Sunday, 21 June 2015

Can't make it to church? 21 June 2015

We are deviating a little from the lectionary during Ordinary time (the green period of the Church's liturgical year and replacing the New Testament readings with reading from 1 Corinthians but before we head for that passage we can take comfort from David's triumph over Goliath the Philistine for then, and now:

The Lord doesn’t rescue people using a sword or a spear - everyone will come to know that the battle belongs to the Lord. Not by the world's ways but by the power of God. The same God whose voice calmed the wind and the storms will calm, and assist us to overcome, the storms of life - for we live today in the reality of the tomorrow that is yet to come. We find ourselves in the finite living in the infinite through the reconciling act of Jesus, the Christ, on the cross and find our feet on the rock - an unshakeable place - enabled and guided by God's Holy Spirit (and that is surely worthy of an 'Amen'.

And so on to the 1 Corinthians reading:

Think of temples and Jerusalem comes to mind and like the castles I love to visit, you have to look back and imagine what they once were and to imaging the people who were there and the things that were in them. But, regardless of how marvellous they are, they are not permanent structures - they fall or burn and eventually decay. Look at the wonderful historic  with their woodwork and the ornaments of gold and silver and the tapestries and the like  - how long do they last? 

But the Temple Paul speaks of is, like Church, the people - the Jews of the time differentiated between the spiritual and physical too. The physical burns, but the spiritual endures for ever and because of this ‘the age to come’ is actually already in us - just like when Jesus tells people in the Gospels that the ‘kingdom of God’ has come - for what we speak of is not in the physical but in the spiritual.

The danger is that we often look to build with the wrong materials and that, by our lives, actions and attitudes, we build something that will not stand the test; the test of God rather than time that is! The reality is that by our lives and our desires and our seeking to rewrite the Bible to approve of things which we want to be approved - we are actually pulling down that spiritual temple and this is surely an act against God: An act of sacrilege! 

Faults in our building might cause us to get a bit scorched when the fire comes but those who seek to oppose and destroy the spiritual house will be burnt up (simple innit?).

I reckon that this is a warning for us all - but more so those of us who put themselves forward to be leaders, for shoddy work will be revealed one day - which is why we are called to present ourselves as ‘workmen approved by God’. Leaders have the potential to encourage others to build shoddy constructions also, so we have a double task before us.

There are incorruptible things and there are things that will burn - which are we working with? For indeed the fire, the ‘day of the Lord’ is coming - are we building things that will pass the test for Paul says that those whose work fails will suffer the penalty whist those who work endures will be recognised as good builders. Each are rewarded according ‘to their works’ - not a popular thought I reckon.

But here we are speaking of judgment and yet so much of Paul speaks of justification (being declared ‘innocent’) and this leads us to question whether there might not be a bit of conflict in Paul’s teaching here. 'Make your mind up mate,' I want to say: Condemned or not guilty, which is it?

The answer of course is that it is both for first their is the fire and then there is the verdict.

There is that moment of loss, of being consumed by the flames, and then there is, at the very end of the process, that glorious moment of being declared justified that is salvation: all because of the cross of Jesus, the Christ, and the reconciliation He has won for us - and ‘those whom God justified’, Romans 8.29)

So this image of ‘fire’ is a purging, a purification, rather than a penalty but it is one which calls us to build well - and act rightly from the outset. We are not playing games for there are serious and lasting (eternally lasting) issues at stake. It is possible to build wisely, well, and with the right materials so that might be confident that what we build and what we are part of - the Church universal - is sufficient and will stand in the final trails.

This calls us to maintain a balance - and this is the second point of our passage. A balance between wrong confidence in people (and ourselves too) and false humility (which many I know consider to be worse still): the two poles which the world loves so much! 

We pretend to know nothing or we pretend to know it all - there’s no middle ground. 
Stick out our neck or hide our head! (which are you?)

But our wisdom is foolishness to the world isn’t it? That's what we have been hearing of late in our Bible passages. We have everything and yet in having it we need to recognise that it is all God’s. So boasting about people, something that was going on in Corinth too for they said, ‘I belong to Paul,’ ‘I belong to Apollos,’ and setting them up as something special (just like we do with some f the names like Hinn, Prince, Meyer, Wommack and others) and in doing so making themselves, and those they follow, wrong. They are wrong because we belong to Christ. These ‘teachers’ belong to Jesus and we do too also.

So stop tickling your ears with the things you want to hear and stop sending your cash to them in the hope prosperity or some promise of blessing might be yours (because through the cross of Christ it already is) and put your treasure into the storehouse that serves the whole of the Church of Christ and not the sideshow owners with their tables in the temple!

We are called to live in the future resurrection glory now in the physical, perhaps inglorious, present.

We are called to follow Jesus, the Christ, and to be His as we build our spiritual temples - the rooms of which there are many of in ‘Our Father’s house’. 

So we put aside our pathetic little personality cults - those who promise prosperity and do it by making you poorer in the now and, I fear, the then also. And please hear this: I’m not saying that everything about those I’ve mentioned is wrong - but not all of them appears right either - they are flawed and fallible humans and what I see some following is something that is as much of man as God and weakens and a distracts. 

Listen to Jesus and the prompting of God's Holy Spirit and you will build something that endures, something that passes the test: And we all want that, don’t we?

The Collect
God our saviour,
look on this wounded world in pity and in power;
hold us fast to your promises of peace won for us by your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

1 Samuel 17:32-49
David said to Saul, “Don’t let anyone lose hope because of that Philistine. I’ll go out and fight him.”

Saul replied, “You aren’t able to go out there and fight that Philistine. You are too young. He’s been a warrior ever since he was a boy.”

But David said to Saul, “I’ve been taking care of my father’s sheep. Sometimes a lion or a bear would come and carry off a sheep from the flock. Then I would go after it and hit it. I would save the sheep it was carrying in its mouth. If it turned around to attack me, I would grab its hair. I would strike it down and kill it. In fact, I’ve killed both a lion and a bear. I’ll do the same thing to this Philistine. He isn’t even circumcised. He has dared the armies of the living God to fight him. The Lord saved me from the paw of the lion. He saved me from the paw of the bear. And he’ll save me from the powerful hand of this Philistine too.”

Saul said to David, “Go. And may the Lord be with you.”
Then Saul dressed David in his own military clothes. He put a coat of armour on him. He put a bronze helmet on his head. David put on Saul’s sword over his clothes. He walked around for a while in all that armour because he wasn’t used to it. 

“I can’t go out there in all this armour,” he said to Saul. “I’m not used to it.” So he took it off. Then David picked up his wooden staff. He went down to a stream and chose five smooth stones. He put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s bag. Then he took his sling in his hand and approached Goliath.

At that same time, the Philistine kept coming closer to David. The man carrying Goliath’s shield walked along in front of him. Goliath looked David over. He saw how young he was. He also saw how healthy and handsome he was. And he hated him. He said to David, “Why are you coming at me with sticks? Do you think I’m only a dog?” The Philistine cursed David in the name of his gods. “Come over here,” he said. “I’ll feed your body to the birds and wild animals!”

David said to Goliath, “You are coming to fight against me with a sword, a spear and a javelin. But I’m coming against you in the name of the Lord who rules over all. He is the God of the armies of Israel. He’s the one you have dared to fight against. This day the Lord will give me the victory over you. I’ll strike you down. I’ll cut your head off. This day I’ll feed the bodies of the Philistine army to the birds and wild animals. Then the whole world will know there is a God in Israel. The Lord doesn’t rescue people by using a sword or a spear. And everyone here will know it. The battle belongs to the Lord. He will hand all of you over to us.”

As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly to the battle line to meet him. He reached into his bag. He took out a stone. He put it in his sling. He slung it at Goliath. The stone hit him on the forehead and sank into it. He fell to the ground on his face.?

1 Corinthians 3:10-27
“God has given me the grace to lay a foundation as a wise builder. Now someone else is building on it. But each one should build carefully. No one can lay any other foundation than what has already been laid. That foundation is Jesus Christ. A person may build on it using gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay or straw. But each person’s work will be shown for what it is. On judgment day it will be brought to light. It will be put through fire. The fire will test how good each person’s work is. If the building doesn’t burn up, God will give the builder a reward for the work. If the building burns up, the builder will lose everything. 

The builder will be saved, but only like one escaping through the flames. 

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple? 
Don’t you know that God’s Spirit lives among you? 

If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. God’s temple is holy. And you all together are that temple. 

Don’t fool yourselves. Suppose some of you think you are wise by the standards of the world. Then you should become “fools” so that you can become wise. The wisdom of this world is foolish in God’s eyes. It is written, “God catches wise people in their own evil plans. It is also written, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of wise people don’t amount to anything.” So no more bragging about human leaders! All things are yours. That means Paul or Apollos or Peter or the world or life or death or the present or the future. All are yours. You are joined to Christ and belong to him. And Christ is joined to God.

Mark 4.35-41
“ That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” 

Today's sermon audio file: click HERE

Post Communion Prayer
O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

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