Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 Psalm 14 1 Timothy 1:12-17 Luke 15:1-10
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
Every week we gather here to worship God and reflect on His message to us. We are probably not as attuned to hearing God’s messages as were Jeremiah, David, Paul and Luke who wrote the Readings today but we can try – at least we can try. David in the Psalm says that many do not even try to hear God. David calls them fools, for indeed they are. He talks of those who in their foolishness deny God. The beauty of that for them is that they are free to lead immoral lives not caring about the people and the world we live in, but instead they can live exclusively for their own pleasure and profit – they are totally self-centred. Of course, not all non-believers are self-centered, and most I would guess live ethical lives but they do so for humanistic reasons, realising that bad behaviours and actions harm society in the long run. They are able to look beyond self-interest for the improvement of the Common Good. The Common Good is inward looking though, being only concerned with the here-and-now. The Common Good is also so elusive in definition. For example, would it be better for all sick or old people to be ‘put down’ after all they are using up cash in healthcare that could be spent on food production or better roads for the rest, the Common Good. And as you cannot put a price on human life, it is worthless, so not worthy to be saved ! And as long as their remains are dealt with in an ecological way, they will have no influence, no impact, no benefit or drag on the future. Their lives are over, they are lost in history. Let’s get on with the living says the humanist.
What deters us from going down that path is that we all realise our dependency on each other. When might that old or infirm person be ‘useful’ ? The mathematician Stephen Hawking comes to mind as being very ‘useful’ to all ! It is then not a question of efficiency but a question of utility. Well that doesn’t sound so good either does it ? All of those value judgements seem foolish and wrong, and they are, because they come from a fool, the non-believer.
So then we have to ask ‘on what basis shall we live ?’ Let’s start with the question what is the purpose of life ? And then how did we get here ? The purpose of life is surely simply to live, to exist. By itself life has no, what we call, morality, bugs eat bugs, fish eat fish, birds eat birds, it’s just survival of the fittest. So life’s goal is to live and some will do anything or promise anything for just the opportunity of having more life. So if that is the purpose of life how did we get here, what gave us life ? I suggest it was not something inanimate. I cannot conceive that I was conceived by a rock, or a cloud, or a wave. I was conceived by my parents, and they their parents before them, and so on and so on until . . . . Until what ? Until the first parents were created, same for the birds, the bees, the flowers, the trees. So something with complete, ultimate and infinite pre-existence created life. I’m happy to call that something God. Putting the two together there is a God and it is supreme foolishness to deny it.
God created us. If you are like me, and I know you are in this respect, when we make something we really become attached to it, we are proud of it. From the bookmark in kindergarten, the clay ashtray in elementary school, the rickety bookshelf of high school, to the more sophisticated and demanding sunroom addition or the landscape painting of your backyard. All are dear to us. I can’t imagine the grief of the Fort McMurray people who returned home to find all the things they cherished, many of them their own work, gone ! Destroyed ! A piece of them had gone up in flames, lost forever. The same for victims of floods who saw their houses inundated with water or swept away in a river, the same for victims of tornadoes, homes and lives blown away in seconds. Years of loving work gone in a trice.
We know our God is a God of love, Who created us and all that surrounds us. Through the revelations recorded by Jeremiah, David, Paul, Luke and others we have come to know that as the beloved of God, God wants us to be always close to Him. God is the living principle of ‘Being’, and wants us to share in it with Him. We respond to His wish by the sacrament of baptism, which is the sign of belonging and being committed to God. Later we confirm that and remind ourselves weekly of it as we reaffirm our faith in the words of the Creeds. But we are human and sometimes we act foolishly, we deny, ignore, forget and forsake our faith, because we have something more immediate than our eternal lives to deal with. That of course is a pretty good definition of foolishness. It is easy to stray. And Jesus talks about that today as He relates the story of the self-absorbed sheep that keeps its focus on the closest blade of grass in front of him, then another, then another until he has wandered far away, just satisfying his immediate hunger, not caring about where he is going, where his appetite is leading him. That echoes the way of so many lives ! But the shepherd has the same feelings as the people of Fort McMurray. He is devastated at the loss of his beloved sheep and searches all over the hills and vales distraught until he finds the errant sheep, and then he is overjoyed at having his lost sheep back. That is God, first of all, when we are baptised, because at that time we renounce Evil. And it is God, when we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness, which is always there. We take a pledge at our Baptism and our Confirmation to be true to the vows we make then. It is easy to stray from our vows but we do not live our lives in isolation, we live as a Christian family, and we are pledged to support each other as we individually and jointly wrestle with the problems of life, we are pledged to help each other to live in Faith. All who deny or ignore God are like lost sheep. How much joy would there be in this church if the lost were to find themselves here ? And how much joy in heaven ? Today and every day we have the opportunity to bring about that Joy, live so, and make it happen. Amen.