2nd Sunday before Advent – Sermon 108
Prayer to Start
May the words of my lips and the thought of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ
What’s your favourite picture or painting?
Constables Haywain? – Van Gough’s Sunflowers – Renoir’s boating party – the Mona Lisa – the Sistine Chapel?
Paintings bring pleasure – they can be inspiring – challenging – calming – relaxing – we can admire the whole – or look into every corner – or image – every brush stroke –
It’s said that every painting tells a story – and every story paints a picture – about the artist – and the message he or she wants to give
In our NT lesson Jesus provides us with a picture of “the Kingdom of Heaven” –God’s kingly activity in the world – How His love works to change our lives and the lives of those around us
Through the help of our readings – we are going to explore Jesus’ picture – to see how we might be encouraged to become part of it
Point 1 – Jesus’ picture of God in people’s lives
Jesus never defined exactly what He meant by the Kingdom of Heaven – instead He used everyday situations to describe it –
In the centre of Jesus’ picture – we have – the farmer – scattering His seed over the earth –
The seed is the word of God – and God makes sure all four corners of His world gets its share – whether the seed produces a good crop or not – depends on the quality of the ground it lands on
some fell on the rocks – some on the footpath – some in the thistles – some on the freshly ploughed earth –
In one corner of His picture – we see the effect of the seed on the hard path –
There’s little opportunity for growth – no soil – no root – no change – no life – God’s word bounces off – like water off a ducks back – and the birds come swooping in to carry it away –
these are the most difficult people for God’s love to reach – hardened by life’s problems – there’s always something more important for them to think about and do – the devil sees to that –
In the next corner we have the stony ground – there is some soil here – but its shallow – the root starts to grow – and then hits rock – and growth stops –there’s no more nourishment – the sun scortches it- and the plant withers away –
These are the people that are encouraged by what they hear – but there’s no long term commitment – no real space for God within their lifestyle – eventually they stop listening – and loving – spiritual commitment dies and they are easily turned away –
In the next corner we have – the soil full of thistles – the plant grows well at first – but eventually the root and the growth becomes chocked by the influences around it –
This is the distracted disciple – who after a while becomes less and less committed – the couch-grass of rival interests take over – and clogs their enthusiasm –
God offers full reward only to those who take the long-term view – the good soil – “they hear the word and understand it; bears fruit and yields a hundred fold or sixty fold or thirty fold”-
So in the last corner of Jesus’ picture – we see the results of that perseverance – and commitment – fruit in abundance – fields of corn – a marvelous transformation of colour and life – that eventually spreads over the whole picture –
Four kinds of soil – but only one is the good soil – at first sight it might seem a bit of a lottery – but its not about chance – we should realize – that the condition of our soil and our love for God – is in our own making –
So what does it mean to a have a good soil –
Let’s look at Daniel’s picture
Point 2 Daniel’s picture of God in His world
The story of Daniel in the Lion’s den is probably one of the best known in the whole of the OT – a classic example of good overcoming evil – a victory against overwhelming odds
But his victory didn’t happen by chance – it required faith – courage and God’s love and help for it to happen –
Just as in Jesus’ painting – Daniel’s picture also – has God at centre stage – but this time – not sowing but – guiding and protecting
When Daniel learned of the King being tricked into writing his edict – he knew he’d been placed in an impossible situation – and so he turned to God for help –
Prayer was Daniel’s most important lifeline – to God – and without it he knew he was lost –
So in the first corner of Daniel’s picture – we see what the satraps saw – Daniel praying by his open window in full view of his enemies – demonstrating his faith and dependence on God –
Prayer is our most powerful weapon against evil and injustice – and we must take every opportunity to use us it to help others and ourselves –
Daniels’ faithfulness – and love for God – gave his enemies the opportunity they had been looking for –
They told the king – who was too proud to revoke the edict – and the order was given for Daniel to be thrown into the lions pit –
Here we have the next part of his picture – Daniel facing the ultimate sacrifice – willing to put his life on the line – for God and for others –As Jesus said to His disciples – “There is no greater love than this, that someone should lay down his life for a friend.”
Today we don’t have to face lions in defense of our faith – but like Daniel we have to hold firm to our Christian principles – and our love and commitment to God –
Jesus made that ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross – when He paid the price for our sins – once and for all – and in response to His love – He calls for faithfulness and courage – to resist attempts to sway us away from Him
And so we have our third scene – “the rescue” – God protected Daniel in the lions den – and when the pit was opened he was vindicated before Darius and restored to his position of authority –
In the same way we are rescued and restored by Jesus – set free us from the smothering effects of our sins – so that our relationship with God can begin to grow again –
God wants us to take refuge – in Him – to believe and trust and stay faithful to Him – so that He can bless us – and ensure His harvest from us will be large –
Daniel’s fourth scene – is fruit bearing – Darius decreed that the people must – "reverence the God of Daniel- whose kingly power will never be destroyed – and whose sovereignty will never end"
The king had realised that Daniel serves "a living God" – A God who is able to take direct action to save those who are blameless
Point 3 Our picture of God in our world ?
So we’ve looked at Jesus’ picture – and Daniel’s picture – what about our picture?
If we paint a picture about God’s activity in our lives – what scenes would stand out?
Is God at the centre – or on the fringes? – is prayer our first thought – or our last resort?
Daniel demonstrated faith and courage – in defense of his Christian beliefs – is that our story too?
Our picture should be – the good soil – following the way prepared for us by Jesus – putting God first – developing a faithful and loving relationship with Him – and showing others that their relationship with God matters too –
Paintings bring pleasure – So we should have fun painting our picture – we all experience difficult times – and we need the strength of each other and God’s support – through His Spirit – in these times – to make sure we reflect the love of God in all we do –
And the good thing about our picture – is that we are still painting it – we can rub things out – repaint over those bad mistakes – and start again – with a new message – one that’s God driven
So happy painting –
Like the artists in our favourite paintings – we too have a story to tell and a present and future generation to influence –
So when we paint our picture – lets make sure when people look at the finished masterpiece – they will see the greatest message of all
In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit