Sunday, 7 September 2014
Church Army September 2014 - Sermon Transcript
CA September 2014 – Sermon St John’s Westbourne
Let me see I can scare you this morning with one word...
That being said I know many people who pray to be used in evangelism – in an advisory capacity.
Here I am Lord, send her!
However whilst not everyone is called to be an evangelist everyone is called to evangelize – to share our faith story and the story of God’s work towards the redemption of the universe.
Telling the story of God’s work in this way is what mission is all about – what is sometimes called the ‘missio-dei’ – the Mission of God.
Noting that Church of God doesn't have a mission, but the God of mission has a Church.
Evangelism as part of God’s mission is where people are brought into a personal relationship with God so that they can then partner with God in His mission. It follows therefore that the more people who enter into a personal relationship with God the more people are partnering with God in bringing about a realized Lord’s Prayer in this community, country and across the world.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.
That is why evangelism is so important.
That is what the Church Army have been doing in this country for the last 130 years, sharing faith through words and actions.
And never let us separate those two – the pure Gospel and the social Gospel – there is only one Gospel and words and actions go together like the blades of a pair of scissors.
To help in this endeavour one of our recent resources is this book called ‘Stepping into Evangelism.’
These and other resources are available by the display I have set up.
In this book you will find exercises that will help you frame your own faith story, which believe me is the most important aspect of sharing our faith. It will be our experience more than our eloquence that will speak to people most clearly, that and a life that walks the talk as well as talks the walk.
So what of the Big Story of God.
(‘The Book of God’ – Walter Waggerin)
We really need to grasp the sweep of the Scriptures, the blue print of the Bible.
We have encountered a number of important aspects of this in our readings this morning.
We began with the story of the preparations for the first Passover. This is a very important story, a bed rock story of the Jewish nation. The time God called them out of Egypt to become formed and shaped into a people peculiar to God, a people who were called to be light to the Gentiles.
And on reading this story we should hear the musical refrain that we know is to be picked up later in God’s wonderful symphony of salvation.
They obeyed these instructions and acted in faith without prior knowledge. They had done nothing particular to earn or gain God’s favour. They were God’s sovereign choice.
Most importantly we hear that heart beat rhythm…
The blood of the sacrificed lamb will cover you and the angel of death will pass over you.
We, living this side of the cross, find ourselves breathless as we realise the import of this.
Paul in his ‘magnum-opus’ the Letter to Romans will explore all of this in a deep and dense way that is almost beyond our understanding, writing as he does as a Hebrew scholar of 1st century Palestine.
(Walter Waggerin – ‘Paul’)
(Tom Wright – ‘Romans for Everyone’)
It is not easy to comment on the short section we had from this Letter. It is packed with so many things and so many things we have often got a wrong headed view about.
It links in however with our reading about the Passover as you would expect.
The Passover was about calling out a particular people to God that they might be a sign, a symbol, a light to the Gentiles, demonstrating how it is that humans should live.
But now through grace, mercy and love God has extended that invitation and made it freely available to all who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This time however it is not the blood of sacrificial lambs that bring salvation, but the blood of the Lamb of God - and yet the same principle remains.
We act by faith and accept that blood as our covering.
And in this passage from Romans 13 Paul is outlining how the new Israel should behave. How they are to walk in holiness, how they are to be a people peculiar to God, how they are to be a light to a watching world. How they are to be a people of light in a darkened world of a past night without realizing a new day has already begun. A new day that is a precursor of that great and glorious day when heaven and earth will become conjoined.
Like Lazarus called from the tomb we have been released from the grave clothes and re-clothed with Christ.
This is where our walk needs to match our talk – this is where people will notice.
And oftentimes this is isn't in the major life crisis things but in the way we are in the world. Our kindness and gentleness, our peace in the midst of troubles and above all in the love and care we have for each other.
Sad to say that a good number of our churches are a very pale reflection of the dynamic faith communities God would have them be. Faith communities in which the very palpable life of God flows through every warp and weft, their very DNA. Faith communities that whilst deeply committed at the core are open at the edges and allow people the opportunity to draw closer to the very heart of God at the centre of that community. And this is evangelism at its very best.
And everyone, yes everyone is invited in – even a Syria Phoenician woman. Let’s not get too caught up in this little banter. We can make much of it, and many scholars have. Could it be that Jesus is teasing the woman, knowing that she has a fire in her soul, knowing she is a mother and mothers will do almost anything for her children?
So, maybe knowing this he is goading her into a deeper faith and heart cry for mercy.
Maybe it is simply Jesus gaining a fuller understanding himself of what God was doing and just how wide God was going to fling open the doors.
It could also be that Jesus had gone, possibly with some of his disciples, for a bit of R&R on the North West coast, a short holiday by the beach. No one likes to be bothered when they are having down time.
(Andrew Mayes – ‘Beyond the Edge’ Spiritual Transitions for Adventurous Souls)
However, however, however - if it is that all people are called into the great company of God people there is a cost. Not the cost of gaining God’s love and favour – that, as Paul argues vehemently, is all of grace.
No, the cost is living the life of holiness. On one occasion confronted by two blind beggars Jesus asks, ‘what do you want me to do for you?’ (Wouldn’t that seem obvious.)
No, I think what Jesus is saying here is that if I heal you then your life will become transformed and you will no longer sit here day on day as a beggars.
Max Lucado in his wonderful little book called, ‘You, God’s good idea’ writes, ‘God loves you just as you are, but loves you enough not to leave you that way.’
I have watched one of the brothers at Holy Trinity Monastery go through various stages over the past few years. I have watched as he changed his clothes from ‘civilian’ clothes and now as fully professed wearing the community habit.
Wilson Carlile the founder of Church Army in 1882 had his life turned around when in his mid-twenties he embraced the Christian faith.
We have again recently embraced and rooted one of his watchwords firmly in our being a Mission Community. It is based around 3 C’s,
Conversion – have you fully embraced the love of God, painted the blood of the sacrificial lamb on all the lintels of your life?
Consecration – are you walking on a holy path, clothed in Christ with the aroma of heaven surrounding you?
Christian Community – are you deeply rooted in a community of faith. A community of faith that is both evangelized and evangelizing.
Leslie Newbiggin said that; ‘the only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.’
Thank you for your support of the Church Army.
However I end as I began because it would be only too easy for you to say, here I am Lord, send the Church Army. Then, having kindly given us financial or prayer support to sit back and think – job done.
No, the jobs not done because the symphony continues and God wants each and every one of you, individually and collectively to invite others into God’s great orchestra that will sing in the redemption of the world. A backdrop to that day when sorrow and sighing will be no more, nor death nor any of the former things. The Lamb upon the Cross has become the Lamb upon the Throne.
But they won’t know that unless someone tells them, to quote from Romans 10.14. And you are just as qualified as anyone else to tell them!
Mediation from His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XV1
And only where God is seen does life truly begin.
Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.
We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed,
Each of us is loved,
Each of us is necessary.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel,
By the encounter with Christ.
There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.