“That we may be made a holy temple to you…” We’re not asking for much today are we? Our Scripture lessons today certainly lend themselves to further examination and discussion on how we believe ourselves to be following in the footsteps of the apostles and the prophets, and building on our chief cornerstone: Jesus Christ as we attempt to become those holy temples.
Our first reading was from Jeremiah – we have the prophet Jeremiah and the prophet Hananaiah having a debate in the temple. Hananaiah keeps telling the people, “don’t worry – it’s all right – it’s all going to be just fine!” Jeremiah says, “yep, you’re right. Eventually it’s all going to be just fine, but not before we are all taken in the Babylonian exile.” Jeremiah knows that he may not live to see the time when “It’s all right.” Jeremiah knows that God’s timeline is not ours – and he is warning all the people gathered there that being God’s people does not guarantee them an easy life.
We have a celebratory song – assuring God we are the ones who worship and rejoice and walk in faithfulness. Hmmmm – that might make us chosen also – what was that Jeremiah just said?
Then we have our reading from Romans. Here we are even more than chosen – we are slaves to the living God. If we do not choose slavery to God, then we are choosing slavery to sin and death. Choose wisely. Present yourself to God as an instrument of righteousness – a weapon of justice is another translation of that. How could it look to be a weapon if justice, being obedient from a heart changed by our relationship to a living God?
Then we get to Matthew and our on-going conversation with the text. A few weeks ago, Jesus gave power and authority to the disciples – go and baptize – teach – make disciples in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Last week, Jesus assured those same disciples that what he was asking is not easy – he assures them of persecution and troubles. He says he came “not to bring peace but to bring a sword” – is this starting to sound familiar yet? Jeremiah assures the people listening that things will not be all pretty and perfect and peaceful – there will be persecution. Paul calls us to be weapons of justice. I sense a theme here in the lectionary… what are we then called to do? We are to give a cup of cold water to the little ones in the name of God. Being a weapon of justice sounds much more exciting than handing out water, don’t you think? But isn’t that just like Jesus? Here’s what I need you to do – and here’s how simple it is. Love your neighbor as yourself, receive a prophet, welcome a righteous person, give a cup of cool water – be my sword of justice for the little ones.
So that’s our next task – who are the little ones? Could be anyone really – anyone we would consider as “other.” I’ll bet for every person here, there might be a different little one that God places on your heart. For me this week, it has been the unaccompanied minors coming into Texas from South America. God has shown them to me over and over – through Facebook, radio interviews, TV spots, letters from a bishop and the TEC, and then yesterday: we will have 2000 of them in and around Dallas. As near as I can tell, Catholic Charities is the righteous one to be recognized here. They have been doing this work long before I even knew it was an issue. In 2012 there were 13K of these kids coming into the US, last year there were 25K. This year the projection is for 70-90K children travelling without parents from South America through Mexico to our borders. I plan to start looking for the ways I can give a cool cup of water to these children or to those who are caring for these little ones. I know it won’t be easy, but I will be a weapon of justice somehow. How about you? Who does God place on your heart? How can you receive the righteous and offer cool cups of water?
Let’s look again at our collect of the day: it is one of the collects that really does collect our hopes and dreams as we seek to be God’s water bearers: Almighty God. You have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.