6th Sunday after Trinity – Sermon 280

3rd February 2019 Off By Derek

6th Sunday after Trinity
Holy Communion 10am CW
8th July 2018

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

“Oh mortal stand up on your feet

And I will speak with you

And when He spoke to me

A Spirit entered me and set me on my feet”

Standing up and speaking about God – and the difference He makes to our lives is never an easy thing to do – most of us would prefer – to leave it to someone who has been trained.

But as Christians and followers of Jesus – it’s something we are all called to do –

Point 1         Ezekiel

Our OT lesson records the call of the prophet Ezekiel – the name Ezekiel means – God is strong – or strengthens –

Ezekiel lived during the Babylonian exile – one of the most difficult times in Judah’s history –

The people of Judah had been removed from their promised land – to live as prisoners in an oppressor’s country –

Ezekiel was called by God to speak His word to an ‘impudent and stubborn’ people – who had continually rebelled against God

It was a difficult ministry to take on – but– God said He would send His Spirit to direct and help him – the Spirit would tell him what to say

 And when Ezekiel was to speak – he was to begin with the words – ‘Thus says the Lord God’ – or in the REB translation: – ‘This word of the Lord came to me’ – which became a trademark beginning for Ezekiel’s sayings in the Bible –

Ezekiel was told not to conform to the morality of the people around him – but as God’s voice – he was to teach and preach God’s word faithfully –

God is faithful – and He expects faithfulness from us – The Holy Spirit would– raise Ezekiel up as a prophet – and in the years to come – guided by the Spirit – Ezekiel would develop an uncompromising approach – in his ministry –

He would see amazing visions – act them out in his sermons – preach judgment on Israel and the surrounding nations – teach about individual responsibilities – about the sovereignty of God – and in his latter years – of hope – hope of a new Jerusalem raising from the ruins –

For Ezekiel – God was inescapably close and real and demanded complete obedience – he felt utterly weak and inadequate before Him –

Like Ezekiel – we too must allow the Holy Spirit to speak to and lead us – in what we say and do – allow God to direct us to the people He wishes us to reach – trust and obey – in the Holy Spirit – to guide us completely –

Point 2  Paul

Paul too gives us advice on speaking out – In his letter to the Corinthian Church – he talks about a vision and a thorn –

The vision is about one of his personal experiences with God – when he was touched unexpectedly by God on a preaching tour of Galatia – some 14 years earlier – Paul saw things others were not allowed to see – after being stoned and brought close to death – what today we might call – an ‘out of body experience’.

But Paul doesn’t use this – as a basis of his relationship and communication from God – wonderful and uplifting it may well have been.

 Other teachers in Corinth at the time – placed great emphasis on their visions and the revelations – to put people in awe of them – but Paul reminds us that what is needed – is ordinary language – words that would enable others to be built up in faith –

Paul then tells us about his ‘thorn in the flesh’ – we don’t know what it was – or when it occurred – it might have been a recurrent disease – a persecution – a stammer – but it was a weakness that concerned him – and one that he feared would affect his ministry –

Paul prayed three times for his ‘Thorn in the flesh’ to be removed – but God’s response was not what Paul expected – ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ –– for power is made perfect in weakness’

In other words – we are strongest when our dependence on God is strongest –

Paul came to realize that his vulnerability was part of his ministry – His ‘thorn in the flesh’– was there to show the wonder of God’s grace –

not something to be covered up or concealed –

We all have ‘thorns in the flesh’ – and as the years go by – sometimes they can become more visible –

In themselves they are not something to be feared or to be overcome by – or taking Paul’s words literally – sources of power over others – or to prove ourselves –

but when brought to God – they can be used by Him – through His grace – to turn weakness into something that can be life changing for us and for others –

During my time in hospital I was given an opportunity to speak about my faith to a Macmillan Cancer worker.  Her faith was strong but in the Muslim religion.  We talked a lot about the importance of faith and belief in overcoming illness and adversity – Strong faith in God can bring assurance and healing – not only to the hearer but also to the one speaking out about it –

God doesn’t want us to stand above everyone else – but to share our burdens and problems – so we can help others – in turn – share their faith and experiences –

God is discovered, not so much through miraculous displays of power, but through times of great suffering, testing, and human weakness.  His Grace is for us all – we can’t “fix” our pain, only God can do that – but we can grow from our experience.

God works in the most unexpected of ways –through Jesus – and His sacrifice on the cross – He won the greatest of all victories – triumphing over evil – scattering darkness- defeating death itself – What appeared to be defeat and disaster was shown to be a great strength –and revealed as a magnificent triumph –

Paul reminds us therefore that God will use whatever we have and whatever we are – to transform our frail faith and human weaknesses – for His Glory – and to help transform others – and to spread His word of love to all –

Point 3         Jesus and His disciples

Most preachers can remember the first time they stood up and preached – Mine was here some 20 years ago – 6.30pm evensong – Pauline was present – and a few friendly faces who gave me a lot of help and support –

But when Jesus – came to His home town – and began to teach in the synagogue – to the people that He knew – He received quite a different response –

At first – they marveled at His wisdom – but then began to mock – and challenge Him – they’d heard what Jesus had done in Capernaum and at the lakeside and wanted Him to do the same back home where everybody knew Him –

Isn’t this the Carpenter – the son of Mary?

But their reaction was more than just putting the local boy made good – in his place – it was His message that was making them respond in this way

Jesus had come to tell them that the Kingdom of God is here – amongst them – and it was time for them to repent and change their ways –

But the kind of Kingdom Jesus was talking about – was not the kind – they wanted to hear – so they  dismissed Jesus – using an age old – excuse for rejecting Him – Oh He’s just the local handyman – what does He know?

A reaction perhaps that reminds us that spreading the message to family and friends can be the most difficult –

But their unbelief was enough to prevent Jesus healing – as He did in Galilee – their lack of faith – hindered Jesus’ power to change and help them

So – his message to His disciples – when He sent them out to spread the good news of the kingdom was tinged with a warning – if any place does not welcome you – as you leave – ‘shake off the dust which is on your feet as a testimony against them’

For Jesus there was no time to waste – His earthly ministry – would soon reach its climax –and his disciples must keep moving forward – if His message was to spread quickly –

Jesus too will never force Himself on anyone – if He is ignored – He will move on unless we call Him back –

Jesus endured great suffering and humiliation – on our behalf – so that our sins – can be forgiven – and our relationship with God restored – Jesus is the only way to God – He brings us the truth about God – and leads us to salvation with Him –

To be a true disciple – we have to follow Jesus – and do what Jesus tells us to do – we must not let the world get us down – but serve Him with all our heart with all our soul and with all our mind – and keep working for Him –

Conclusions           what about us

God calls us to be faithful – and respond to His call – to ask for the power and the words to speak – that will be given to us by the Holy Spirit –

He calls us to talk plainly and simply and aim to bring – others to faith – the more we let go of our fears – and trust in God – the stronger we will be – He will use all of us – including our weaknesses – Its God’s grace and strength that can transform others – not ours –

We must deliver the truth about Jesus and His Gospel message – regardless of the belief of our hearers – if they refuse to listen – we are to move on and take it to others – we must believe in His love and healing power – and follow His guidance

Jesus challenges us to stand up and speak about God’s kingdom –God will provide the resources for us to succeed – we just need to believe and trust in Him – and have faith in what He provides  

‘My Grace is sufficient for you’ says God –

Let’s hold Him to it – give ourselves freely to God – and allow ourselves to become a voice for His love

Prayer to finish

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit –                 AMEN