God has made us for God’s self

Homily for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Yr. C; The Parish of Strait Chedabucto:

St. James, Melford; St. Andrew’s, Mulgrave; Holy Trinity, Port Hawkesbury

Services of Evening Prayer and Morning Prayer 13/14 July 2019

Amos 7:7-17, Psalm 82, Colossians 1:1-14, Luke 10:25-37

 

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Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you. May we find peace in your service, and in the world to come, see you face to face, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Collect Prayer for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, BAS)

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I speak to you in the Name of the Holy Undivided One True God: +Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise. You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.

This is a portion of a prayer written by Augustine of Hippo. Part of it is quoted in today’s Collect prayer.  Augustine, born in the year 354, would go on to become a priest and bishop. His theological writing continues to influence the Church to this very day.

It’s wondrous to take in, this statement — You have made us for yourself, O God– that we have a purpose by virtue of our being. Our purpose is for God’s purpose by design.

And, Augustine reminds us that peaceful hearts are attainablegifts from God. …our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you, O God.

You see, Augustine knew something about this firsthand because his heart wasn’t always peaceful. Augustine was born to a Christian mother. His father was a pagan that converted to Christianity on his deathbed. Both parents supported Augustine being brought up in the Christian faith and so he received a Christian education. But, when a teen, Augustine turned his back on his faith. He developed a number of vices, shall we say, and he followed the very worst of his instincts.

Now we might ask ourselves, how did someone like him go from such a background, yet end up writing such a meaningful prayer as they one that we are sharing today?

Because, like I said, Augustine did not always think himself weak, nor poor, nor in need of God’s rescue. He made the most of  every minute of a worldly lifestyle. He lived a have-it-all and have-it-when-you-can-get-it sort of life.

What he also had was a restless heart.

Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.

Augustine, when in his early thirties, came across some writings that changed his life; among them, the Letter from Paul to the Romans. It reminded Augustine of the good news of Christ that he had put aside as a child. And, he returned to the message that he once knew and lived by when a child.

Notice in the sentence from the prayer – Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God– it’s as if Augustine is responding to the words of the Psalmist – rescue the weak and the poor; deliver them from the power of the wicked. We shared this portion of Psalm 82 a few minutes ago.

Because God rescues, restless heartsfind rest with God.

It’s like what Paul writes in his Letter to the Colossians that we heard today. Augustine heard about faith in Christ Jesus, and when he returned to it as a young man, it began to bear fruit and grow. In fact, Paul is writing about all of us who believe and have been transformed through our faith. Paul affirms that it is God –who for Augustine and you and me – has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

It is Christ’s good news that transforms all from living lives that can sometimes feel like they don’t matter. When we put our trust in God, we discover that our lives transform. We find purpose in life through our relationships with God and our restless hearts find rest in God.

When Augustine experienced his restless heart finding rest in God, he went from a life that lacked a sense of purpose. He found his purpose in serving God and creation by preaching  the message of God’s mission in the world – transformation by putting on Christ.

God worked in Augustine’s heart, and Augustine responded. His life is an example for all of us as what Paul calls a faithful brotherin Christ(1:2).

Once, Augustine was estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds (1:21). But his coming to faith in Christ transforms his life and he begins to bear the fruit of faith, hope and love. The same is so for each one of us who live our lives of faith. We, too, bear the spiritual fruit of faith, hope and love.

It’s as if, Augustine thought that he was off of the map of God’s message. And, he discovered what he thought it meant to have a good time; well, it was actually a rotten time.

This is because Augustine’s thinking had become muddled. And, his behavior was outside of what God had in mind for him – and what God has in mind for all of God’s creation – that creation is intended to bear God’s image and to live in the knowledge of God’s image – on Augustine, on you, on me – how God’s image transforms us if we allow it to.

God’s image puts us on the map. We find that the purpose for living is to grow in our relationship with God and with one another. Wherever we find ourselves in our lives today, there is nothing that can change this. It is a fact that we are all beloved children of the One Holy Undivided God who created us, restores us and sustains us.

Still there are some who don’t know that God has a purpose for them. Who are those who society and sometimes painfully even the church puts aside as though they don’t matter?

Even so, in spite of us, God continues to come to all through faith in Christ.

I remember a time in my life when I felt like I was off of the map. My thinking had become muddled. I didn’t believe myself worthy to be considered loved by God. Many in the Church said so. I, too, live to tell you that when God acts in Christ, and we bear his image by virtue of our turning, and by our feeding on God’s Word and Sacrament – I learned that all who come to God, including someone like me – well, God gives to all who turn to God. And, restless hearts find rest in God.

Anyone who feels like they are on the outside and what they do “doesn’t matter” because they have no chance of getting on the map or don’t even want to; well, they’re just like Augustine; who at times probably didn’t even want to be on the map either until he discovered something quite extraordinary.

Augustine was rescued from the power of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (1:14).

Being brought back to his experience of the presence of God, Augustine discovered that the good news is not automatic. It requires something more than sitting back for the sake of the community. Those who receive it must firmly carry it forward – developing their faith, hope and love, becoming its servant according to God’s commission…to make the word of God fully knownas Paul writes a little later (1:21).

This past week some of us had the opportunity to meet to renew our commitments to do something for the sake of this community. A number of us recommitted to the ministries of reading and serving in our churches. (And, for those of you who were there, didn’t we have a good time?) The enthusiasm around answering the call to serve was contagious, and we pray that our renewed commitments will catch hold in new ways in our churches. As we studied scripture, prayed, and talked about our ministries – even as we ate ice cream, shared in stories and laughed – there was a bond created among us in the spirit of serving Christ and one another in the world.

We learned that we are part of a faith community that is on the map.

All of this is to say that, because of the Gospel of Christ, none of us are off of the map. It’s as if Paul is showing a map, and pointing to it he says, “You are here.”

Paul serves the message of God’s transformation of the world through Christ…so that Augustine serves the message…so that each of us serve the message and understand this, as Paul goes on to say in his letter to the Colossians: Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross (1:15-21).

So that the world may know: Great is God, and exceedingly worthy of praise. God has made us for God’s self and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.

Amen.