Sermon Pentecost 17 September 16, 2018

Proverbs 1:20-33                   Psalm 19       

              James 3:1-12              Mark 8:27-38

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

The Book of Proverbs falls into the category of Wisdom teaching and in the extract today pleads its own case, the author says, a life without Wisdom is a train wreck, and I’m pretty sure we would all agree with that.  The reading from James adds to Wisdom’s case, for he says a foolish tongue also leads to disaster.  It seems to me that they were both writing about our times and the foolish tongues we hear.  James’ illustrations about the horses’ bit, the ship’s rudder and the imprudent campfire, show how foolish words and the following actions can lead to disaster.  James points out that the tongue, can be used for both praising and for cursing.  Today, yesterday and tomorrow we are barraged by both good words and idiotic statements.  The latter meant to misdirect and upset the normal applecart of Life.  While we can speak against stupidity we may not be able to change its effect on us.  The only comfort we can take is that Wisdom says, stupidity will harvest its own comeuppance.  And it will, history proves that, and don’t think that too isn’t a part of God’s Plan.  God will not save us from ourselves because He has invested us with freewill.  If we don’t have freewill and find our tongue tied or our path blocked how will we ever learn, this applies as much to the child and the hot kettle as it does to us older folks.  Look at it another way, trivial perhaps but instructive.  If we prayed that our team would score a goal and God answered that prayer we would always win.  If another person prayed that their team’s goalie would save that shot that team would never lose, why wouldn’t God grant that prayer too.  So sometimes in our prayers we ask at the same time for shots that cannot be saved, and saves that are always made, a contradiction at best.  To avoid that kind of impossible contradiction using our freewill we should pray that we freely accept God’s Will.  God doesn’t allow contradictions and answers the right prayers.

But then again there are what today we call  ‘teaching moments’  when we go wrong.  Jesus uses one with his premier disciple Peter.  Jesus tells the disciples what must happen, that is, that He will die soon.  We sometimes hear similar words when we get bad news, for instance the imminent death of a loved one.  We say  “No !  No !  No !”  We deny the reality, this cannot happen !  This must not happen !  We berate the bearer of bad news for telling us the Truth !  It’s human nature.  We want nothing but good for the loved one, we would rather die than them.  But it’s not going to go down that way, what must happen, will happen.  For us mere mortals it’s Life, but for Jesus the Divine Mortal it’s God’s Plan. / Jesus knowing the suffering He will inevitably succumb to, cuts Peter off and to the quick, He calls him Satan, the ultimate tempter.  Jesus and Satan know that Jesus has to die but Satan thinks  “Why not make it more difficult for Jesus, the Saviour of the World”.  So Satan whispers in Peter’s ear and tries to weaken Jesus’ resolve to do what only He can do.  Nice work Satan, but it ain’t gonna work !  He is dealing with the Divine Mortal, the God Man, whom nobody can distract or mislead.

When we hear bad news we often miss all that is said, concentrating on the bit that hurts alone.  Of course Jesus’ Death was undeniably tragic, terrifying and traumatic.  What Peter missed was that Jesus promised He would overcome Death and rise from the Grave on the Third Day.  He would die as an all but deserted and desolate man, and would rise from the Grave triumphantly as the divine Saviour.  The import of that is huge.  It’s what Satan wanted to stop because in the Resurrection is Satan’s doom.  So all Satan is left with now is to nibble at our ears and tempt us into disbelieving the Gospel Truth of the Resurrection.  Satan, that ain’t gonna work either.  We would rather trust in Jesus’ promise of Life than in your promise of Death.  Know why ?  Because Satan can’t promise anything !  He is defeated at every turn by the Gospel Truth we know, that there is Life after Death.

How do we know ?  Well Jesus testifies to it, number one.  Two, Jesus is God the Son.  We know there is a God, because we exist.  God bless all those who don’t believe, and ask them where they came from.  They may tell you some stuff about evolution, but evolution only works if it has something to work with, that is, to evolve from.  They may go out on a limb and say that we evolved from nothing !  That’s rubbish, because nothing cannot evolve into something by itself because it is nothing.  Nothing is not just a hole in space, nothing is nothing, absolute nothing.  Wrap your mind around that if you can.  It is impossible to visualise nothing, because there is nothing to visualise.  So the evolutionist and the atheist are stuck.  Only a supernatural power, we prefer to say, divine power or God, can create anything from nothing, that divine power may rely on evolution to get things done later, but still it was God that started it all.  That’s the second way we know there is a God.  We also know God because God has touched our lives many times turning them around from disaster to good.  Like the bit in the horse’s mouth or the rudder on the ship, God gives us little nudges to bring us to salvation.  As at the beginning of this I said it is better to live in Wisdom but when we don’t God is not averse to waking us up with a bit of a shock, one way or another.  We can do our thing, often the horse will rebel or the ship will not respond, that’s the exercise of our freewill but eventually God’s prompting will prevail.  There’s actually no point in doing otherwise, because we would be going up against the immense power that created everything, we don’t stand a chance.  We are  ‘Doomed to Salvation’.  It’s inescapable, thanks be to God.  Amen.

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