Sunday, 5 February 2017

Can't make it to church - 5 February 2017

In the Corinthians passage Paul begins by telling us that he has decided to know Jesus, the Christ, and Him crucified” (verse 2) – these are important words for they show us something important about living the life of faith - It is grounded, shaped, and lived in and through Jesus. There is no space for the political or the campaigning so favoured by many as part of Church today. This doesn’t mean we let wrong happen in the world before us (see the Gospel to understand that) but it does mean that all our passions, the salt and light we bring to Church and the world, are based in, and on, Jesus! How simple can it be and yet we live differently and bemoan the results before us. DOH!

Living with, and in, the light of the crucified Jesus changes everything we believe, think, and do. It is a corrective against which we hold up everything else to see where it fails in the light and love of the Christ. And when we live like this we don’t have flawed and fallible words as the way we act but the very power of God! Jesus came and took on pain, suffering and rejection to reconcile the word to the creator God – Paul has taken on this mind-set and calls us to do the same. And for those who want to see Church grow and have a place in the things of this world – this is how you do it. Again, so simple and yet . . .  Let’s jumble things a bit and take a look at the Gospel for the answer to this.

Jesus’ words: “You are the salt of the earth,” and “You are the light of the world.” are a real ‘thumbs up’!

Is there anything worse than being in darkness or placing a mouthful of something bland and unpalatable or rotten and inedible? Now, as in the day when Jesus first said the word, followers of Jesus are salt and light to the world they belong. I reckon we all like the thought of being salt and light, but before we get too carried away, a thought: It’s great to have the applause but if you’ve made this yours today then you need to know this applause comes at a price – a personal cost – for we cannot claim to be salt and light unless we do what salt and light does! It doesn’t matter what the label says, the proof comes in what result the object has when it is taken out and used!

Too often we hear ‘nice’ sermons in which platitudes and smiley faces are posted and yet there is no warning, no caution, no correction, no enabling, no teaching – and that is worthless! Knowing stuff without living it – without walking the talk– is worthless. The problem is, Church is so good at it, perhaps that’s why we are doing so badly in communicating the Gospel, because we’re not living it?

The Gospel today comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount – the ‘Beatitudes’ (‘the Blesseds’) – and it calls us to take on a pattern of living that brings light into the darkest places and stops the rot and bring a wholesomeness to the world in which we live. (You’ll find them at the bottom of the page – always handy to have a copy with you to read when the going gets tough).

We find ourselves living in a time when self and selfishness are on the rise – in fact with the goings on in some places it feels more like we are entering the 1930’s with the nationalism and self-serving stances which brought us into a world war; and all because we have grasped secularism in the world and forgotten what we are called to be as Church to the world around us! Talking to Christians I find more passion in programmes designed to build or encourage giving or increase attendance that I ever do when it comes to reading the Bible, praying or living the stuff in our everyday lives.

The ‘Blesseds’ help us to see who Jesus is and in doing so tell us who we should be too – Can it be any simpler – can the salt and light be made any simpler than this:

Salt is an antiseptic – apply it and it stings – but it also heals; salt stops things from being rotten; salt puts taste into the tasteless – This is what the Church is called to do: And it does it through You and me!

Light makes the things we try to hide visible – and it cause embarrassment and upset when it does; light beings ‘enlightenment’ – that is understanding, and from understanding comes knowledge and changed lifestyle: This is what we are called to be in the darkness of this world and its selfish ambitions.

It is right and fitting that the Isaiah passage fills out the last bit of the Matthew which speaks of the ‘law and the prophets’ as Isaiah brings into focus the wrongs of the world in the way it treats the poor, the marginalised, the outcast, and the refugee. Now I know my list fits something I feel strongly about, but I don’t think I am leading you away from the passage and making it say what is not already there – so bear with me.

Living as a people of faith, doing the ‘church’ stuff without living it out in the world – i.e. not having the mind of Christ – is hollow and self-serving. Isaiah speaks to a people who are returning from exile and thinking about how they live out their faith. They try to do the right stuff but it always ends in enmity and strife amongst themselves.

Sadly, I see this all too often in Church and every time the question is, “Who are you doing it for?” every time it comes down to someone thinking themselves to be more important or better or whatever that others around them. I love the passage where God tells the people that He is sick of their blinking services – I wonder if He feels that about some of those we do too?

I wonder if we are so caught up in our self-serving, piddling little congregations that we no longer truly see God and the call He has placed upon us; which in its simplest form is simply ‘salt and light’!
God asks the people some questions about what they are doing and why they do them.

What purpose is there in keeping a fast if it is only to bless yourself and boast? Can we ask ourselves that same question about the services and observances we keep; who are they for and why do we do them? Who do they reach and who do they proclaim (it is the crucified and risen Christ?)

How does what we do touch the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, clothe the naked, reach out to those whom we call family? Surely rather than fast (and we should fast) we should share our feast with those in famine?

Like those Isaiah speaks to, we all want God to notice us and to smile in our direction, but we won’t get that by doing the wrong things or trying to look like we’re holy people; we get that by BEING holy people and the foundations of that are to be found in living like Jesus (the beatitudes) and knowing nothing but Jesus (and Him crucified). We get it by being salt and light.

The Collect
Lord of the hosts of heaven, our salvation and our strength, without you we are lost:
guard us from all that harms or hurts and raise us when we fall;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

1 Corinthians 2.1-16
When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:  “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” - the things God has prepared for those who love him - these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ

Matthew 5:13-20
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Isaiah 58:1-12
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right  and has not forsaken the commands of its God.

They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.  ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Post Communion Prayer
Go before us, Lord, in all we do with your most gracious favour,
and guide us with your continual help, that in all our works begun, continued and ended in you,
we may glorify your holy name, and finally by your mercy receive everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Beatitudes
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

No comments: