Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity – Sermon 217

16th Sunday after Trinity

Holy Communion 10am CW

23rd September 2012

Bible References :

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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

 

True or False?

If the month starts on a Sunday it will always have a Friday the 13th? (TRUE)

 

Easter is the first Sunday before the first full moon after March 21st (FALSE) – (after the first full moon)

 

Jesus is the only way to God? – (TRUE)

 

We’ve all played –True and false trivia games – before – maybe as part of a quiz or test – and often we can work it out – given time –  and a bit of logic –

But for some more important questions – like the last one – which is crucial to our salvation – we need to know the true path to follow – and the right way to follow it –

 

There have been some wise words – in our readings this morning – from Jeremiah – James and form Jesus –so we are going to look at them – to see if they help us – decide how we might find the true way to God –

 

Point 1        Jeremiah – Turn back to God

 

We know more about Jeremiah’s character than most of the Prophets in the OT –

 

On the one hand his prophesies and stories about his life tell us a lot about his devotion – and commitment to God –

 

And on the other the book tells us about his deep struggles with the situation that God had placed him in –

 

He feared death – didn’t like being ridiculed – hated standing alone against the crowd – [pretty much like you and me]-

 

But that was precisely where he was at – when he responded with the verses form our OT reading –

 

He was in his home neighbourhood – Josiah the king had initiated some reforms – which would do away with local heathen shrines – in order to urge the people to return to the ways of the Mosaic Law – and the ways of God –

 

And Jeremiah openly supported him –

But the people in his home town didn’t

 

He likened himself to a gentle lamb led to the slaughter – innocent and unaware of his kinsmen scheming to kill him – an image that would one day be used to describe Jesus –

 

But as whenever things begin to get tough and difficult – Jeremiah turns to God – to help him through his problems – to protect him as he continues to do God’s work –

 

And these words of wisdom –  this prayer – from Jeremiah – to God to ‘stop those who oppose the truth’ –  remind us  – that as we carry out God’s work – in our community – in our village – we too need to put our trust in God –  and His promises of protection

There will be times when we feel vulnerable and afraid to speak about our Christian Story – for fear of being ridiculed – times when sharing our faith and inviting people to a new way of life in Jesus will involve many – no’s

 

But like Jeremiah we need to keep our faith in God’s promises – to get up and keep going on – supporting and helping God’s love – reach people that need it –

 

We also need to remember – that in the end – the Sacrificial Lamb had to go  and have His body broken –  and His blood shed – in order to save others – and that like Jeremiah – we too might have to face that ridicule – in order that God’s love might be found –

 

Point 2        James – true and false wisdom

 

The book of James is not about how to become a Christian – but how to act like one –

 

James was no man of letters-

 

He was a simple preacher – concerned that people were not living in the right manner – His wish was that Christians didn’t just think and talk about their beliefs – but lived them out –

 

In our reading we are told about true and false wisdom –

 

True wisdom comes from above – False wisdom is firmly routed in the world –

 

James lists the worldly wisdoms to avoid – in verse 16 – envy – selfish ambition – boastfulness – being false with the truth – such things will bring disorder and wickedness into our lives –

 

But the wisdom from above is pure – in verse 17 – peacefulness – gentle – willing to yield – full of mercy and good fruits –  and a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace –

 

James argues that friendship with the ways of the world  – is at the root of all war and fighting – because the world’s ultimate argument is  –  violence –

 

But friendship with God – is about taming those desires – that push us to the limit –

 

The world will do its best to encourage us to play at doing God’s things for five minutes – and then to forget about it – A short painful glance at the depths of the heart – and then to decide that it’s better if we wait for another occasion –

 

James’ words of wisdom are to pray for this wisdom form above – to pray for strength to resist worldly pressures – and to hold firm when the challenge comes –

 

Imagine being in our village and meeting the types of people described in verse 16 – and then imagine meeting the types of people described in verse 17

 

Which ones would we rather have as neighbours?

The answer is obvious – and the challenge is for us to become that neighbour ourselves –

 

Submit yourselves to God – resist the devil and he will flee form you – Draw near to God – and He will draw near to you – no truer words have been written  – wisdom comes from above –  and we must pray for it –

 

Point 3        Jesus- the first and the last

 

 

A preacher went to speak at a church. He was due to speak in the morning and evening services on the Sunday. In the morning he took as his test the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.  In the evening he chose to give a call to mission.

 

The local church, seeking to draw attention to the visit, produced a big poster advertising the coming Sunday meetings and put it on their notice board. They combined the titles of the two messages without realizing the effect on their combination:

 

The top poster read: ‘Five virgins in a crisis.’ The bottom read: ‘What one man can do’

 

Misunderstandings about what has been said and what is meant – are a feature of our gospel reading.

 

Earlier in the Gospel Jesus was saying things to the disciples in parables – and they didn’t understand. Now Jesus gives it to them straight – about His forthcoming death – on the cross – and they were probably looking for some hidden message –

 

They may have only understood half of it –

 

which may have led them into thinking about their own status –

 

And you can imagine – that being so close to Jesus – that many of them thought that they might have some special advantage – or privilege over the others –

 

But Jesus tells them that the true way to greatness in God’s eyes – is self-denial – taking last place –

 

‘Whoever wants to be first – must be last of all – and servant of all’

 

Jesus was reminding them of the need to follow His ways – and not the world’s – of putting the needs of others before their own –

 

We all struggle with questions of status and identity within a group – or community – we want to be successful – to fit in – to know who is on our side – and who isn’t – but Jesus reminds us that there is no special advantage given to anyone – everyone associated with Jesus has the same opportunities with God –

 

Jesus takes a child – and puts it in the midst of them to illustrate His point –

‘whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me – and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me’

 

If we want to be welcomed by Jesus and by God – we must welcome those who others – might consider least –

 

Anyone who is –or has been a teacher or a parent – will know that there is something special – about being with and working with children –

 

I remember my time – helping in the Sunday School – thinking what a great privilege it was – encouraging children in the faith – I have also been fortunate to help my own children – and now my grandchildren – knowing that each one of them – has the potential for achieving great things in their lives for God –

 

No child is perfect – but given the love and opportunities each one deserves – all have precious gifts and characters – that they can bring – to others and to Jesus –

 

Children have an amazing ability to be brawling one minute – and to forgive and forget the next –  –  a love innocence  –  and enthusiasm for life  –  that lights the lives of families and friends around them –

 

In welcoming and taking that child into His arms – Jesus reminds us that we need to welcome and care for others as we would care for our children – As God cares for us – and to serve out the same kind of love a child has for its parents – a love that is trusting – simple and accepting –

 

Conclusions

 

So when confronted with difficult questions or situations about our way forward in faith – we need to remember that it’s Jesus – we should turn to – for help and no other –

 

Jesus will provide us with – wisdom form above – He is supreme Lord and King – and servant to all – and He is the only way – to salvation and eternity with God –

 

Jesus is the way, the truth and the Life – there is nothing false about Him – and there can be no wiser words than that –

Prayer to finish

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

AMEN