13th Sunday after Trinity – Sermon 104a

13th February 2011 Off 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



Life is about choices ! – We all have choices to make – where we live – who we share our lives with – what we eat – how we spend our time –

Some are more difficult to make than others – some more important than others

In our Gospel reading Jesus reminds us – that – as Christians we will have some – hard choices to make – about our commitment – and our priorities – towards God and each other –

Choices that not only effect – our lives –and future – but also the lives and future of those around us – have a major impact on the people around u


Point 1  The choices that we make

“Today I offer you a choice of Life and Good – or death and evil”

when written – like that most of us would have no difficulty in making the right decision –

We all want to live – we all want to be good – at least most of the time –

But if we read on a little further

“Love the Lord your God, obey Him – hold fast to Him – Keep His commandments – statutes and Laws – conform to His ways” –

now – the words become more difficult –

When it comes to things like obedience – love – commitment – they may sound straight forward – but when it comes to the practice – its not so easy –

in real situations somehow things never seem to be so – black and white –

Two examples:

A college faculty was holding a its annual general meeting – when an angel appeared – and granted the Dean, who was chairing the meeting – one of three choices

He could have either infinite wisdom – infinite health – or infinite wealth –

The Dean thought for a moment and then being a college Dean – said “infinite wisdom” –

OK – So be it – said the Angel – and disappeared.

In the silence that followed – the Dean sat thoughtfully – staring into the distance –

Finally one of the members spoke up – and said -“Do you have anything to say? What words of wisdom – can you give us?”

The Dean replied – “I should have taken the money” –

When faced with difficult choices – human wisdom being what it is – we often go for the one we are most comfortable with – in this case being a Dean – he went for wisdom – (it must have been a rich college)

Most of us would have taken the money –

arguing that we could probably have our cake and eat it – we could use some of the money – to buy better health and to increase our standing and influence in society –


Point 2        Choosing Love & forgiveness



Our second example comes from Paul’s letter to Philemon – here the recipient still has a free choice – but he’s asked to make it in light of his experience and understanding of God’s grace –

In this beautiful and touching letter – only 335 words long – Paul appeals from the heart for the life of his friend – who has become like – a son – to him –
Onesimus was a runaway slave and a thief, a sinner but his friendship with Paul helped him become a Christian.

His former master was Philemon – was also a Christian – and the owner of the house in which the local church met –

Paul knew that his friend’s transformation would not be complete until he surrendered himself completely to God and stopped running away from his past – and go back to answer the crimes he committed.

And he wanted Philemon to accept him – not as a slave – but as a dear brother – to do the work of the Gospel – in other words – to allow him to come and go as any other member of the local church

Paul wanted Philemon to accept him just as Jesus would accept him – in love and forgiveness – and allow him to begin again – with a clean slate.

Many people would have expected – Onesimus needed to be taught a lesson – probably his house group included –

there were over 60 million slaves – in the Roman Empire – at that time – and if a runaway was caught – their master had the legal right to torture or kill – them –

At the very least a slave would be branded with an “F” – for fugitive – on his forehead – which would be there for the rest of their lives

but Paul reminds us that the most important lesson that people need is not to remind them of their wrongdoing – but to show them that they can be accepted as full members of the church – and that their sin forgiven –

Christianity is nothing – if it doesn’t show itself – Paul reminds us that we are here to win people for Christ – and help to restore them to a right relationship with God –

‘Welcome him as you welcome me
Forgive him as you forgive me
Hold nothing against him – as you would hold nothing against me just take him back – the way you would welcome me back”

But Paul reminds him that forgiveness can transform lives – it can also bring countless benefits to the forgiver –

Showing grace will be costly – God’s grace although free – is never cheap –
Philemon will have to act in a way that will go against the norm – he will lose face in the community – and possibly in his church –

Paul doesn’t pull rank – what ever decision Philemon makes must be of his own free will

Paul even offered to pay for Philemon’s loss although he didn’t expect him to take him up on it – He gives him an IOU – on Onesimus’s behalf – the creditor is willing to become the debtor in the course of the gospel –

He shows him a real example of what it means to put someone else first –

He reminds him that like Onesimus we are all law breakers – debtors to the grace of God – we too have a debt which we cannot pay –

Unlike the previous example – this decision would be made in full recognition of the love and forgiveness of God –


Point 3     Choosing God –


In our gospel reading – Jesus reminds us that – our commitment to Him – must be greater than any other commitment in our lives

To be a disciple we must put Jesus before anyone else – even our families-

There will be times when our commitment to Jesus will be in conflict with our family life – when we will be faced with some hard choices – given to us by those closest to us –

Following Jesus can be lonely

Friends and neighbours that Jesus grew up with found it difficult to take Him seriously – they rejected Him – people will reject our faith too – even our families – will reject us at times –

Young people can be especially vulnerable – they might be the only one in the class or year – that goes to church – and as a result become a target in the playground –

When on holiday – one thing about being the one with the camera – is that you’re never in the picture

It can happen in life too – we can be so busy doing the Lord’s work – that we never see things form the other side of the lens –

– to be a disciple – Jesus – must be first – that doesn’t mean that our families should be last –

Following Jesus can be hard work – and we have to make some tough decisions – you no doubt remember the story of the man who decide his cross was too heavy – and went to the cross room – to trade it in for a lighter model –

“I have too heavy a cross to bear” He said – OK said Jesus – open that door and pick any cross you want – “thank you”, said the man – and he went through the door – and looked around and saw many crosses – some so large you couldn’t see the tops – then he potted this tiny cross in the corner – I’ll have that one “ he said – “Oh – right–Are you sure?” – said Jesus – that’s the one you’ve just brought in –

Carrying our cross requires clear-eyed calculation and commitment – Christian living involves counting the cost on ourselves and others and deciding which crosses we will carry – then carrying them to the best of our ability

Recognizing that faithful living involves growing and stretching – that can sometimes be painful on ourselves and our families – one thing we can be sure of – is that the load will never be too heavy for us to bear –
Following Jesus means we have to make some tough decisions – leave our possessions behind –

We must put the journey Jesus has set for us – before our hobbies – and self interests – before our goals in life – even our own lives

As you may know – recently my daughter Clare – left for Australia to take a months holiday with a friend – and then to stay on and work her way across different parts of the country –

Before she left – she had to make some hard choices – to make about what to take with her – the camera – her clothes – her shoes- she had to leave some seemingly good things behind – in order to make the journey a success – any excess weight would weigh her down and only prevent her accomplishing her goal –

We need to give up what we can’t keep – in order to gain what we can never lose –

It cost Jesus everything – to give us what we don’t deserve – and He asks us to surrender everything in return –

One parishioner asked her rector what he thought total commitment meant – holding out a blank piece of paper he said – “sign at the bottom” and let God fill in the rest –

Jesus tells us to examine ourselves to see in our faith is really genuine – test ourselves to see if what we are really doing is what Jesus would do in the same situation – it applies to every aspect of our lives –  



Life is an ever changing maze of discovery and experience – The path we take determines the destination we reach – to get through that maze we need help – help to carry the load and guide us on our journey –

God is making something new from us – and to realize – and respond to it – takes great effort on our part –

are we ready to follow Jesus’ lead – if the answer’s yes –that really would be something to celebrate


Prayer to finish

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit