Sermon Pentecost 26 November 13, 2016
Isaiah 65:17-25 Canticle 3 (Isaiah 12:2-6) 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Luke 21:5-19
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
I guess it’s from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians that we get the Protestant Work Ethic ‘if any would not work, neither should he eat’ that’s the language in the King James’ Version but it is not exactly how we understand it today. Today we understand that ‘anyone unwilling to work should not eat’ making room for those who cannot work for legitimate reason. And today that legitimate reason is often that a person cannot even find work, let alone be able to choose whether to work or not. The change in understanding came about because we applied Jesus words “I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matthew 25:35). Charity is a Christian thing to do, just read 1 Corinthians 13 on charity and love to support a better understanding. People make a big mistake as they did with the Work Ethic when they think they can tear the Bible to pieces and quote stuff out of context it’s called proof-texting, if we want to we can all find something in the Bible to support any position we like, but for a true understanding it has to be read as a whole. Any story can be pillaged and a particular and wrong opinion taken from it. For example the slaughter recorded in the Old Testament cannot be said to be the story and meaning of it. On the contrary the Old Testament starts with the gift of Creation and ends with the expectation of Salvation as the people have worked their way through Life. The New Testament is the fulfillment of that expected Salvation and concludes with Redemption and a New Creation. This time we hope to get it right !
So those unable to work will be fed, it’s only those who are not willing to support at least themselves who will go hungry. There is a banquet set for us in the Kingdom. Will you find a place at the table or will you go hungry at the heavenly banquet ? There was a caliph of Iraq who died in the year 1258 his name was Mu’tasim and he was very rich and had gold decorations everywhere in his palace, even his dinner plates and cups were made of solid gold (any resemblance to a living person is pure coincidence). He was ruthless and was eventually deposed and imprisoned with his golden dinner service, but he was given no food and died of starvation. The irony of having beautiful, valuable plates and no food to put on them is not one I want to face at the heavenly banquet because I wasn’t willing to work at spreading the Good News. Those unwilling to work although capable will go hungry. I’m sure you will join me in wanting to avoid that nasty fate.
Jesus in the Gospel testifies to the fleeting value of earthly things too, like those gold plates, and even such a wonderful thing as the Temple in Jerusalem, which was dedicated to God and adorned with great gifts in praise of God. It was a holy place but it too would fall. How much less then are our humble churches ? It is wonderful to make gifts to God but you know God doesn’t really need them, we actually give these things for ourselves, for our own satisfaction. And in time these lovely gifts can become a financial burden and then an emotional burden. Far better to be modest (and we have been). God doesn’t need a house He was happy wandering about the desert and presenting Himself in the Tabernacle, a mere tent ! After all when the Universe is your living room what do you need a house for ? The Middle Ages were famous for building great cathedrals, with sculpture and painting of amazing quality depicting religious characters and with gorgeous stained glass windows telling The Story. And the music, marvellous stuff that lifts our spirits almost up to Heaven ! And we have gone on and on adding this and that and praising God in the gifts. But we should go back to basics. We have two sacraments Baptism and the Eucharist. What do we need ? Water, we have rivers and lakes galore close by and taps, that’s enough. We need bread and wine, we can easily make both. We don’t really need buildings we have the great outdoors and homes to meet in.
In these years when we celebrate significant anniversaries we must look beyond this church building, beautiful though it is, loaded with memories and celebrations as it is. The real Church is the Body of Christ, which is you and me and billions of others who know and worship the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is here with us today. Not contained within these walls but contained within us and happily all around us and everywhere.
We need to keep focused. Jesus asks us not to be distracted by people or things which are not true and not focused on Him. There are false leaders but all we really have to do is believe and remember that Jesus is the Messiah, the only Messiah, and the final prophet, there is no other. No other prophets have come to us since Jesus, there is no need for them. So here is the challenge what is true ? This is where you come in big time. Does what you hear sound reasonable ? Is it consistent with what you know ? Would you be prepared to defend it ? And on what basis ? Biblical truth is reliable. In the grand scheme of things God is perfect and eternal. Less than perfect means corruption. Corruption means decay and that is far from perfection. So God is eternal and perfect. It stems from that that God is Truth. Truth is in the Bible so know your Bible. If you know your Bible you have a better than average shot to know the Truth. We are coming to a time when we learn about an amazing miracle, Christmas. God came to live as one of us. Truth came to live as one of us. As we move on to our next major anniversary it is time to do the work of spreading the Gospel of Truth, we cannot rest on our laurels or sit idly by. There is work to be done, much work to be done before we sit down at the Table. Jesus gives a nugget of great advice ‘don’t worry about preparing great speeches when you speak the Good News’ He will give you the words as you speak from your heart. Go to it ! The Table is already set ! Amen.