12th Sunday after Trinity – Sermon 164

13th February 2011 0 By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the glory and honour of our Lord Jesus Christ

AMEN

Introduction 

Walking – a favourite pass time for many

The word Walk – is sometimes used – in the bible – to symbolize the way we should live – and act – as Christians – ‘walking in the way of Christ’-

It also reminds us that – life is like a journey – a pilgrimage – one in which we are traveling towards God –

The Bible is among other things – a list of unforgettable walks – Peter’s walk on water – perhaps the most well known –

but there are other walks too – other journeys or parts of journey’s

Imagine for a few minutes we are sharing the journeys described in our readings this morning- how would we react? What would our response to God be? 

 
Point 1      Elijah and the small voice of God

Elijah lived in one of the darkest times in Israel’s history – he preached during the reign of King Ahab and Jezebel – when there was a wholesale departure from the faith –

He had just experienced one of the high spots in His ministry – when the prophets of Baal – were humiliated on Mount Carmel –

but – instead of admitting defeat – Queen Jezebel came after him with even greater ferocity – and Elijah’s faith became severely shaken –

fearing for his life – he fled – and found himself in a cave –

‘Why are you here Elijah?’

‘Because of my great zeal for the Lord of Hosts’ – he replied – ‘The people of Israel have forsaken your Covenant, torn down your altars – and put your prophets to the sword – I alone am left – and they seek to take my life’

God told Elijah to go and stand on the mountain – so he could see the Lord pass by –

All at once – there was a terrific wind – that tore the mountain apart and sent rocks flying – but God wasn’t in the wind – then the ground began to heave and shake – destroying everything around – enough to turn anyone to God – but God wasn’t in the earthquake. Then there was a great fire – full of destruction and danger – and intense heat – but God wasn’t in the fire –

– and finally there came “a gentle whisper” – and this terrified Elijah – he pulled his coat over his face – for fear of seeing – he knew he had met the living God –

Elijah was running away from Jezebel because he doubted God – and now God was saying to him – have you forgotten? – I am the God of wind and earthquake and fire – I rule – not Jezebel –

Elijah also thought he was alone- and in fact there were seven thousand people in Israel who had not bowed their knee to Baal –

The Christian faith can be like a walk through the hills and mountains – at times exciting and rewarding – sometimes wearing and discouraging – when things go according to plan – and we are on the right path – its easy to trust and live in God’s Kingdom – but when things go wrong – and our faith is really tested – that’s when we need to know that God is there for us – to show us the right way ahead –

Through the experience of Elijah – God is saying – don’t be dismayed – things are less dreadful than they seem – however isolated we may feel – we are not left carrying the burden alone – Seen or unseen – there are others playing their part – Seen or unseen – He is always there to strengthen and support – to see us through –

We – often expect – God to be in the spectacular – but more often than not – it’s the still small voice – the Holy Spirit – that direct and guides us forward –

God is here for us all to meet personally in Jesus Christ – we just have to listen for His call – and allow God to be God in our Lives – so that He can change us – and use us to achieve great things for His Glory –

which brings us on to Paul and his letter to the Romans

   

Point 2           Paul’s letter to Rome

Imagine yourself writing a speech – or an article for the Church magazine – you want to tell others what the Christian Faith means to you – you devote a lot of time to it – you want the message to be as clear as possible –

Then you are told – instead of it going to a few dozen or a hundred – readers – its going to be printed – in the local newspaper – and a few thousand would read it – well you’d spend a bit more time on it – wouldn’t you –

How would we react then if we were asked to adapt this same speech or article – for the front page of the Times – knowing that millions would read it –

Paul’s letter to the Romans was like the speech that would be written for a National newspaper – Rome was the centre of the world in every way – law – culture – power – learning – it had to be impressive – he wanted to convince his sophisticated readers – that Jesus Christ held all the answers to life’s most important questions –

In our passage he links his arguments in with the Old Testament history of the Jews –

The worlds full of religious people with misguided views – he says – they are sincere – they have beliefs – but they are channeled in the wrong direction – Faith in Jesus Christ – is the answer –

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord” – says Paul – “will be saved”

Jesus – God’s only Son – came to rescue us from ourselves – to take the burden and guilt of our sins – onto Himself – so we could be made clean and start again –

Through faith in Jesus – and His death and resurrection – we are able to share in God’s love and forgiveness – restored to a new health and fellowship with Him – Jesus Christ came to redeem all who turn to Him – and live under His grace –

In this passage Paul gives us our A-B-C to salvation –

Admit we need Jesus as our Saviour

Believe that Jesus died for us to pay the penalty for our sins –

Confess that “Jesus is Lord” and accept Him into our lives –

“For faith in the heart leads to righteousness – and confession in the lips leads to salvation”

Paul also reminds us that unless people are told about Jesus – they will never come to faith –

We all have a story to tell – and a faith to proclaim – and our greatest resource is our personal experience with Jesus – so as Paul’s walk reminds us its time to tell –

The bottom line – or should I say – the headline – is that God needs us – to deliver His message – We are His church – and if we don’t spread the word about Jesus – no one else will –

 

 

 
Point 3         Peter’s walk on water

And so we come to perhaps the most remembered walk – of all – Peter’s walk on water towards Jesus

Peter is portrayed as something of a larger than life character – impetuous – ready for anything – someone who acts first and thinks afterwards –

his walk – though – like that of Paul’s – is a model for all Christians to aspire to – in this passage he presents us with a picture of the life of faith – or rather half-faith – faith mixed with fear and doubt – so typical of many of us – and of those disciples in the boat –

Like Peter – they’d seen Jesus’ power – heard His teaching – prayed His prayers – but they were still stuck – in the boat – professional fishermen – struggling with their oars – unable to make headway against the wind –

like them – we perhaps have discovered so much – learned so much – yet we are still without the power to do many of the things that really matter –

we’ve invented machines that can win wars – but not found one that will make peace – we’ve put men into space – but still can’t put food into hungry stomachs – we can listen to voices and songs being broadcast on the other side of the world – but can’t hear the cries of people in our own street –

But there on the water is the shimmering figure of Jesus walking towards us – much of our world knows at least a little about Him – but to many He’s still a ghostly image or fantasy – even for those who believe in Him – as the disciples did – they didn’t really know what to expect –

But He seems to be doing the impossible – and sometimes we get the idea that it will be good to copy Him – if only we could –

but when our eyes drop for a moment to the waves – like Peter’s – and we sink – we feel alone against the elements – that’s when we need to be reminded – once more – of Jesus’ voice – and encouragement – almost a rebuke – ‘Is that really how much faith you have?’

Again and again throughout our Christian journey we are asked to do – what to us – seems impossible – to Jesus – is a matter of faith –

living without the sin –
developing a serious habit of prayer –
keeping on with our Christian discipleship – despite all the opposition – and negative reaction

To us – it might seem a big enough task – just to get this far – just to get out of the boat –

and if we look at the waves – like those disciples – – that’s what we will think –

but as Peter showed us in His walk – what we are really called to do – which might seem so hard for us to do in practice – is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus – and our ears open for His encouragement – ready to respond and to do whatever He says –

 

Ending

Three walks of wonder – three wonderful walks –

Do we recognise God and His Spirit in the things and the people around us? Have we got some great news to tell our neighbours? – are we ready to attempt great things for God – and expect great things in return? –

Jesus – is looking for a commitment from each one of us – a personal response – that requires us to hear – proclaim and walk all the way to the Cross –

We are only one step away from the adventure of a lifetime – Have we been on any life changing walks today? 

Prayer to finish

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit –

AMEN