Sunday, 2 July 2017

Can't make it to church - 2 Jul 2017

The beginning of the Gospel draws upon the breaking down of what we almost universally consider to be the most important relationships that we can have in life. The thought that becoming a Christian can lead to families breaking up and standing opposed to each other: Not the stuff we sell about becoming a Christian, is it?

But God does say that we need to put aside everything that causes us to be distracted from loving and obeying Him, doesn't He? The young man who comes to Jesus desirous of becoming a follower, but wants first to go back and bury his father is told to 'let the dead bury the dead'. "Choose life and follow me," is what Jesus is telling the man. Another is told to look to the Christ, for turning back to concern ourselves with the world will make us plough a wobbly furrow of our lives.

But these are harsh and terrible words nonetheless - and the call to take up our cross and follow Jesus, perhaps even to death in this world before the eternal life that is promised can come to be, not the most attractive offer we've ever had, is it? Add to this losing and finding of lives bit and you can see we are facing some really difficult choices here.

But there are new families and new family values on offer for us - as we find the second part of the Gospel leading us into relationship with prophets, the righteous and those who have need. I have often found prophets to be a little uncomfortable as they bring God's encouragements to stop doing what distracts and 'follow Jesus', the righteous make me uncomfortable, because 'righteous' isn't often who I might be perceived to be, but I can help those in need, so that's something.

And in Church we find all three of the people listed about - and actually, in their company I am blessed and encouraged, loved and strengthened. The prophets keep me coughing a straight furrow, the righteous love and live with me rightly and the needy cause me to consider myself and live in humility as I see Justice and exercise mercy towards them and for them.

I have to say that after a week where many have shown me by their familial conflicts how true the words, "You can choose your friends but you can't choose your family," really are - perhaps the Gospel and the new family values aren't perhaps as hard as the first glance seemed to make them!

The Jeremiah passage find our hero keeping quiet. - unusual for a prophet to say and do nothing - but it's all going downhill and Babylon is taking over. But the false prophets are stealing the show and God is merely letting Jeremiah step back and leave them to their fate. All too often we find false prophets running the show, and there are times when the best route is to let their words and actions be their judge. This is one of those times!

Ands this is where those who stand in the truth come to the fore - not pressing their words with conflict but standing back with feet on the ground aware that the journey is heading for the wrong destination. How do we deal with situations like this? Are we the false prophet or the true messenger of God? Just like the families - it's our choice.

And that's the Romans message too: "Give every part of yourself to God," make the right choices.

The Collect
Faithful Creator, whose mercy never fails: deepen our faithfulness to you and to your living Word, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jeremiah 28:5-9
Then Jeremiah the prophet replied to the false prophet Hananiah. Jeremiah spoke to him in front of the priests and all the people. They were standing in the Lord’s house. Jeremiah said, “Amen, Hananiah! May the Lord do those things! May he make the words you have prophesied come true. May he bring back from Babylon the objects that belong to the Lord’s house. May he bring back to this place all the people who were taken away. But listen to what I have to say. I want you and all the people to hear it. There have been prophets long before you and I were ever born. They have prophesied against many countries and great kingdoms. They have spoken about war, trouble and plague. But what if a prophet says peace will come? And suppose peace really does come? Only then will he be recognized as a prophet truly sent by the Lord.”

Romans 6:12-23
So don’t let sin rule your body, which is going to die. Don’t obey its evil desires. Don’t give any part of yourself to serve sin. Don’t let any part of yourself be used to do evil. Instead, give yourselves to God. You have been brought from death to life. So give every part of yourself to God to do what is right. Sin will no longer control you like a master. That’s because the law does not rule you. God’s grace has set you free.

What should we say then? Should we sin because we are not ruled by the law but by God’s grace? Not at all! Don’t you know that when you give yourselves to obey someone you become that person’s slave? If you are slaves of sin, then you will die. But if you are slaves who obey God, then you will live a godly life. You used to be slaves of sin. But thank God that with your whole heart you obeyed the teachings you were given! You have been set free from sin. You have become slaves to right living.

Because you are human, you find this hard to understand. So I am using an everyday example to help you understand. You used to give yourselves to be slaves to unclean living. You were becoming more and more evil. Now give yourselves to be slaves to right living. Then you will become holy. Once you were slaves of sin. At that time right living did not control you. What benefit did you gain from doing the things you are now ashamed of? Those things lead to death! You have been set free from sin. God has made you his slaves. The benefit you gain leads to holy living. And the end result is eternal life. When you sin, the pay you get is death. But God gives you the gift of eternal life. That’s because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done.

Matthew 10:37-42
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. Anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not pick up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it. Whoever loses their life because of me will find it.

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me. And anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Suppose someone welcomes a prophet as a prophet. They will receive a prophet’s reward. And suppose someone welcomes a godly person as a godly person. They will receive a godly person’s reward. Suppose someone gives even a cup of cold water to a little one who follows me. What I’m about to tell you is true. That person will certainly be rewarded.”

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