Tuesday, 24 July 2012

8th Sunday after Pentecost 22 Jul 2012 Sermon

8th Sunday after Pentecost 22.7.12 Child of God

We understand that there is a connection between how a person is brought up and the way he is likely to behave in adult life.

If someone has no stable family life, no role modelling or formation it is likely he will be violent or do destructive things. Alternatively, if he is well brought up and taught to respect self and others then he is not likely to be out vandalising at night.

The same sort of understanding would apply to our knowledge of God. If we have no concept of being loved by God then we are more likely to ‘run riot’ and ignore God’s will, or any laws He has in place.

If, on the other hand, we are fully secure in the knowledge of God’s love we are more likely to keep God’s laws as we do not need to look elsewhere for happiness.

This is our position. We know that God loves us; we are His children. The epistle today reinforces this. We are children of God and heirs to His promise.

Recall the Prodigal Son parable. When the son returned he was not just forgiven and told to start again at the bottom. He was dressed in the best robes, befitting his true status.

He had forgotten who he was. He was prepared to start life again as a slave, but the father would not let him do that. Nor will He let us.

We are children of the King, royal children.

It is not a false pride to assert this, and we do not do it for reasons of pride, but rather to restore our lost self-esteem.

We are embarrassed by our past sins and feel unworthy; yet if we allow the truth to sink in we will be more able to resist future sin as unworthy behaviour of someone who has ‘royal’ blood.

We come to see God as Father, to whom we are intimately connected, rather than as a distant law-maker somewhere out there in the cosmos.

If laws are seen as impersonal it is very easy to break them; but if they are seen as a sacred family tradition they become a lot harder to ignore.

A lot of sin comes from a ‘Who cares anyway?’ sort of mentality; a sense of self-abandon: what does it matter if I sink a bit lower?

The royal child approach makes this very different. How can one who is an heir to the throne behave in such a manner?

Also sin is often an acting out of a sense of grievance that I have been overlooked or not properly treated. Realizing I am a child of God, and have been all along, corrects this.

Sin comes to be seen as irrational behaviour, right out of line; instead of (as presently) seen as normal.

How can we all be royal? This is a foretaste of heaven. It is not necessary that there be winners and losers; everyone can be a winner in this scheme.

On earth we have developed ways of lifting some people up and putting other people down. This is not God’s way and never should have happened here. The arrogant have simply taken over. All that is now reversed. (He has taken the proud from their thrones and raised up the lowly.)

In the Kingdom of God everyone’s true dignity is respected. Some may still be higher than others (as in more glorious) but there is no trace of envy or arrogance.

We are reclaiming the true view of reality - what people are; what they are capable of; what should be happening.

We become free of sin and grow in holiness as we come to know our true identity.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

7th Sunday after Pentecost 15 Jul 2012 Sermon

7th Sunday after Pentecost 15.7.12 Wages of sin

The wages of sin are death, says the epistle. Sin brings death, or at least causes harm. Always sin has a bad effect on the sinner and on everyone else too (through a flow-on effect).

Sin is far more harmful than is generally realized today. Many make light of it, not seeing how deep its damage can be.

If you went for a daily walk on the same route and one day you tripped over a particular place in the path where the ground was uneven, would you not be careful of that same place on future walks? It would be a strange thing if you fell at exactly the same place every day, and made no effort to avoid doing that.

This is because we carefully guard our physical safety and comfort. But we are not so careful about the state of our soul. We don't mind so much falling into the same sin again and again, refusing to avoid occasion of sin; failing to think through what causes our sin and how we could avoid it.

Sin has a way of appealing to us, offering us a short-term pleasure, but the after-effects are deadly.

The damage sin does: Firstly it can send us to hell. Many today do not believe in hell, thinking that a merciful God would not send anyone there; so there is no danger on that score.

But the Scriptures and Tradition remind us constantly that there is a hell and a serious chance of any one of us going there. Yes, God is merciful, but we must ask for His mercy and with serious purpose of amendment. We cannot simply presume on His mercy to save us if we have no real contrition.

Secondly, sin will bring us death in this life, imprisoning us in selfishness and mistrust of each other. Look at the harm that is done by the fact that people lie to each other, break promises, steal from each other, kill each other. There is death here in many forms. Our whole society suffers from sin.

Thirdly, and most importantly though least understood, the damage of sin is that God Himself is offended. Recall the Act of Contrition where we say: I am sorry for my sins ... most of all because they offend Thy infinite holiness.

The worst thing about sin is that it is an injustice to God who is all perfection and goodness.

When we sin we are defacing something beautiful. We would not go into an art gallery and throw mud on the famous paintings. When we sin we are throwing mud directly at God Himself! We are loading another scourge onto Christ’s back. Each time we sin.

Any of these factors should be enough to help us stop sinning. Sin is so normal for us and comes in so many forms that it is very hard to shake it off all at once, but we can make progress, and with God’s grace we will be free.

We need to get to the point that we see sin as foolish as it would be to fall over the same part of the road each day; or as outrageous as it would be to strike our own grandmother.

By the same logic we can develop the positive side of things. If the wages of sin are death the reward of not sinning is life – more life and better life. And certainly happier life.

The logic is there. It makes sense. But we do not yet feel convinced even though our minds tell us so. We need our hearts as well as our minds to be convinced.

Only the love of God acting on us first will bring forth the response our hearts need to make. ‘They will look on the One whom they have pierced and they will mourn for Him.’

When we reach the point of ‘mourning’ for our sins we are on the way to being free from them.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

6th Sunday after Pentecost 8 Jul 2012 Sermon

6th Sunday after Pentecost 8.7.12 Bread from Heaven

Our Lord fed the multitude. He was always trying to get people to see beyond the actual miracle and see it as a sign of something else.

He is saying to them, Not only can I feed you on this one occasion but I can feed you on every occasion; and furthermore I can give you a better kind of bread – from Heaven.

It is hard for people to see that far. If we offered free beer here I suspect the car park would be full. If we advertise eternal life - which we do - only a few come.

What about us? Do we see beyond the sign, or do we also regard God as a kind of private secretary who is meant to look after our needs and meet all obstacles?

He is willing to give us every good thing. It is just that His definition of what is good for us is not the same as ours.

We would tend to go for material physical instant pleasures. He is looking to a larger vision, both in time and in our capacity. I will give you what I think you need, not what you think you need.

We can understand this for a flippant request like millions of dollars, but when it is something more reasonable like a healing of a sickness, and it does not happen - then I might be annoyed with Him.

We can be sure that He has reasons and they are good ones. We need time and grace to see what He has in mind.

At all times we need to trust him. This we need above all because the relationship with Him is more important than any given thing that we might seek.

One thing He is saying to the crowd in this miracle is: Don't think about the bread so much as think about Me. What does this event tell you about Me?

That is where we have gone wrong all along. We have not understood sufficiently that our religion is about relationship to Jesus Himself rather than the things He can do for us. The God of blessings rather than the blessings of God.

We have a lesson from the Our Father. The first part of the prayer is dedicated to God’s view of things coming about, and only half way through do we get to our own personal needs

If we had written that prayer we might have made it much shorter. Our Father, who art in heaven, give us this day our daily bread. Amen! We have to travel a longer route to get what we really need.

We can, with time and grace, adapt ourselves to whatever situation emerges under God’s providence. If we cannot get what we want then want what we get.

Also we can say: I am in union with God and this alone is enough for me. Material blessings are a bonus but I already have what I need.

Sadly many have left already, not comprehending how God could fail to deliver on a particular need. But that is not to read the sign.

Among our other prayers we must pray for the wisdom, patience and trust needed to ride us through our initial difficulties of understanding.

The epistle refers to the Israelites returning to Egypt, or at least they wanted to. This is when we put the comfort of our lives ahead of the will of God.

Sin is when we try to speed things up; to snatch some perceived happiness instead of waiting on God’s idea of our happiness.

If only we had waited for Him – at any point in the last four thousand years.

So we cannot offer free beer but as a consolation have some eternal life instead!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Feast of the Most Precious Blood 1 Jul 2012 Sermon

Feast of the Most Precious Blood 1.7.12 His death, our life

If we commit an offence, we feel the need to make things right. If I broke your front window, for example, I would like to offer you money to buy new glass.

In the same way if we offend God we feel the need to offer Him something. People of all ages have had this spontaneous instinct to offer God some atonement for their sin.

For the Jews it was an unblemished offering from their flocks. The better the animal, the greater the sacrifice, because it was worth more. Hopefully God would be more pleased as well.

Then God, having pity on His people, offered them something better which they in turn could offer Him.

He sent His Son, to be the Lamb of sacrifice. No need to go looking in the flocks and herds. Now this one Lamb would atone for our sins.

One of the remarkable things about Our Lord’s sacrifice is that He is offering Himself. Not many lambs would do that, but the Lamb of God does.

It makes the sacrifice (already perfect) more impressive still.

It is pleasing to the Father, not only because of who/what is sacrificed, but the generous impulse behind the sacrifice.

This blood is precious because it is divine, and because it is given from a motive of love.

The Jews on occasions were offering dodgy lambs, trying to cut corners, as if God could be deceived.

There were no corners cut with the Lamb of God. His blood was infinitely valuable, and His offering was infinitely generous.

God is offended by human sin, but more than appeased by this supreme act of love and generosity.

We do not deserve this from Jesus, but we are grateful for it.

His blood, given in death, brings us to life - first by saving us from the death that we deserve (eternal death);

Then, by our communion with this blood, we learn to become like the One we receive. That is, we become people ourselves willing to lay down our lives for others.

If we let His blood mingle with ours we are going to be changed, for the better.

The martyrs give testimony to this. They are the ones who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb; who have learnt to love as Jesus did.

This is a natural consequence if we let things go that far. (See 1 Jn 3,16: how much as a matter of course he tells us we should be willing to lay down our lives for the brethren!)

So we offer this blood to be saved from death. We drink the blood to be brought to a fuller kind of life.

Whatever weaknesses we have; whatever is lacking; each of us can get to a better place – whether we need to be encouraged, consoled, strengthened, inspired... whatever it needs. All the rough edges are smoothed out.

Can you drink the cup that I must drink, Jesus asks. There is a commitment implied if we drink His blood. But then the same drink will strengthen us to be able to make that commitment.

Fear, selfishness and all the rest, will be swept away in the force of this greater love. We might be timid disciples shivering in the corner to begin with; but we will be fortified and made able to do great things - if we drink that cup.

On this feast we give thanks for what has happened; and for what still needs to happen we seek the necessary strength.