Walk the Talk
Isaiah 42:1-4 and Matthew 23:1-12
(Quoted scripture is New International Version)
Remember Albert Schweitzer? He was known as a great humanitarian. He spent his life from age 40 until his death, in Africa as a medical doctor at Lambgarence. He established a hospital and treated the natives there. At the age of 40 he said, he “was not going to speak or talk any longer.” What he was going to do was to act; to act in behalf of those poor natives who had no proper medical aid. In other words, he was going to Walk the Talk. Because of his philosophy of the Reverence of Life, which resulted in his loving and serving the African natives, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.
When he arrived at the Chicago railroad station in 1953 to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, he was easily recognizable, a tall man with bushy hair and a big mustache. As the cameras flashed and city officials approached with hands outstretched to meet him, he thanked them politely. Then he asked to be excused for a minute. He walked through the crowd to the side of an elderly black woman struggling with two large suitcases. He picked them up, smiled, and escorted her to the bus, helped her get on, and wished her a safe journey. Then Albert Schweitzer turned to the crowd and apologized for keeping them waiting. It is reported that one member of the reception committee told a reporter, “That’s the first time I ever saw a sermon walking.”
Albert believed in what Jesus taught and lived out the teachings of Jesus in his life, yet Albert Schweitzer did not believe in the divinity of Jesus. He wrote in his book, Quest of the Historical Jesus, that he believed that Jesus held the idea that He was the Messiah, and died as a martyr to his belief in His “messianic character,” yet Albert did not believe Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah.
Albert Schweitzer and the Pharisees in today’s reading from Matthew had this in common. Neither one believed Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. However, Albert lived out the teachings of Jesus, where the Pharisees did not.
The setting is this: Jesus has his disciples with him and the crowds have gathered around them. He has just finished telling them that the first and greatest commandment is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-38)
Now he turns to his disciples and to the crowds and says something surprising, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.” (Matthew 23:2-7)
What is the Moses seat? The Jews had a tradition that stated that angels gave the law to Moses. Moses, in turn, passed it onto Joshua; Joshua passed it onto the elders; the elders passed it onto the prophets; and the prophets passed it onto those who led the synagogue. Since the Pharisees and the scribes were the ones who led the synagogue, they were claiming to have been passed the truth by the prophets themselves (and, ultimately, from Moses). Because the law originated with Moses, the position of being a teacher of God’s law became known as Moses’ seat. In the synagogue, there was a raised platform at the front. On that platform was a special seat, reserved for the most respected teacher in the synagogue.
Jesus tells us do everything these teachers tell you to, however, do not do what they do, they are hypocrites. He goes on to say in verse 11-12 of our Matthew passage, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” In other words, the first will be last and the last will be first in God’s heavenly kingdom.
In our Isaiah scripture we read what some have interpreted as a description of Jesus, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.”
Jesus was a humble servant. Paul writes in Philippians 2:8-9, “He humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.” Jesus Walked the Talk. He not only taught us how to be servants to God and to one another, he was the example as well.
Today we celebrate All Saint’s Day in the Christian church. We prayed John Wesley’s covenant prayer. Was John Wesley a saint? He was not sinless in this life, yet I believe he was a saint. In Adam Hamilton’s new book, Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It, we get a picture of how Wesley strived to live his life emulating Christ. In chapter 2 Hamilton writes, “At Oxford, the small band of Christians Wesley was mentoring shared his longing for holiness. For Wesley and his friends, holiness included a complete yielding of one’s life to God, a desire to become like Christ in heart and actions, acts of compassion for others, and a resolution to live one’s life for God’s glory. Among the ways Wesley pursued this quest for holiness was rising at four or five o’clock in the morning for private prayer, fasting two days a week until mid-afternoon and meeting with others to study the Bible and other Christian writings, and to hold each other accountable. They actively pursued acts of compassion and mercy for the poor, the prisoners, and the elderly, and they sought to achieve lives of simplicity (49-50). John Wesley Walked the Talk. He lived out his faith.
John Wesley’s rule for Christian living is: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can!”
In other words, if you claim the name of Christ, as we Christ-ians do, then do all you can to live as Jesus Christ lived. Walk the Talk!
A little boy attended Church with his Grandfather one Sunday. Grandpa’s church had beautiful stained-glass windows. Grandpa told his grandson that the windows contained pictures of Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke, Saint John, Saint Paul, and whole lot of other saints.
When he got home, the boy told Mom and Dad all about it. Dad, wanting to be funny and curious about what his son had learned, asked, “What is a saint?” The boy thought for a minute, and then replied, “A saint is a somebody the light shines through.”
I think this is a pretty good definition of a Saint. Who are your saints? Who are the people in your life who let the light of God shine through them for you to see? Who are the people in your life who Walk the Talk?
I leave you with this question. Does the light of God shine through your life, in the way you love and in how you live your daily life? If you claim the name of Christ and call yourself a Christian, do you Walk the Talk?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to examine my heart and my life, to be honest with myself. Am I living out my faith? Is the light of Jesus shining through my life? Reveal to me the truth. I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen
Pastor Rosemary DeHut