Sunday, 9 August 2015

St John's Littleworth Summer Season Sermons - 'Developing the Church' 09/08/15

St John the Baptist Littleworth August 9th 2015                  

Sermon Series on Ephesians – Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2

Living Your Life 1

Whenever you see ‘therefore’ in Paul’s writing it is good to ask what is it there for?

It is there for to remind us of how we should live as a result of a set of teaching, insight or exhortation that has just been offered.

So what insight or teaching have we just received – i.e. what do the few preceding verse talk about.

Basically it’s about living in a new way now that you have put on Christ – been made new in the attitude of your minds.

Ephesians 4. 22-23 ‘You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’
And in Paul’s Letter to the Romans…

Romans 12:2 is “Do not let the world squeeze you into its mould, but instead let yourself be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Believing always affects behaviour, with perhaps the exception of some mental disorders.

Everyone has a faith and a belief system, sometimes referred to as a ‘world view’ and that affects their behaviour.

Those who have put on Christ are now to have a different behaviour arising out of a different set of beliefs.

Lies become truth…

Anger isn’t allowed to fester but it dealt with…

Stealing must stop and honest labour pursued…

Filthy talk transformed to wholesome and edifying conversations…

Bitterness, rage, anger, brawling and malice – all must be become kindness and compassion.

I want to suggest that our belief directs our behaviour under two broad headings - bombs or blessings.

Human history both ancient and contemporary has far too many examples of belief becoming bombs.

Bombs of course in the quite literal sense of the word, strapped around human bodies to cause as much death and injury as possible to those who don’t accept or share our beliefs.

But there are also other kinds of bombs.

Bombs like the ones Paul mentions here.

Bitterness, anger and rage such as led a man recently to get out of his car after a minor accident and stab a 79 year old man to death.

You can fill in the details – we all know the stories and they can pile up one on top of the other.

Loud, foul mouthed mothers bawling out at their kids using obscenities. O yes, we are called to love them – but not their foul mouthed obscene behaviour that is instilling in their kids that shouting and swearing and cursing are normal behaviour and a way to get things done.

But there is other more subtle bombs people drop – and we need to be on our guard we don’t do the same.

That little word, that cynical remark, that hint of doubt – the unkind comment on Facebook or by Twitter or email.
“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you, I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you.’  Genesis 12. 2-3

Thus Abram receives the call from God to be a blessing to all people on the earth.

Jesus accuses the leaders, the scribes and the elders of having lost sight of this call. 

Ethnic Israel had become self-serving instead of being a light to the Gentiles demonstrating how to live as authentic human beings in God’s created order.

Jesus personifies Israel and seeks to bring his people back to the Abrahamic calling of being a blessing not only to ethnic Israel but also to the Gentiles – to all the earth.

‘The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the Good News.’

The Law and the Prophets and the Temple where like a pedagogue who had the task of taking a child to the teacher – now the Teacher had come and all is being fulfilled.

The Teacher establishes a new community, a new Israel who are children of promise and grace, not of birth and race. Paul argues this very forcibly, particularly in his Letter to the Romans.

And also in Galatians…

‘For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.’

And what is the task of this new Israel, what is their calling?

As children of Abraham does it not follow that we inherit that same calling as our father in the faith?

To be a blessing to all peoples on the earth.

This calling is wonderfully explored in Graham Tomlin’s book – ‘The Widening Circle, Priesthood as God’s way of blessing the world.’

Also ‘Rediscovering the Ministry of Blessing’ by Russ Parker.

What we believe affects the way we behave.

Let me ask you what do you believe about Jesus?

What do believe about the Community of Faith, the Church, the Bride of Christ?

What do you believe about this Community of Faith, here at St John’s?

What do believe about the Lord’s Prayer?

What do you believe about Jesus’ return and the redemption of the cosmos with 
heaven and earth conjoined?

What do you believe about your part in this enterprise?

Michael Quoist in his book ‘The Christian Response’ says…

‘You are a unique and irreplaceable actor in the drama of human history, and Jesus Christ has need of you to make known his salvific work in this particular place and at this particular moment in history.’

Do you believe that – if so, how is that going to affect your behaviour on Monday?

Today we are God’s gathered people receiving blessings.

Tomorrow we will be God’s dispersed people; each of us with a unique opportunity to dispense blessings to the people we encounter in our daily lives.

Later in the Service we will hear these most important words – 

  ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’ -

           as we go may our prayer be…

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. 

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