Audio Sermons

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

    A couple of years ago I was sitting in on this talk by an Air
    Force General who was going over issues relevant to the
    military and the direction it was going to be headed in over
    the next few years. At a certain point he was asked a
    question and he got gave a detailed and lengthy answer and
    when he was finished with it he couldn’t immediately recall
    where he had been before the question. And he admitted it,
    saying “I’m not sure where I left off.” And then there was this
    awkward silence in the room for a moment. For some
    unknown reason, I did remember what he was talking about
    before the question and so I raised my hand and said: “Sir,
    you were talking about the shortage of qualified mechanics
    and its impact on operational readiness.” He said, “Chaplain,
    you saved me.” And I said:
    “Sir, that’s my job.”

    Actually, saving people isn’t my job. My job, if you will, is
    to lead people to the one who actually does save people,
    Jesus Christ. And Jesus has saved us. By offering up his
    human life as a sacrifice, a debt payment for our sins, Jesus
    Christ has saved us from eternal damnation. He paid the price
    on the cross and took on, in his own flesh, the guilt of us all,
    the debt that none of us can pay back. We cannot write a
    check to make up for our sins, we can’t pile up enough works
    of charity, and we cannot offer enough sacrifices to repair the
    hurt of our sins. Our relationship to God is not a ledger sheet
    where enough good things can balance the bad things and end
    up with a zero sum of debt. It doesn’t work that way with
    God, or really anyone, does it. We are saved from living
    forever with the effects of our bad choices by the blood of
    Jesus Christ. That is what we believe. That is our faith. That
    is why we are Christians.
    But knowing that presents us with temptations and
    therefore dangers. The first is to think that it doesn’t matter
    what we do or how we live or even if we do wrong, Jesus died

    for sins. He has it covered. I will be forgiven. It doesn’t work
    that way. That is presumption. That’s running up a tab for
    someone else to pay. Besides, it doesn’t make sense that the
    same Jesus Christ who cared enough to offer himself on the
    cross for us wouldn’t care how we live, how we conduct
    ourselves, or how we treat one another. If Jesus didn’t care he
    wouldn’t have taught that the first commandment is to love
    God above all things and your neighbor as yourself. If Jesus
    didn’t care he would not have promised: Behold, I am with
    you always. If Jesus didn’t care how we lived he would not
    have sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to follow him. And he
    never would have given the great commission to go and make
    disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the
    Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught
    many things about the kingdom of Heaven and the reign of
    God but he never said, even to the people he forgave, “Keep
    doing what you’re doing, I got it covered.”
    I do want to be clear that while we can’t exactly earn our
    way to being right with God by good works they are still

    important for us to do because they are signs of gratitude to
    God. They are signs of understanding God, a kind of “I get it. I
    understand that this is part of the family business and that I’m
    part of the family, your family. They are also signs that you
    are a disciple and willingly belong to Jesus Christ as your Lord
    and Savior and have attached yourself to him.
    Still, we have to be careful because there can be another
    temptation that comes along and that is to believe that your
    part of the debt for which Jesus died may not be as great as
    someone else’s debt. And it may not be. We are aware of
    people who do hurtful and even dreadful things and our sins
    can seem pretty small when compared to what some people
    do. But it isn’t the size of the debt that matters. It’s the
    ability to pay it back, which none of us can.
    Finally, there is another temptation when it comes to Jesus
    and that is to turn to Jesus only in times of great need to be
    saved. You feel yourself drowning, like Peter, and cry out to
    Jesus to be saved and then once saved move on and away
    from Jesus, forgetting about him until the next time you need

    to be saved. There is a poem by Rudyard Kipling I think and it
    goes like this:
    When danger’s come and not before, God and soldier we
    adore.
    When danger’s gone and all things righted, God’s forgotten
    and the soldier slighted.
    But the truth is we need Jesus for far more than those
    exceptional moments of crisis and danger. We need Jesus to
    save us from ourselves. We are not naturally honest, decent,
    kind, generous, fair, righteous, and respectful. We need help
    to be these things and to be them consistently. We need
    Jesus, his guidance, his teaching, and his grace. We need to be
    in constant contact with him for full life because we are only
    branches and he is the vine. We need to be in communion
    with him for strength to be what we should be,
    We need Jesus to save us from a pointless existence. He is
    the alpha and omega of all things. Not us.
    We need Jesus to save us from despair and sorrow and give
    us hope for good things yet to come.

    We need Jesus to save us from the wounds we have
    inflicted on ourselves and on others.
    We need Jesus, to save us. There is not a day when we do
    not need Jesus and there is not a day when Jesus will not
    stretch out his hand to catch us and save us when we call on
    him in faith.