9th Sunday after Pentecost ( Proper 14 ) , August 7, 2022
Rev. Misa Furumoto
This year is the 77th anniversary of the end of the Pacific war. Yesterday, on August 6, we held a prayer for peace at 8:15, the time the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. On Tuesday August 9th we are holding another time of prayer to remember Nagasaki. The service will start at 10:30, and each of the participants will ring the bell and offer a prayer with a wish for peace. Anyone is welcome, so please feel free to come. Let us pray for world peace together.
What then is peace? We all know that it is not a word that describes only the absence of war. Even without the possibility of being attacked by bombs, this world where we live is full of hatred and sorrow. There are those who do not have enough to eat, those who are not even given a place to cool off in this heat wave, those who are depressed and cannot look forward, there are adults and children who suffer from domestic violence, abuse, harassment, and bullying. Some people have lost hope for life in the face of discrimination and prejudice because of their minority status. Others may have decided that they are not worthy of being loved, unable to trust anyone around them. Even though there is no war, we seem to be living in a place far from a peaceful world.
Not long ago, one question was asked in the comments section of a YouTube video of our online worship service. ‘Can you tell me why God continues to create human beings? Why are we still born to the world full of sufferings? Is this a test imposed on us by God?” It is an understandable question. We all want to ask that. With all kinds of sad news so easily available on our cell phone screens, it is very natural that we wonder if it is worth being born into such a miserable world. Then we sigh and feel that we just have to give up and accept the present situation.
At the beginning of today’s Gospel passage, Jesus says: ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Just before these words, Jesus was telling his disciples not to worry about their lives. “Look at the raves: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” At that time, the people of Israel were in a very difficult situation. As Jesus taught them to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” They could not sleep at night worrying about such serious issues as whether they would have enough to eat, clothes to wear, and a place to live tomorrow. Like most of us today, they were not sighing over the future, but rather grieving and worrying about the present moment. Toward these people, Jesus said, “Do not worry. God knows everything. Just seek the Kingdom of God. Then He will give you what you need as well. If you ask for it, God will be pleased to give you the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God can be translated as “God’s rule,” but it means a world filled with love and peace, ruled by God and not by people.
Jesus tells us to seek first this kingdom of God. More than what you eat tomorrow, more than what you wear, more than where you live. More than a job, more than a salary, more than promotion. More than being consoled, more than being understood, more than being loved, seek first this Kingdom of God. Then all your needs will be met. Do not fear, but seek. God will be pleased to give you the Kingdom of God.
To seek means to believe in God. God loves me, so He will surely give me the good things I need. This is what we need to believe. Today’s epistle, Hebrews chapter 11, begins with the famous line that we should cherish. Faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We must believe that the Kingdom of God will come even though we may not be able to see it now. God wants us to believe it.
In addition to this act of believing, there is another thing Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not exhausted where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It does not literally mean that we should give everything away or throw away our wallets. Rather, it means that we should discern what is truly important and what is pleasing to God. It means to live not for yourself, but for God, for others. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, do not set your mind on what you value in this world, but on what God values. That is where God’s Kingdom is.
We shall not give up. We have got this message from the Bible today. Peace will come. The Kingdom of God will come. Believe in God and take action. Use your life for others, not for yourself. Be an instrument of peace. So is God speaking to each of us. The Kingdom of God will not come in the distant future, but will be realized in the midst of suffering and sorrow that we have now. To realize this little piece of the Kingdom of God, we were born and now we are alive.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.