Thoughts and Draft Sermon
Rough Notes on the Lessons:
There was an outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah, the veracity of which God could not establish without going there, yet men go to investigate, while God remains to allow Abraham to speak with him, bartering/negotiating/futilely bantering with God about the count of righteous people needed to have God spare the cities.
The conversation is presumptuous on Ab’s part. He acknowledges it. It’s like talking to an angry King when bad news has just been delivered, the King wants vengeance, and anyone interfering may likely get caught in the unstoppable destruction that the King is in the middle of enacting.
Except it’s not a King, its the all-knowing God, putting on a play of not knowing? And an all-powerful God who can not only destroy in this world and the next but condemn one to a torturous eternity.
Abraham’s got chutzpah, maybe foolishness, to spare.
The argument is that the good should not perish with the evil.
And God responds to that, sort of, allowing that 10 good people in all of Sodom and Gomorrah will cause God to relent.
NO GRACE, it takes goodness to get God to relent!
And God knows there is only one man, Lot, his wife (maybe) and his 2 daughters, so 3 maybe 4 good people in the cities, though the son in laws are invited to leave as well and think that Lot is jesting. So maybe 6, but really only 3.
So why did Abraham not negotiate down to 2?
Because God would have had to relent and allow the cities’ destruction of so many people in their consuming depravity to continue.
Yes: The evil is powerfully destructive, like a cancer, and God will stop it, giving the few healthy an option to walk away alive.
Destroying the cities God saves generations who would have been sucked into the cities’ evil vortex.
But it is not ‘Sin City’ where this kind of living continues through the generations until it is acceptable everywhere, as bush parties out of control, and in control continue to give witness to locally here. And parties, raves, and you name it in the cities continue worse than Sodom. Bonnyville and CL (put in your own cities) not excepted either! Depravity required people to participate for it to exist, and then evil flourishes. Evil is only tempered by the distinct efforts of a few good people to have life otherwise.
2nd Lesson Thoughts
Note: as today in Paul’s day and for generations afterwards, ‘philosophy’ did not indicate the thoughtful, logical, deep and profound thinking about life’s most pressing issues. Like today’s ‘spin’, ‘news’, self-help gurus gone amok, ‘walking back’ what actually was said into something else, and justice based on blatant lies, ‘philosophy’ meant rhetoric and sophistry completely disconnected from any ethic or moral restraint to uphold the truth, i.e. anything from a destructive cult to a full-out scam to way of approaching life which helped only the privileged few and ruined everyone else.
Well, the urge to resist tempting heresies: philosophies, self-abasement, worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human thought, ANYTHING that does not hold fast to Christ Jesus as the head! From whom we all (the church) grow and are held together.
Temptations to depravity can come in all guises, some that look remarkably respectable, acceptable, thoughtful.
Pray, teach us to pray like John’s disciples.
God gives b/c of persistence if not for friendship.
So God is to be bartered and negotiated, and badgered until one receives what one’s friends need.
So I need countless hoards, or at least one person, to pray relentlessly to God for what I need: True Justice. Lies exposed. Shelter, food, work, security.
The smiting of the corrupt people (or at least the corruption of the people) that causes this for me and so many others.
Can I pray ceaselessly, relentlessly that the Holy Spirit will invoke the grime reaper (if not of people than of the corruption at the root of this disaster for so many men, children and even women?!)
Or do I only get the Holy Spirit to inspire me to forgive the unforgivable!?
This could be a Sunday of law and revenge. (Let’s make sure it is not.)
Of useless mercy, of relentless prayers, of making justice happen.
Of helping one, two or three people survive the destruction the corruption causes.
Christ Alone is our Rock and Salvation
Real Life turns out to be nothing like the image that I developed from my experience. In my experience we were all somebodies, to each other, and especially to God.
But the people in this world so often treat each other and themselves as if they were nobodies.
My experience: Mom and Dad who loved us all, children who lived and grew reasonably, a home, at least rented, jobs and a good or at least reasonable salary, or at least a paycheck every once in a while. Inside the homes, sometimes, a bit of craziness, but nothing that threatens life, health or happiness. And always one knew God’s blessings.
Today’s first lesson is all about that the world is full of things that are quite different than my experience. It is not that people are held captive to poverty and can barely survive. It is that they have enough, and do not know the gift life is, nor what to do with it.
Sodom and Gomorrah are not healthy, and the hedonism the people pursue does not provide happiness, just short term satisfaction bought at the price of real happiness and health. And all their messing about threatens any guest who enters their gates.
God knows no way to heal the sickness of these two so depraved cities. Abraham tries to barter with God. God allows Abraham’s foolish petulance, even as God endures every foolish petition from us, even our angry fist shaking if that’s what we need to do. God knows everything. God knows that Sodom and Gomorrah need to be erased from the face of the earth in order to stop their destruction, not of only the people caught in them now, but into the future the generations that would be caught in them, and all the sojourners and those who think they might want to give the cities a try. God wants to save all those people.
Abraham can bring everything and anything to God. So he barters, also because Lot and his family live in those cities. For that they are offered a chance to leave and be saved. Lot and his daughters make it out alive, but the cost of the cities’ depravity has cost them dearly, it sticks to them, and their future generations are only the result of incest brought on by the daughters.
The world is full of things that are quite different: these are very ugly cities leaving very ugly scars on the three people who survive them.
Just surviving such terrible things is rarely to live well. One does not live by bread, or mere survival.
A father in the Jewish Ghetto, with food severely rationed, lights a candle every evening for prayers. When he has used up all their supply of candles he takes a string, molds a bit of their meager ration of butter around it, and lights it for prayers. His son challenges him, why should their food be so consumed for a mere light. The father responds, “Without food we can live a week. Without our faith we could not live for even an hour.”
If you live a faithful life, you know you are a somebody, to others and to God. It’s when you live faithless that you treat yourself and others as nobodies, or as in Sodom and Gomorrah, as only bodies.
I have lived in many different places, in a variety of manners. I lived in a missionary family in Africa. My father was a doctor, my mother a nurse raising 5 children when we arrived and 7 when we left, my father so sick they thought he had months to live if that.
We had plenty to survive on, but our toys were sticks. There were no extras, and the flour always came with flies in it. Our faith brought us there, and the faith of the people who were born there carried us through many a challenging dark night.
I lived in a city as a child, one of 9, with enough to live on, but no extras, and we scraped for enough food and enough hand me down clothes. I lived on a farm, where we had enough, including music though the garden was an essential contribution to all 13 of us.
I lived as a student, with enough to survive on, though I ‘wasted’ precious money on a good stereo for music, because I’d seen how music could cure what could not otherwise be cured. I’ve lived out of a tent on route to a university where I could not understand the language. I’ve lived with a multimillionaire without knowing how great was his wealth.
I lived happily in each place. But it was most difficult with the millionaire, because he cheated and lied about everything, derided and slandered others at each step, and hated the people poorer than he was, especially the aboriginal peoples. They reminded him that he came from a place where he was considered a nobody. So now he doesn’t know how to treat other people other than as if they were nobodies.
Jesus’ disciples come to him and ask him to teach them to pray as John has his disciples. They want to pray as if they are somebodies. Jesus gives them what we’ve come to call the Lord’s Prayer. Then he goes on to assure us that if we seek, we will find. If we ask, we will receive.
God is the one to yell at, be angry at, blame, and thrash. People are the ones who we need to treat with respect and care. There is a well grounded reason that the ten commandments include the prohibition to bear false witness against our neighbour. Our words can hurt people. Our lies are as effective as murder. God, on the other hand, can take anything we may want to throw his or her way.
Jesus does not say that if we ask for something, we will receive that thing. Or if we seek some thing, God will give us that thing.
But God will always provide. God will always answer. God will always listen, and respond. To most of our foolish prayers God answers with a simple no. Sometimes we get a more spectacular NO. Every once in a while God gives us a real kick in the pants, or a knock so hard we wonder where it came from as we pick ourselves up off the ground. And a few times God actually says yes to our good petitions.
I live without a home and I could tell you my sad story, pitifully played out by so many people bearing false witness against me. But astounding is the story of another person living without a home, who I met weeks ago.
She lives with plenty of equipment to protect her from the environment, and to provide for her well-being beyond her safety. Neither drugs, alcohol, addictions, nor prayer brought her to live in the woods without a home.
Her ex took advantage, did not care if she was close to death. She got out, barely and still has not healed. He still pursues her and bears false witness against her and gets support from the justice system. She functions, but has little faith left, though she knows that the wilderness heals her most. He behaves as a nobody, treats her as a nobody, and invites others to treat both of them as nobodies. One day the light of Christ will shine the truth so clearly everyone will be compelled to know it, to their shame for not admitting it sooner. They will be somebodies, but some bodies, souls, and minds who God deals with justly.
There’s a lot of bull in the world; comes from the sinners, in us each and all
The world is full of things that are quite different than I have ever imagined could be called living, some of it so ugly one wonders that it can exist at all, that anyone can survive it. Yet out of the worst ghettos God brings leaders and people who inspire others to waste nothing that life offers, and to bring everything possible to as many people as possible, so that all people can live well.
It may seem easy, or obvious, that we live out our faith. At least we go through the motions. But there are challenges in every life, even the ones that look so safe and healthy, so provided for in a solid home. Even people who appear in the world’s terms to be SOMEBODIES, can behave behind closed doors as if they and those close to them are NOBODIES.
We come to realize that the words to the Colossians are not to be taken for granted:
“… continue to live your lives in [Christ], rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit”
Philosophy mentioned then is quite different than most philosophy named today. Back then philosophy was more rhetoric and sophistry. Today’s equivalents abound as self-help gurus, or spinning events for the news, news that is no longer required to present a fair view of all sides of an issue, and the spin applied to events like seen in the US. No truth survives. That’s the warning given in Colossians.
It is too easy to give up on life in disgust for what stands as truth for some people, for some causes (usually their own wealth or hedonistic pleasures), or for some churches. Works Righteousness is always a favourite, though it can be coloured with heavy condemnation of other people making it drip with destruction. A friend joked in parody of this attitude: “I have learned to accept my imperfections. It’s other people’s imperfections that I find intolerable.”
The View of God With Us
What Paul proclaimed, Jesus taught by example, and generations have managed to remind us of is that Grace alone saves us. We are somebodies only because God chooses to make us so.
We can work like mad to make the world better, but we cannot work to make ourselves better in God’s eyes. We are already made righteous by Christ. Thereafter we do the work of the righteous, often with no reward or even notice. Sometimes, as if we were nobodies, we get punished and are left to die as thanks for doing the right and good thing.
So we pray that God will turn this world around. We work like it depends on us, and we relax knowing God intends for us to enjoy this creation with God at our side. For with God at our side we are all somebodies.