Sermon Epiphany 4 January 28, 2018

Deuteronomy 18:15-20         Psalm 111         

          1 Corinthians 8:1-13             Mark 1:21-28

May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Every week people like me sit down and rack our brains trying to find the right words to interpret the Scriptures and to present them to people honestly, even with inspiration.  It’s not easy, and it’s not like writing an essay for marks.  An A minus is not good enough especially if it misleads.  And speaking a misleading word can lead to death !  Moses wrote down God’s word to us  “any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in My name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak – that prophet shall die“.  That focuses a preacher’s attention alright.

But speech is not only words, you know that speech includes actions too.  So Paul deals with that issue in his First letter to the Corinthians.  He says that when people see the things we do they identify those actions with what we believe and that may influence those who otherwise respect us.  So if we do something seemingly inconsistent with our beliefs others may assume that it’s ok to do that thing too.  If a man just thirsty for a beer, is seen going into a bar with  ‘adult’  entertainment, even if he never looks at the stage, he is labelled as a person who is happy with the manipulation and exploitation of both men and women that goes on in there – a beer at one of the local pubs would be more wholesome.  However, staggering out of any of those premises would bring on another undesirable label.  But life is meant to be enjoyed and sometimes that involves a beer or a flutter on the ponies.

We find some helpful guidance in the Wisdom of Sirach  (31:27-31)  it says  “Wine is very life to human beings if taken in moderation.  What is life to one who is without wine ?  It has been created to make people happy.  Wine drunk at the proper time and in moderation is rejoicing of heart and gladness of soul.  Wine drunk to excess leads to bitterness of spirit, to quarrels and stumbling.  Drunkenness increases the anger of a fool to his own hurt, reducing his strength and adding wounds.  Do not reprove your neighbour at a banquet of wine, and do not despise him in his merrymaking”.  Those are wise words that we can apply usefully to all Creation.  All things were created for our benefit and we should rejoice in that and we do at times like at Harvest Time, Shrove Tuesday coming up, Christmas and Easter.  But the overall Christian motto is to not abuse, to not overindulge.  When we are having a genuinely good time non-Christians will look at us with envy and want to join the party.  Although the Cross is absolutely essential to our theology and belief in Redemption we are not to live every day as though we are carrying a Cross and mope around giving-up this or that pleasure  (Matthew 6:16).

We don’t read about it in the Bible but I bet Jesus let His hair down now and again.  I bet He enjoyed the fresh morning air and a swim on a hot day.  I bet He enjoyed a well cooked meal.  I bet He enjoyed a soft warm bed.  I bet He enjoyed a good joke.  Otherwise He wouldn’t have been human.  For the record – He was.

One trap we must not fall into is being politically correct though by not saying or doing something because of current perhaps misguided majority opinion.  We can get our guide on that from our Master.  Jesus never said the  ‘right’  thing to please others.  He spoke the Truth.

It’s currently unpopular to say anything contrary to the present sentiment toward our indigenous brothers and sisters, no matter how truthful it might be.  People forget that there are always two sides to any argument and the only way to resolve an argument is to air it.  The real trouble here is that people are arguing on two different planes – it needs a Christian to be the peacemaker.  It’s currently unpopular to speak in defence of men accused of sexual predation because #MeToo and #Time’sUp are so powerful but just like the men and women who were victimised they too are fragile humans and need understanding, help and justice – Patrick Brown and his disastrous attempted romantic advances is an example.  We are discouraged from holding Pro-Life opinions, indeed we are forbidden, if we want to get a grant from our current government or run for office in it.  The Voice of the unborn is thereby stifled but someone has to speak up.  Frankly with all the noise about we are losing our ability to hear the Truth so people rush to judgement !

Christianity has just about always been a political movement, a social movement, as well as a religious one.  If we take our faith seriously we have to be involved in society speaking Truth to Power.  ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake’  (Matthew 5:9-10).  Though I do believe in the separation of Church and State because when the Church or the Mosque, any religious institution, have been in power they have done some awful things – clerics running the country would be no better that a TV celebrity doing the same thing – a mess.  That said, Christian principles should underlie the thinking and actions of government.

Jesus had the ability to identify what was wrong, and that which was wrong knew it !  He called out what was offensive even as He was being accused of wanting to destroy the status quo, society and the Jewish people.  It’s so much better to keep things on an even keel, as Caiaphas the High Priest said of Jesus  “it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed”  (John 11:50b).  Evil loves things to go on just the way they are because it can just continue to exploit without the inconvenience of using extra energy to devise new schemes and find new weaknesses in the object of its attention – us.  But the Teacher is here, guiding us and strengthening us against those who oppose the Truth.  We need to Call Out the Evil Spirits of our age even if we are in the minority – especially if we are the minority.  The irony of Caiaphas’ statement is that one man did die for the Salvation of all by overcoming Evil in society speaking Eternal Truth to those who did not want to hear it.  We must never forget that !  We must follow Him !  And in so doing use our Christian voice for Justice !  Amen.

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