Year B Proper 15, 18 August 2021
St. James the Less Epsicopal, Ashland, VA
“Why do good?”
Collect: Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
2 Samuel 18:19-23
Then Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, "Let me run, and carry tidings to the king that the LORD has delivered him from the power of his enemies." Joab said to him, "You are not to carry tidings today; you may carry tidings another day, but today you shall not do so, because the king's son is dead." Then Joab said to a Cushite, "Go, tell the king what you have seen." The Cushite bowed before Joab, and ran. Then Ahimaaz son of Zadok said again to Joab, "Come what may, let me also run after the Cushite." And Joab said, "Why will you run, my son, seeing that you have no reward for the tidings?" "Come what may," he said, "I will run." So he said to him, "Run." Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the Plain, and outran the Cushite.
Then he summoned two of the centurions and said, "Get ready to leave by nine o'clock tonight for Caesarea with two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride, and take him safely to Felix the governor." He wrote a letter to this effect: "Claudius Lysias to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them, but when I had learned that he was a Roman citizen, I came with the guard and rescued him. Since I wanted to know the charge for which they accused him, I had him brought to their council. I found that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but was charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. When I was informed that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him. " So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him during the night to Antipatris. The next day they let the horsemen go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. On reading the letter, he asked what province he belonged to, and when he learned that he was from Cilicia, he said, "I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive." Then he ordered that he be kept under guard in Herod's headquarters.
Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?" But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it." And they brought one. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Jesus said to them, "Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were utterly amazed at him. Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her." Jesus said to them, "Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong."
There is a strong and powerful station whose waves are filling the spectrum to our detriment. WII-FM. No it is not a radio station. Worse. It is an acronym for what seems to have become the Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Times. WII-FM. What’s In It For Me?
In our readings today, we see three vignettes of people doing good, staying true even when they did not have to do so, they do. It was the right thing to do.
Ahimaaz son of Zadok was to carry tidings to the king, but was given the task of carrying bad news. Despite the weight of his task, he did not falter, instead saying, “Come what may, let me run!”
You might think I would speak to Paul, and staying true, but actually Claudius Lysias took care and protected Paul in his status as a Roman citizen. He made sure that the law was followed and the citizen was protected, and that he would get a fair trial. He did this, though, knowing Paul would probably never be in a position to ever do anything for him.
Jesus is confronted by folksk accusing him, and attempting to catch him in poor answer. He stayed true to the societal and the religious expectations, often a hard middle way when asked about taxes and what people should do. And then the hypocrisy of the Sadducees question, who did not even believe in an afterlife, Jesus countered them and their ridiculousness. But he did so in a way to encourage and strengthen others instead of matching spite with spite.
Ahimaaz, Claudius Lysias, and Jesus did what was right even though it mattered not to those who countered them. They chose to do right because of who they were, and the nature of their character.
When the world is self-absorbed, and listening to that WII-FM, “What’s In It For Me?”, remember that. We need to uphold our standards and who we are despite whether there is any return on our labor or not. We are not good because of what we can get out of it, but rather who we want to be and eventually who we are. It helps to also remember whose we are and what we are to be in his name.
Do good today. “Come what may, we will run!” Amen.