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Proper 32, Year A

I am not preaching this Sunday. I may be able to post the sermon our Deacon is preaching later today. For the time being I am posting a sermon I preached a few years ago as part of our stewardship campaign.

Making Choices

Readings: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

Today I am going to talk about commitment, yours and mine; our commitment first of all to God, but also to this community of faith. Faith is a very personal thing. While faith can be caught from someone else, while it can be fanned into flame through the encouragement of others, the resources to keep the flame of faith alive come from a personal sense of commitment. They come from making a choice.

The Israelites after years of wandering in the desert were settling into life in the Promised Land. Life was good. It was easy for them to forget the struggle that had brought them there. So Joshua did a very astute thing; he assembled all the people. He reminded them of the gracious acts of God toward them throughout their history. He reminded them of Abraham's relationship to God and the covenant made between them. They remembered the time of slavery in Egypt and of God's faithfulness to them in the wilderness. "Now is the time," he told them "to make a choice. Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and turn back to God." His warning is that they cannot go along with the crowd and still be God's people.

The parable of the ten bridesmaids has a similar theme. The five foolish bridesmaids took their lamps with them to the wedding, but didn't bring any oil. The five wise bridesmaids came prepared. It does seem rather mean-spirited that they didn't simply share what oil they had, but the point of the story is that we are to be ready to serve God wherever and whenever God appears. It is a choice we have to make between the way the world lives and the way our Christian faith calls us to live.

Life is always confronting us with alternatives and choices. For the most part, we live comfortable and settled lives. It is easy for us follow the way of the world. Many times the choices are between two different kinds of good. Children want to participate in sports that often happen on Sundays. Parents are caught between the importance of helping their children keep commitments to a team and serving the Lord through Sunday worship. When the team is consistently chosen, we are saying that other commitments are more important than our commitment to God.

What does it mean to live a life of commitment to the Gospel? Like the Israelites there are choices to be made. How do we choose to spend our time, our talents, and our wealth? How do we share our experience of Christ with others? How do we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ?

My personal commitment is first of all to God. I remind myself of how God has been present with me in my life. I try to live a life of commitment, praying, reading and studying scripture, and sharing my faith with others. I also have a commitment to the church and in particular to this congregation. It starts with a vision for this church that I hope you share. It is a vision that keeps my faith alive and my level of commitment high. It comes most of all when I think about the people in this community of faith. I think about your generosity of spirit. I think about your caring ways. I think about the kindnesses that I see you do. I think about the way you reach out to one another. I think about the prayer list that grows and changes each week. I think about your commitment to the work of the church.

Those are the things that I hope you will see reflected in Geoff's presentation. It is the first time that we have presented a narrative budget, a budget that reflects our mutual ministry. But as with any budget, it is going to take total commitment on our part if it is to be met.

As Anglicans it is through baptism that we gain membership in the Church. If we are baptised we are full members in the body of Christ. Our commitment is through the promises made at Baptism. We promise to continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. It is a promise to attend church regularly, to study Scripture and to pray for one another. We promise to persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord. That is a promise to ask God for forgiveness and to be forgiving people. We promise to proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ. Our call is to share the stories of how God is at work in our lives. We promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbour as ourselves. Like the five wise bridesmaids we are called to be ready to serve. Finally we promise to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. We are called to see Christ in those we meet. We are called to be Christ for them. We are called to reach out to the poor and to those in need. That ministry takes the commitment of each one of us. I hope that you will consider what commitment you are able to make to God and to this congregation.
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