned to carry a cross. God will never let sacrifices for his name's sake go unnoticed but no matter how much good we do for people will certainly be reduced to nothing because generally human beings do not like to express gratitude. The good news of the gospel today is that God is inviting us to take his yoke and his burden. Taking the yoke and burdens of God is to do what pleases God. They might not be what puts us on the map, what is in or fashionable. But the sacrifice that pleases God is not a heart seeking for self glory.