PENTECOST 2, A – June 22, 2014

 (Rev.Greg Wismar)

SCRIPTURES – Jeremiah 20:7-13; Romans6:12-23; Matthew 10:5, 12-23

“Are not two sparrowssold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from yourFather. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore;you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matt. 10

 Youand I live in a fast-paced world – as we know. Our world is so fast-paced that more and more we are using VERBALSHORTHAND in our communication with one another.  Recently I came across a website thatfeatured what it called a CANONICAL ABBREVIATION AND ACRONYM LIST.  In column after column it gave examples ofthat VERBAL shorthand that you and I easily recognize.  When we want something done in a hurry, weask for it to be completed ASAP – and maybe we hint that ASAP had better bePDQ.  When we are at the airport we checkto learn of the ETA of a flight we are waiting for – and hope that the plane isnot MIA or because of bad weather has been diverted to MIA.  Our lives are filled with letters that standfor words…MPG, AKA, NIMBY … we know them well. We get a wedding or shower invitation and respond to the RSVP and hopethat the event is not BYOB.  The InternetABBREVIATION LIST GOES ON AND ON – AND INCLUDES 1,135 entries!  But for today, we shall be focusing on justone – an acronym used in both the medical and law enforcement world … threelittle letters that sum up our sermon theme for today: G O K.

 Whena doctor is dealing with an illness for which there seems to be no specificdiagnosis, he or she may well write GOK on the patient’s chart.  When law enforcement agents are investigatinga case of a missing car or missing cash or a missing person and there are no traces,no clues or no leads, they may well write GOK on the police ledger.  And what do those three letters standfor?  GOD ONLY KNOWS.  When we hear those letters expressed in the contextof a medical case or a police investigation, we may think of them as being kindof negative – an admission of failure … that the disease can’t be named andtreated or that the lost item or person may never be located.  GOK seems like sort of bad news…but from thevantage point of what Jesus says in our gospel text for today – GOK is reallygood news for us.  God Only Knows!  God REALLY knows – knows our lives and oursituations and our needs and much more!  Thatis good news!

 Ingood teaching form used by rabbis in his day – and still used in persuasivespeeches in our time, Jesus argues “from the lesser to the greater.”  He takes a simple common creature, thesparrow. And gives it worth in the eyes of God…and then He moves on to theworld of people—and applies the comparison to His hearers.  BUT…before we go there and follow His logicand His reassuring message, we need to look at the first part of His statement:‘Are not two sparrows sold for apenny?  And not one of them will fall tothe ground apart from your Father.’ What can we conclude from what our Lord is saying here?  Simply and yet profoundly, that God lovessparrows…and cares about them.  God lovesall of his creation – for, as He created it, He announced that everything was GOOD…verygood! And we read in the Book of Genesis, that the very first task andresponsibility given to people was to care for that creation.

 TheBook of Genesis tell us in chapter two that “The Lord God took the man and puthim in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it….the man gave names to alllivestock and to the birds and to every beast of the field…”  The care of creation, including the care ofthe sparrows…and bluebirds and robins…has been entrusted by our Gracious God toall of us.  The second stanza of oursermon hymn (written by gjw in 2004) reflected that…as we sang “By Your Word You formed creation Filled withcreatures large and small; As we ten that endless treasure, May our careencircle all.”  The Lord’s eye is onthe sparrow – and He would have our eyes be on them as well.  As we begin the first full week of summerthis week, may we plan on finding new ways not only to enjoy but to enrich andprotect the handwork of our Creator in the coming summer months.   GOD ONLY KNOWS what beneficial things we mayfind ourselves doing to His glory!

 GO K  God only knows about the life ofeach sparrow – and God Only Knows about our lives and our situations and ourneeds.  Sometimes we may find ourselveswondering about that – or even doubting that we are on God’s radar screen atall. We may feel distanced from Him or think that the sinfulness of our liveshas made a permanent barrier so that His forgiving love cannot reach us.  It is in those times…times of disappointmentor despair about our situation…that the reassuring words of our Lord spoken intoday’s Gospel are of the greatest help: ‘FEAR NOT, THEREFORE; YOU ARE OF MORE VALUETHAN MANY SPARROWS.”  Jesus isnot saying that sparrows have no value. Remember – He is arguing from the least to the greatest… and sparrowswere just about the cheapest things for sale in the marketplace in Hisday.  “YOUHAVE SO MUCH MORE VALUE – AND HE IS WATCHING LOVINGLY OVER YOU!”  Back in my early Sunday School days, sometime ago, we used to sing a little song that I have not seen in print in ages –but I remember it so well:

God sees the little sparrow fall, it meetsHis tender view;

If God so loves the little birds, Iknow He loves me too.” 

That theme,in a much updated way is repeated in a contemporary Sunday School song recentlyreleased.  Its title: ‘JESUS KNOWS ME,THIS I LOVE…”   The message isunmistakable – and it never changes – just as God’s love never changes – thatlove most fully displayed in the sacrificial death and the wonderfulresurrection of Jesus – that brought about a full reconciliation between Godand people … and made the loving, caring relationship which we enjoy fullypossible!!

 GO K … “HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW…AND I KNOW HE WATCHES ME.”  Perhaps the most famous adaptation of thistext was written just over a century ago, in a Gospel song written 1905 by awoman named Civilla Martin.  As we well know, each church song or hymnhas a story—if not two or three.  Thestory behind the classic Gospel song “HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW” comes from avisit Mrs. Martin and her husband made to some Christian friends, an elderlycouple by the name of Doolittle in Elmira, New York, in the Spring of1905.  Life for the Doolittles was noteasy…the husband was crippled and confined to a wheelchair; his wife had beenbedridden for about twenty years.  Theirlives were very limited and very challenging….but they had a wide circle offriends and seemed to be constantly happy and positive.  When the visit was coming to its end, Mr.Martin asked the elderly couple what was the secret of their hopeful outlookand their faith in God’s goodness.   Mrs. Doolittle replied directly: “His eye ison the sparrow…and I know He watches me.” Mrs. Martin, who enjoyed writing poetry, took the phrase and made it thecentral line of what became the well-known Gospel song, and had it set to musicby her friend Charles Gabriel.  It wasmade famous by the noted Gospel singer of the last century, Ethel Waters.  The first stanza begins:

Why should I feel discouraged, why shouldthe shadows come, Why should me heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He; His eye is on the sparrow,and I know He watches me.”

 WhenGOD ONLY KNOWS you, life has purpose and direction.  Jesus stretches that sense of God’s care tothe limit as He says “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered…”  The hairs of your head.  The feathers on the wings of thesparrow.  His loving eye is on everything– and because God is “in control” and lovingly cares about you… your life hasendless possibilities….and is filled with opportunities to share God’s amazinggoodness.  The refrain of our special(sermon) hymn today really is a prayer that we repeated four times:Lord,we pray that we Your people, Who Your gifts unnumbered claim Through thesharing of Your blessings May bring glory to Your name.”  How much sharing can we do?  How much glory to God can we bring?  What  amazing blessings are yet to come by God’sgrace?  G O K -- GOD ONLY KNOWS…and thatis very good news for today and every day. In Jesus’ Name.  AMEN.