Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity – Sermon 258

16th Sunday after Trinity

Holy Communion 10am CW

20th September 2015

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

 

If you have ever been around a farm – or know much about Chickens – you’ll know that they have a pecking order

 

Within a flock of hens- one of them always becomes dominant – and she pecks away at any hen that makes her angry or gets in her way –

 

At first the hens that get pecked don’t like it – and try to retaliate – but when they see they can’t win – they turn on each other – until eventually there becomes a pecking order – until the last one in the order– who has no one to peck down to – turns away

Well something like this – is what’s happening to the disciples in our Gospel reading this morning

 

An argument breaks out – while they are walking together on the road – about who is the greatest – and they were trying to decide their pecking order

 

In Jesus’ time – social position was highly ordered – and people were expected to stay ‘in their place’ – and the disciples wanted to know – their own place in the kingdom- so they could get the greatest gain from it –

 

Point 1        Jesus begins to teach

 

Our Gospel reading this morning splits into three Parts –

 

First Mark shows Jesus wanting to keep His whereabouts a secret – it was time His disciples learned about what was going to happen to them – and to Him – so He needed some time with them –

 

In the second part Jesus predicts His death and resurrection – He wanted to warn them of what lies ahead – and of the implications and dangers His death and suffering will bring- The disciples didn’t understand – what Jesus was saying and were too afraid to ask Him – they found it had to grasp – that God’s anointed one- the Messiah – could be rejected and killed by His own people –

 

The third part is the turning towards Capernaum – and back towards Jerusalem and danger – which brings on thoughts about power and might and the argument about who is the greatest –

 

Jesus assumes the teaching position of a Rabbi and calls His disciples around Him –

 

He tells them that standing – security and satisfaction – in God’s Kingdom – are not gained by power struggles – or beating those next to you – but by serving –

 

We don’t gain from getting – but from giving and from Grace – this of course is opposite to the world’s thinking –

 

Jesus illustrates what He means by picking up a little child – taking it into His arms and saying – ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name- welcomes me –  and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

 

Children had no rights – could make no demands on others – they had the lowest place in the social order – like the lowest placed chicken – they could have no say – and had to turn away from it all –

 

But being a follower of Jesus means we have to be willing to give ourselves to others- and to serve- like Jesus – to give our life to others – for others-

 

This is no easy task – and Jesus fully understands the suffering and hardships that it will bring

 

Point 2        Jeremiah – Turn back to God

 

The image of the suffering servant is portrayed for us in our OT lessen with Jeremiah –

 

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]- and this was precisely where he was at – when he responded with the verses from 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’ –  reminds 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 on going – 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 3        James – true and false wisdom

 

James too – provides us with some wise words –

 

he tells us that true wisdom comes from above – False wisdom is firmly rooted 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 – and the need to achieve a pecking order

 

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 work 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 from above – to pray for strength to resist worldly pressures – and to hold firm when the challenge comes –

 

Jesus will provide us with – wisdom from above – He is supreme Lord and King – and servant to all – and He is the only way – to salvation and eternity with God – and we as followers of Jesus are called to serve and to give our lives to others – as Jesus did.

 

Conclusions         Jesus- the first and the last

 

We all know about the three wise men – but there is a story about a fourth – who wanted to come and meet Jesus –

 

He started off well – dressed in his best clothes – rode a fine horse – and brought a present of precious stones –

 

On his journey he met a group of poor people who were hungry – so he gave away half his jewels – for them to trade for food –

 

Then he met a family who were taken into slavery because of a debt – so he used the rest of his precious jewels to buy their freedom –

 

Further on he met a merchant deep in distress – his horse had died on him – and he would not get his goods to be sold on time – the generous man gave him his horse and all its trappings – now he had to walk on foot – the going was slow-

 

He was old and very weary – he wondered if he would ever make it – the way was very muddy and he met a young family – trying to get their cart out of the mud – he helped but ended up being very dirty –

 

He wondered if he should give up and go home – but in a dream – he was told he was now only a little distance away – and that Jesus will welcome Him – because He knows Him very well – and has already met Him many times on His journey – in the people he has helped – tomorrow he will see Jesus and Jesus welcome Him home –

 

Jesus is the way, the truth and the Life – there is nothing false about Him – there is no pecking order in Christ’s Kingdom – only the love that he offers – equally – to us all –

 

Prayer to finish

AMEN