What about me?

Seek the LORD while He may be found, call Him while He is near. Turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, Who is generous in forgiving.

First and foremost, welcome to church on this Back to Church Sunday. Whether you are joining us for the first time, for the first time in a while, or for another week, we welcome you. Whether on-line or in-person, we welcome you. Know that God has put it on our hearts to tell you, to reassure you, and to make clear to you that you are welcomed and loved.

Over and over in scripture, God makes clear His pursuit of His people. He constantly calls after them. He runs to them, even when they are afar off.  He does not ask anything from His people other than a relationship founded in faithful love. 

God says come, no cost, nothing to pay. He says return. Call Me, turn to Me, and you have Me. Look here, I have gifts for you, My Son’s life for you. My love and grace, freedom, and everlasting life for you. Yet, we ask, ‘But what about me?’ We still ask, ‘Can it be that simple?’ 

The loving Lord is standing here, in our midst, and He says, ‘Yes! That simple.’ I am ‘near to all who call upon Me.

You see, the Lord’s creation is founded on love. God has built His kingdom on a foundation of love. He did not build His kingdom on some set of insurmountable barriers, nor upon a checklist of things we must do. This is the thing many find so difficult to believe, that an all-powerful, Almighty God would welcome me, that He would welcome me whether I come at the start of my life, in the middle, or near the end – and that He would not extract a price from me.

Brothers and sisters, perhaps you have heard someone tell you that God is vengeance, or that He punishes to force us to act. Perhaps you have heard that some formulaic process of approaching Him is needed, or that obedience to some set of man-made rules and disciplines is required, or that you must punish yourself to get to God. None of that is true!

It is as simple as love. Love me and each other Jesus taught.  Follow me, He says. From there, love motivates our footsteps, our daily doing, speaking, working, prayer, and sacrifice. It is that simple.

What about me? Jesus tells us that I, me, who I am, is welcome today. There is no, ‘Where were you?’ with God. His call is continuous, and if we have taken the opportunity to come today, whether the first time, as a moment of return, or even as our 23,660th time being here, we are welcome and are in the kingdom. We have sought and found Him Who welcomes us.

Be annoying to
God.

I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was arrested for his challenges to the leaders of Athens. His student, Plato, recorded Socrates defense in the “Apology,” essentially the speech given by Socrates in court. As Socrates speaks he tells of the life he had lead, who he was, and his duty.

Socrates uses metaphor and compares himself to a gadfly and the state of Athens to a sluggish horse: “as upon a great noble horse, which was somewhat sluggish because of its size, and needed to be stirred up by a kind of gadfly.” The gadfly is irritating. Everyone wants to get rid of the gadfly, but by its constant buzzing and stinging it awakens the one being annoyed.
The gadfly gets attention. Socrates told the court and the people that his being a gadfly is a gift given to them by the gods.

As we meet Abraham again, God in His presence is about to go off and destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham becomes a gadfly to God. He is annoying, and he keeps at it. Five times he ask the Lord: What if there are only…

Similarly, by parable, Jesus tells us that this is perfectly fine. He tells us that the Father is open and accepting of our coming to Him in prayer and petition, even if we begin thinking we are annoying: he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

One of the hardest things we face in life is asking for the things we need. It is like taking the last piece of chicken or the last chocolate. We are afraid to grab after it and claim it. We hesitate to ask for a raise at work or for affection from someone we care about. We may feel unworthy, overly self-deprecating, or too shy. In the end we feel unworthy – how much more with God. He won’t hear or listen to me, who am I?

Abraham too was a little afraid, but he did press on. Jesus reassures us that we are perfectly right to press on, to be persistent, to be a gadfly to God. We are God’s adopted children. We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Jesus, God Himself, encourages us to approach the Throne of Grace, to storm heaven, to pray. Not just that, but we are to pray with confidence and persistence. St. Paul reminds us: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Yes, it is God’s will that we be those gadflies. The Father is not apart or immune from His children, which we are in Jesus. He will not hand us a rock or a snake. He will give that which we seek and ask for persistently and with faith. Let us keep at it.