Pastor Sherry’s message for 9/26/2021,
Scriptures: Esther 7:1-10; 9:20-22; Ps 124; Jas 5:13-20; Mk 9:38-50
For several weeks we have examined the choice between living righteously for God and living foolishly for self. The story is told of two missionaries to a town called Efulan, in Cameroon, Africa, who became ill and had to return home to the US. They felt bad about abandoning their work and wondered what would become of the 6 men they had been able to convert to Christ. Two years later, they were able to return and were shocked to discover:
1. The 6 Jesus-followers had met weekly for prayer and Bible study;
2. They had witnessed to others about Jesus, to the extent that they became known as “the Jesus men.”
3. 25 years later, that church had grown from 6 men to 7000! Additionally, 3 indigenous ministers had been raised up and trained. And at a special service, 24 native elders helped distribute communion to the 7000 members.
It sounds shocking, I’m sure, that so much growth could take place without the 2 missionaries being there to mentor and teach. I had a similar lesson myself, about 30 years ago. Before going to seminary, I left a group counseling practice to set up an office on my own. It was a true financial risk, one I did not share with my clients. Instead, I closed down for a week to paint and decorate my new space, then launched into private practice. All of my clients moved with me, I was gratified to learn. What I had not expected, however, was how much they would grow and change without me. Each one had made some sort of break-through while I had been out of pocket. It was such a lesson in humility for me. As I discussed it with the Lord, I apologized to Him for thinking He needed me to heal my clients. I learned that week that He did the healing and I was just an instrument He could use or do without.
Those two unnamed missionaries lived for God. They worked faithfully in the mission-field of Cameroon. God grew their initial labor into a church in their absence. Like me, they had sown to the good, and God multiplied and blessed their efforts (as He did mine).
Paul states for us “The Law of Sowing and Reaping” in Galations 6:7-8–Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. This is not one of our Scripture passages appointed for today, but it does present the foundational theme common to them.
Once again, we are presented with the choice: if we do ungodly things, they tend to boomerang back on us; whereas, if we do good things—like the missionaries—blessings come back to us.
A. Esther 7:1-10; 9:20-22 explains why the Jews celebrate the feast of Purim. It is meant for them to express their gratitude for God’s divine deliverance. Queen Esther, an undercover Jewish woman, was chosen by King Xerxes of Persia to become his new wife/queen. (He had divorced the beautiful Vasti for having disobeyed s summons.) Now Haman, the King’s “Prime Minister,” hated the Jews–especially Esther’s Uncle Mordecai, a palace scribe. Haman sneakily encourages the King to pass an edict that would allow citizens of his entire empire to attack and kill Jews, all over his empire, on a certain, future date. Not realizing his queen was a Jewess, Xerxes signs the edict into law. Once he did so, according to Persian custom, his edict could not be rescinded.
Uncle Mordecai gets a message to Esther encouraging her to ask her husband to overrule his original edict with another which would allow Jews to defend themselves. Our passage today divulges her strategy: She invites the King and Haman to two banquets. During the first, she does not make her request. Xerxes is so pleased—and Haman is so flattered—that the King is willing to give her up to half his extensive kingdom. But, having primed the pump, she simply invites the two men back to a second banquet.
At the second, she reveals that she is Jewish and asks that the king spare her people who are set to be annihilated (by his own order). The King has a short memory. He fails to realize he signed a death warrant for all the Jews in Persia. Until Esther confronts Haman, Xerxes also fails to remember that Haman had initiated the idea. The King is furious over his dilemma and “takes 5” to mull over a response. In his absence, Haman appears to attack the Queen as she is reclining on her eating couch. Perhaps he is fearful and enraged, but maybe he is frantically entreating her forgiveness and mercy. Whatever Haman’s motives, Xerxes returns, and believes Haman intends to rape his wife in the king’s own palace. Ironically, Haman is sentenced to death—for abusing the queen–on the very gallows he had erected to hang Uncle Mordecai!
I think all of us would agree this is a dramatic example of the boomerang effect of the Law of Sowing and Reaping. There are other scriptural examples, as well: Old Testament Jacob tricked his blind father, Isaac; later Jacob’s 10 sons tricked him into believing his favorite son, Joseph, was dead. Additionally, Jacob cheated his brother, just as Uncle Laban later cheated him, again and again. Paul appears to have authorized the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Stephen; later, after his conversion, Paul himself is stoned, almost to death, on his 1st missionary journey. If we choose to do the devil’s work, the same kind of evil often later boomerangs back to us.
B. Psalm 124, on the other hand, recounts what happens to those who choose to love God—He protects them! King David recalls how God rescued the Israelites time and again. He is quick to give God the glory in his famous last line: Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. When we choose to honor God, to trust in God, He blesses us—a positive boomerang.
C. In James 5:13-20, the practical disciple reiterates King David’s point. God is trustworthy and takes care of us. If we love and serve Him, He answers our prayers and rescues us from trouble; He desires to heal us and to forgive us when we ask; and He delights in our praise. James gives us the example of Elijah whose God-directed prayers prevented rain in Israel for 3.5 years. Then, when again directed by God, his prayers brought on the rain. James reminds us in verse 16b—The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
There we have it: Righteous living results in prayers that are effective. What a fantastic positive boomerang! Incidentally, when I discover God withholding an answer to prayer I have repeatedly placed before Him, I have to consider what I may have done that might pose a sin-based-impediment to His taking action. Many of us get angry when God appears not to answer our prayers. Instead of being angry with Him, we might be better off examining our own hearts. It is, afterall, the prayers of a righteous person that are powerful and effective.
D. In Mark 9:38-50, Jesus spells out both a positive and a negative result of the Law of Sowing and Reaping. In verses 39-41, Jesus implies that blessings come to those who do miracles and provide physical refreshment to others in Jesus’ name. In other words, good deeds result in blessings. Conversely, in verses 42-48, Jesus states what happens to those who cause children (or “little ones”, perhaps “innocent ones”) to sin—it would be better for [them] to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around [their] neck[s]. It brings to mind pedophiles, doesn’t it? And people like sex traffickers and the Jeffrey Epstein’s and Harvey Weinstein’s of the world. There may be a special level of hell reserved for those folks. Again, if we perpetrate evil, it will boomerang back on us.
Jesus then goes on to exaggerate for effect. He says to cut off or gouge out any body part that leads us to sin. We are not meant to take this literally, blinding or mutilating ourselves. Instead, we want to make every effort to not cooperate with the evil one by sinning, especially in a habitual way. We want to remain committed to Christ and to ask His forgiveness when we stray.
Someone has composed a poem which summarizes the positive side of the Law of Sowing and reaping:
There are loyal hearts, there are spirits brave;
There are souls that are pure and true;
Then give to others the best you have,
And the best will come back to you.
Give love, and love to your life will flow,
A strength in your inmost need;
Have faith, and other hearts will show
Their faith in your word and deed.
Give truth, and your gifts will be paid in kind,
And honor will honor meet;
And a kindly smile will surely find,
A smile that is just as sweet.
Give a helping hand to those in need,
And a harvest of golden grain
You’ll reap some day from the love-sown seed,
If you sowed in the Master’s Name.
For life is the mirror of king and slave—
‘Tis just what we are and do;
Then give to others the best you have,
And the best will come back to you.
This week, let’s try to be aware of which direction we are sowing toward. The Law of Sowing and Reaping is, like King Xerses’ edicts, immutable. Once our actions have put evil into play, we run the dire risk of having it return to us. However, on the other hand, when we put blessings into play, blessings come back to us. With a thought toward reaping God’s best, let’s be aware of doing our best toward Him and others. Amen! May it be so!
© 2021 Rev Dr Sherry Adams