07282019 7th Sunday After Pent 6AT Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

“God rewards persistence!”

07282019 7th Sunday After Pent 6AT Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA
July 28, 2019
“God rewards persistence!”
Sermon Audio

In 1971, as our country continued to voyage into space and explore the Moon described by Buzz Aldrin as “Magnificent Desolation” a Dr. Seuss children’s book entitled “The Lorax” was released.  As a children’s book most adults would only engage in reading it if they had children.  Yet, like C.S. Lewis and “The Chronicles of Narnia” and J.R.R. Tolkein and the “Lord of the Rings”, children’s books like “The Lorax” have the ability to teach and inspire values and life lessons for children that influence them well beyond the years of childhood.

“The Lorax” is just such a book full of life lessons.  It “chronicles the plight of the environment and the Lorax....“speaks for the trees” and confronts the Once-ler, who causes environmental degradation.” (Wikipedia)  In the book, the Lorax, speaks and is persistent, in spite of insurmountable odds and continues to stand firm persistently speaking of the long-term impact of the cutting of the trees.  Finally, when the last tree is cut, the devastation is clear. The panorama view left to the imagination by the book is unmistakable, all the trees are gone, in spite of the Lorax’s persistence.  At this point there does not seem to be any hope left for any of the people as the landscape and environment is left in the ‘desolation’ of no trees.

What if we were to peer at this book of The Lorax, through the lens of our Old Testament reading this morning?  Abraham a very well known character in Genesis had just fed the three men who had arrived unannounced at his tent ‘home’ by the Oaks of Mamre.  After feeding the three of them, the two angels had gone ahead and remember last week, I quoted Cyril of Jerusalem. He believed the third person was the Son of God, the Old Testament form of Jesus.  And the Son of God, had blessed Abraham and Sarah with opening her womb and promising a son and a future that was beyond their wildest imagination before the arrival of the three ‘special guests’. And now, God reveals what He and the two angels are about to do to Sodom.  They are headed down to call down judgement upon this town and the surrounding smaller cities and destroy it from the face of the earth.

Our Old Testament lesson chronicles clearly the conversation between the Old Testament form of the Son of God and Abraham.  What is revealed in their dialogue as the conversation proceeds is that, “God rewards persistence!”  Notice from our text in Genesis that six times, Abraham entreats or asks the Lord earnestly to not destroy these cities.  Abraham is persistent in asking for these cities to be spared from destruction. Abraham who was emulated by the Lorax speaks plainly and asks God to reconsider six times if there are “righteous” people that live in the city that the Lord would spare the city.  And lo and behold, “God rewards persistence!”

One could looking back from our vantage point ask, why does “God reward persistence”?  This is a valid question, and there is a simple answer.  God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit out of His great love for His creation and the people in and around Sodom showed ‘mercy’ to all the people of Sodom, not just the ‘righteous’.  But why did God show ‘mercy’? What lessons can we glean from this additional encounter and persistent speaking of Abraham with God?

First, “God rewards persistence” because Abraham fully realized his own ‘sinfulness’.  Abraham understood his sin kept him from greatness, and he knew himself so well, he understood his sinfulness would cause him great agony in and of himself.  This is why Abraham understood further that it is God’s mercy shown unto him and his wife Sarah that provided them a bright future, in spite of his sinfulness.  And God as a God of mercy to him, would as well show mercy to the people of Sodom, Abraham only had to be the conduit for God’s mercy to shine through, to and for the people of Sodom.  So for Abraham’s intentionally being ‘persistent’ in seeking the mercy of God for others, it is because God had first been merciful to him and Sarah earlier in the chapter in promising them a son.  And Abraham was seeking for God’s mercy to extend beyond himself to others. Is not this another opportunity as Christians for us to be a conduit for mercy towards one another in our present age and the present circumstances that we here at Emmanuel face today?

Second, “God rewards persistence” because Abraham knew his own origin, that he was dust.  Like his forebears Adam and Eve, Abraham was created from the dust of the earth.  His very being until the breath of life, given by God entered his lungs and gave him life, Abraham understood he would one day return to dust.  We as well at graveside when laying our loved ones to rest in making the sign of the cross over the casket with dirt are reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return just like Abraham.

Third, “God rewards persistence” in the case of Abraham, because by Abraham’s persistence though he was sinful and would return to dust, Abraham’s persistence does not ‘offend God, but pleases God’ according to Martin Luther.  So when Abraham continued six times to seek mercy from God in order to save the people of Sodom and the cities of the area, God was pleased by Abraham’s persistence and rewarded it by showing mercy upon them by not destroying them or their city.

So today, we as believers in God, who gather to hear the Word of God, receive the declaration of grace and the forgiveness of sins from God are called to have the same persistence of Abraham.  For by our being persistent in prayer, persistent in going to seek mercy and sharing the forgiveness of sins, persistent in offering mercy where others would hold the law or a grudge over someone’s head, we have the opportunity to receive from God a clear blessing.  The blessing will be that like Abraham, “God rewards persistence” and will bless us in ways that are beyond our imagination and clearly have a deeper and more profound impact upon us and upon our lives.

Let’s return to the book The Lorax.  Later in the book, many years after the Lorax had disappeared and the Once-ler had grown old, a young boy Ted visits the Once-ler and is given a gift.  The gift is three-fold. First Ted was given the last remaining tree seed held by the Once-ler. And the Once-ler instructs Ted to plant it. Like most of us when we encounter individuals who ‘refuse to change’, Ted doubts his own ability to persuade and help people to change their view.  Yet the second gift given to Ted is this statement, “It’s not about what it is, but what it can become”. And finally Ted is given a third gift. Ted, like the Lorax is given the gift of the knowledge of what persistence can provide the people of Thneedville, a future found in change and rebuilding what was once lost when the trees were cut.

The Lorax story is a metaphor for us today.  It shows us today that “God rewards persistence” even for we the people of Emmanuel.  We have only to ask ourselves, will we change and look to and see the wisdom from Abraham in his persistence to save Sodom through the offer of mercy from God and apply this same persistence for Emmanuel and our future and offer mercy to one another.  For in offering mercy, we will receive the blessing promised for us today by Jesus Christ and engage and believe that “God rewards persistence”!  AMEN!