Sermon Lent 4 March 31, 2019

Isaiah 44:1-8              Psalm 95:1-7                         

1 Peter 2:4-10                        John 17:6-19

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

Today we have drawn together the ancient celebrations of Ember and Rogation Days.  Days when planting and the coming harvest are very much in mind.  God has ordained all things, including the seasons and soil, sun and shade, showers and storms upon which we rely.  God ordained that things would grow produce fruit and seeds, which would shrivel and seemingly die, before, in due time, taking in water, freeing their nutrients and starting new life all over again, year after year, for all eternity.  You can’t put that down to mere chance, there is something holy going on in the ground and in the plants, in the seas and in the sky, right now !  Science is slowly discovering how things have been put together.  The inert elements of primordial Creation have been brought together to live and to have life each in accordance with God’s wonderful purpose.  And I mean wonder full !

Hydrogen and oxygen, and iron and carbon and all the other elements, lacking life in themselves, have been brought together in such a way that life exists.  There is nothing in them that is living, they need the sanctifying hand of the great Creator to make life appear.  That is a miracle folks !

Happily the Creator built simplicity into the system, so that we mere humans can operate the process of sowing, cultivating, harvesting, storing and consuming.  And a further miracle occurs.  In everyday life, everything runs down.  Inefficiencies in everything we make reduce what we have to work with the next time round.  We make a tool or a machine, eventually it breaks.  We throw the broken part or the whole thing away.  That’s inefficiency;  we build inefficiency into everything we make, but not so with God.  We plant a seed and tens and hundreds and thousands of seeds are produced in the season of growth from each one.  That’s a miracle !  And it’s not a miracle so that God can sit back and say  “Look what I can do !”  No.  It’s a miracle because we and other creatures can feed on those plants and seeds and there will still be enough left to replant and nurture for the next season.  It’s Cornucopia year after year.  Thanks be to God.

And now another miracle is taking place.  We were created a long time ago.  In the beginning we had knowledge of God, as people we knew God, we chatted with Him and got on real well.  But over time we lost track of our old Friend.  When a friend moves to another country or even just far away it takes effort to keep the relationship going.  We do new things, things that our friend is not familiar with and are difficult to explain.  So contact gradually slows down until it’s only at Christmas or Easter, when we say nice things to them, how much we miss them, and send them one of those long annoying letters detailing everything we did during the year;  giving thanks for the new grandchildren, being thankful that Curtis graduated and got a job, that Tammy found a young man she likes, although you’re not too sure about him, and you tell where you went on vacation et cetera, et cetera and so forth.  Then you finish the letter saying  “Got to go now, mother is waiting for her tea” !  It’s only an excuse and your friend can see through it like through a clear glass window.  Life gets in the way again of really talking with your friend.

Isn’t that how many treat God ?  We spend time doing Church at Christmas and Easter and then get on with celebrating the New Year, shovelling snow and getting the kids to their sports commitments.  It’s a real shame because our Friend, God, had something different in mind.  In this world of abundance He thought we would want to spend time with Him, sitting under a tree, having a beer, eating a sandwich and chatting about things that concern and cheer us both.

So to get our attention God chose a specific race of people.  That didn’t work out so well because the people acted the same way we do with our distant friends.  So God said  “To heck with it !  Do I have to do everything Myself ?  What’s up with these people ?”  So God did.  He came to us in the human form of Jesus of Nazareth.  You know what happened !  We had grown away from our old Friend so much that we rejected His Son too.  But God didn’t give up.  Jesus had assembled a bunch of regular people.  Not the elites of His age but good honest working men and women, who would tell their friends, not about what they had done but what God was doing, in their lives and does in everyone’s life.  It was the Good News of the day.  Some they spoke to thought it was  “Fake News”  and they suffered for it.  But time has shown that it was real Good News for all people.  From the seeds Jesus planted in the hearts of those first few friends has grown a Church billions strong and still growing.  That sounds a lot like Rogation time doesn’t it ?

We are in Rogation of not only the physical world but the spiritual world too.  I really like the way Peter puts it in his first letter that we read today, he says  “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house”.  The only question is what kind of living stone do you want to be;  the foundation stones are already in place.  You could be perhaps a piece in a nice smooth wall, bearing the load and keeping the elements out, opening up and supporting the windows and doors that let the people and the Light in.  You could be one of those gorgeous flying buttresses gently giving stability to the walls so that the weight of the top doesn’t collapse the whole structure.  Your choice but I hope you make it soon because now is the time for new things to happen, anew.  Amen.

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