Sunday, 12 March 2017

Reflecting God's Glory - transcript of sermon Second Sunday in Lent 2017

Sermon – Second Sunday in Lent 2017

St Anne’s Brown Edge

Nicodemus knew, just as we all know that for something to ‘be born’ it requires a preceding act.  

This is the season for spring lambs and spring calves. This only happens because some time back around October the ewes were put to the tup and cows if not AI then to the bull around June time last year. Even in agriculture, the seed has to be planted and fertilised, it will not grow sitting in the dark in a barrel or bag.
For humans beings the most important preceding act goes back to Genesis 2.7 – ‘then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. ‘
For many Christian this was referenced on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of the Lenten Season with the Imposition of Ashes with the words,
‘Remember o mortal that you are dust and to dust you shall return.’
In John’s Gospel 20.22 we read ‘And with that he (Jesus) breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.”

This is quite literally a life giving second breath, a second birth – offered as gift.
When Jesus talks about being born again, Nicodemus begins to think through the mechanics, ‘how can you enter your mother’s womb a second time.’ 

However, in the wonderful prologue to John’s Gospel we read, …’But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husbands will, but born of God.
Our inherited breath from Adam is tainted with sin and brings death; the second Adam offers us the breath of new life – a life that offers life in all its fullness. (cf. John 10.10)
O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.

O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive, and should prevail;
To be fully, gloriously and wonderfully human we need to born of the water and the spirit.

Two ideas are carried in the image of being born of water. One is the natural process of birth when we are quite literally born of water. The other idea is spiritual cleansing as in Baptism.
However, natural birth and being born again are acts of grace freely given, to be lovingly accepted and embraced.

With reference to Abraham, Paul argues in the passage we heard from Romans about grace and the life of Faith being a gift that we cannot earn.
‘For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Now the wages of the workers are not credited as a gift, but as an obligation.
This is picked up even stronger in the Letter to the Ephesians,
For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life.… Ephesians 2.8-10
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life.…

There is a tradition in the Orthodox Church called Theosis,* which is about our growing into the very likeness and fullness and stature of Christ, picking up passages such as we find in Ephesians 4.13,
‘And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature.’

What a joy, what a calling and what a privilege to be the image bearers of God towards His good creation and towards others – Imago Dei reflected in the mirror you look into.

Imago Dei - the image of God, in the faces of those around you today.

In those who have been born of the water and of the spirit.

In those who have been born again.
In those who have opened up their hearts and said…

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee

The second century St Irenaeus said, ‘the glory of God is living man.’ 
                              (“Gloria Dei est vivens homo.”)

That is our true destiny, our one true calling – to reflect back glory to God through our humanity enlivened by God’s Spirit.   
Just what might that mean, to reflect glory back to God in each and every situation we find ourselves in.

In each and every conversation we have.
In each and every engagement that we have with people.

In particular just what does that mean, to reflect back glory to God, when we face challenging or difficulties – as surely we all do from time to time.
There is a line in a beautiful and very meaningful contemporary worship song ‘In Christ Alone’, that has caused some controversy -

Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied
Some change that line that talks of God’s wrath and instead sing…

Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The Love of God was glorified.

‘For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’  (John 3.17)
Even as he was lifted up, as Moses lifted up the snake to bring healing to all who looked upon it, so Jesus, in his death brings healing for all who will look to him with the eyes of faith and accept by grace that we can now be inheritors of the Faith of Abraham. Born not of flesh and blood, as ethnic Israel, but rather born again of the Spirit of God.

As we go out into the world this coming week, to our places of work, to the school, at various clubs and gatherings, and to the shops, how we going to testify that we have been born again and reflect glory back to God.
Maybe by heeding Matt 5.16…

‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’  
Therefore, the question to each and every one of us here this morning is just how bright is the lamp of faith in our lives?

 Let us pray…
Prayer –

O Holy and Ancient of Days, Good Father and Mother to us all; we thank you that we are most gloriously made and most wonderfully born again in Christ. May we reflect your glory in all that we do, think and say and help us to call forth from your creation your praise and glory. To the end that Your Kingdom may come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen


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