November 7, 2023

MESSAGE – Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost – Year A – 5 November 2023

MESSAGE – Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost – Year A – 5 November 2023
THEME: Following the Path of Humility and Faith: The Mission of the Church”

What is the Good News today from the book of Joshua, the letter to the Thessalonians, and the Gospel of Matthew.
In these passages, we find a common theme of humility, faith, and the call to lead by example.
Let us explore how these scriptures can guide us in our daily lives and inform the mission of the Church.

I. Crossing the Jordan River – Joshua 3:1-17
In the book of Joshua, we witness the Israelites at a pivotal moment, standing on the brink of the Jordan River.
Just before crossing over into the promised land, Joshua gathered the people to hear the words of the Lord. Their excitement was high. No doubt they wanted to rush on, but Joshua made them stop and listen. We live in a fast-paced age where everyone rushes just to keep up. It is easy to get caught up in our tasks, becoming too busy for what God says is most important listening to his words. Before making your schedule, take time to focus on what God wants from all your activities. Knowing what God has said before you rush into your day can help you avoid foolish mistakes. Joshua 3:9
They are about to cross into the Promised Land. Joshua, their leader, is commanded by God to lead the way. The priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant step into the river, and only when their feet touch the water, does the river part, allowing the people to pass through on dry ground. What if these priests had been afraid to take that first step? Often God provides no solution to our problems until we trust him and move ahead with what we know we should do. What are the rivers, or obstacles, in your life? In obedience to God, take that first step. Joshua 3:13
This passage teaches us that God calls us to have faith and take the first step, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
God had parted the waters of the Red Sea to let the people out of Egypt (Exodus 14), and here he parted the Jordan River to let them enter Canaan. These miracles showed Israel that God keeps his promises. God’s presence among his people and his faithfulness to them made the entire journey from Egypt to the promised land possible. He was with them at the end of their wanderings just as he was with them in the beginning. Joshua 3:13
The mission of the Church, like Joshua’s leadership, is to lead by faith and take bold steps in obedience to God’s calling. We must confront the obstacles that lie before us as a united community of faith and trust that God will make a way. As a practical application, the Church can engage in outreach programs, crossing boundaries to bring the message of hope and salvation to those who are spiritually lost.

II. Timothy’s Encouragement – 1 Thessalonians 3:5-13
In his letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul commends them for their steadfastness and prays for their growth in faith and love. This passage reminds us of the power of encouragement and the importance of supporting one another in our faith journeys. We are called to uplift each other, just as Paul did for the Thessalonians.
It brings great joy to a Christian to see another person come to faith in Christ and mature in that faith. Paul experienced this joy countless times. He thanked God for those who had come to know Christ and for their strong faith. He also prayed for their continued growth. If new Christians have brought you joy, thank God for them and support them as they continue to grow in the faith. Likewise, have you benefited from the ministry of others? Has someone’s guidance and faithfulness stimulated you to grow in Christ? Consider how you may bring some word of encouragement or some thoughtful gift. Let that important person know that you have followed his or her example by being faithful to Christ. 1 Thessalonians 3:9
If we are full of God’s love, it will overflow to others. It’s not enough merely to be courteous to others; we must actively and persistently show love to them. Our love should be growing continually. If your capacity to love has remained unchanged for some time, ask God to fill you again with his never-ending supply. Then look for opportunities to express his love. 1 Thessalonians 3:12

The mission of the Church involves providing unwavering support and encouragement to fellow believers. As a practical application, we can create support groups and mentorship programs within the Church, nurturing and strengthening the faith of individuals. This helps build a loving and supportive community that thrives on mutual growth in faith.

III. Humility and Leadership – Matthew 23:5-12
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus confronts the religious leaders of his time, the Pharisees, who were often guilty of hypocrisy and pride.
They knew the Scriptures but did not live by them. They didn’t care about being holy—just looking holy in order to receive the people’s admiration and praise.
Phylacteries were little leather boxes containing Scripture verses. Very religious people wore these boxes on their forehead and arms in order to obey Deuteronomy 6:8 and Exodus 13:9, 16. But the phylacteries had become more important for the status they gave than for the truth they contained. Matthew 23:5
Today, like the Pharisees, many people who know the Bible do not let it change their lives. They say they follow Jesus, but they don’t live by his standards of love. People who live this way are hypocrites. We must make sure that our actions match our beliefs. Matthew 23:5

He teaches his disciples and emphasizes the importance of humility and servant leadership, and that true greatness is found in humility and service.
A leaders role is to serve the people.
Jesus challenged society’s norms. To him, greatness comes from serving—giving of yourself to help God and others. Service keeps us aware of others’ needs, and it stops us from focusing only on ourselves. Jesus came as a servant. What kind of greatness do you seek? Matthew 23:11

Jesus’ message is clear: those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted. This passage emphasizes the need for servant leadership and a heart focused on God rather than personal pride.
The mission of the Church is to lead by example, humbly serving others and putting the needs of the community above personal ambition. Practical applications include organizing community service initiatives, fostering an environment of humility within the Church leadership, and actively seeking opportunities to serve those in need. Through these actions, the Church can be a living testimony to Christ’s teachings.

As we reflect on these passages, we are reminded of the profound connection between humility, faith, and leadership. We gain understanding also that the mission of the Church is intertwined with humility, faith, and leadership by example.

We are called to lead with unwavering faith, support and encourage one another in our spiritual journeys, and practice humility in our service to others.
As we reflect on these passages, Just as Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River through faith, we must be willing to take bold steps in faith, trusting that God will make a way.

The encouragement provided by Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians reminds us of our duty to support and uplift one another in our walk with Christ. Our faith journey is not meant to be walked alone, but in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in faith.

Finally, Jesus’ teachings in Matthew call us to examine our hearts and motives as leaders in our families, communities, and churches. True leadership is not found in pride or self-exaltation, but in humble service to others.

Let us leave this place today with a renewed commitment to walk in faith, support one another with love and encouragement, and lead with humility, following the example set by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In doing so, we will find true greatness in the eyes of God and fulfill our calling as His children.

Let us also make a renewed commitment to the mission of the Church. This mission involves taking bold steps of faith, nurturing the faith of our fellow believers, and leading with humility and love. In doing so, we embody the teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and fulfill our calling as His Church.