Sermon Pentecost 7 July 8, 2018

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10             Psalm 48                   

2 Corinthians 12:2-10            Mark 6:1-13

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

The humble bumble bee.  The humble bumble bee cannot fly.  Like the Emu, the Ostrich and the Penguin bees should be flightless, what’s one more or less flightless insect, one way or the other, except that bees have a hugely important job to do in Nature, they pollinate.  We are largely dependent on them for our food.  Some scientists in the aerospace industry say bees are too big for their wingspan and are aerodynamically wrong.  So there we have it – bumble bees cannot fly !  Those scientists would never design an aeroplane like that, it wouldn’t ever get off the ground.  Case closed – except bumble bees do fly over great distances and at great heights !  The scientists had their eyes closed to the ingenious workings of the humble bee.  Instead of flapping their wings up and down they do something like a Butterfly Stroke in swimming.

Presumably we were never meant to swim but we do.  All we have to do is breathe in, lunge forward and take our feet off the bottom, then move our hands and feet, if we can’t manage the Butterfly Stroke the dog-paddle will do.

Christianity is a lot like that.  If you believe, and follow the instructions, you can do things you never thought were possible.  According to those scientists God obviously forgot to tell the bees they couldn’t fly, indeed He told them the opposite, they believed Him and they did.  He tells us the same.  We too have a hugely important job to do for God.

Just before today’s Gospel, a leader of the synagogue, a man called Jairus had great faith in Jesus, and begged Him to come and heal his dying daughter.  By the time Jesus got there she had died but Jesus brought her back to life.  It was only Jairus’ belief that Jesus could do the seeming impossible that his daughter lived – his faith and the Grace that Jesus bestowed upon her revived her.  More about Grace later.

The girl died when Jesus was held up by another supplicant a woman with an unstoppable haemorrhage, so, one thing at a time.  Don’t let life overwhelm you, take one thing at a time the way Jesus did.  Jesus healed the woman first, her healing came about because of her great faith and His Grace, then He tended to the girl.

Then we hear He travelled to Nazareth and preached in the Synagogue.  His words were well received at first but then a whole bunch of prejudices came up and got in the way of belief.  How in the world could Jesus a man of low birth teach them anything ?  Surely He lacked the schooling and abilities of those born into prominent families.  To the people of Nazareth  “this guy is a nobody !  So ignore Him”.  They missed out on an enormous opportunity because their prejudices got in the way of them seeing the Truth.

Do we do that in our lives ?  I think if we are honest we do it all the time.  And history shows it is not a modern failing either.  The prophet Jeremiah, is a good example.  He warned his people of Exile, but they rejected him and his teaching, because he did not belong to the elite – the people suffered by not listening.  Jesus’ history is probably the best example of not belonging to the elite but speaking the Truth.  And many lesser saints have lost their lives because of people’s disbelief in the Truth of their words.  During the Reformation a woman of low birth named Ann Askew is a prime example.  She denied the doctrine of Transubstantiation, where the Bread of Communion is said to be changed to the actual Body of Christ, likewise with the wine.  She said  “I know God made man, but nowhere in Scripture does it say man made God”.  She was tortured brutally, so badly in fact that she had to be carried in a chair to her execution as all her joints had been pulled out and she was burnt at the stake for speaking a Truth.  We know better today.

This disregard for Truth exists in the secular world too, lives could have been saved if Frank Whittle’s invention of the jet engine had been adopted by the RAF during the Second World War, but because he hadn’t gone to the right school as a child his invention was discounted by those who had.  What could he possibly know that they didn’t ?  So the Axis powers developed the jet engine first and got the upper hand over the Allies in the air for a costly while.

Alan Turing a brilliant mathematician, who broke the code of the German Enigma telegraph machine, was cut off from society because of his homosexuality driving him to take his own life, and who can tell what was never discovered because of that ?  Prejudice is a killer of ideas and people, whereas Faith creates better ideas and people.

If God were prejudiced I bet things would be tough for us too !  But thanks be to God, God is not.  In truth God operates on a different plane altogether.  God operates on the basis of Grace.  Plain and simple Grace is God’s generosity toward us.  And it’s not a generosity in response to anything we have given God.  When someone does something nice for us we usually respond in a generous way, a nice gift or something, hopefully something they need.  God doesn’t need anything.  Often God’s Grace is given to those who really don’t deserve it.  We usually don’t do that.  If someone offends us we are more than likely to take revenge or at the very least have bad thoughts about them – curse them even.  Grace is the opposite of a curse because Grace brings Blessings.

I really feel sad for the people of Nazareth, I think Jesus did too, because He continued to minister to them even though they by-and-large rejected Him.  The Good News is that even if we reject God, God doesn’t reject us, God stands at the door ready for us to let Him in, into our hearts and then into our lives.

We often pray the  ‘Grace’  at the end of meetings asking God to keep His Grace and Love and Fellowship ever with us.  Why ?  Because we know that if we live with God in our lives they will be good.  Not necessarily successful in an economic or social way, but good and wholesome.  From personal experience I know that going against the grain is hard but I have found out that if I try and follow the example of God’s Grace towards me and be gracious to others in whatever way they need then my life is full and free, I am not encumbered by a guilty conscience, or not excessively so, as when I had challenged God’s intention for me.  Rely on God’s Grace and all will be well, live by the example of God’s Grace and your life will be more so.  May the Grace of God which passes all understanding therefore be always with you.  Amen.

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