4th Sunday After Pentecost

Sermon Title: 4th Sunday After Pentecost – July 2017
Date: 2nd July 2017
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers
Church Calendar Date: 4th Sunday after Pentecost
Lectionary Reading: Genesis 22: 1-14, Psalm 13, Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:40-42

Last Sunday was a great occasion as we witnessed and supported William and John as they responded to Christ and confirmed as theirs, the baptismal promises which were made on their behalf by their godparents, some years earlier.

Today we heard the same questions that was asked of John and William and were answered by the parents and godparents.

So, to look at two of those questions.

The first question is:

Do you turn to Christ?

Without Jesus there is no Christianity. The question which we need to ask ourselves is ‘who is he?’  So many claim him to be just a prophet, an inspiring storyteller/teacher, a healer.  Our Christian faith says that he is God’s Son and really we only come to understand this by getting to know him, not just reading or talking about Jesus, but getting to know him. It’s about a relationship. Jesus walked the talk. He showed us how to love each other. He showed us what God is like… a loving God who wants a relationship with each of us… with you.

So, yes, reading the Bible is really important and so is praying. Praying opens us up to see the bigger picture, to talk to God or sit silently to hear God’s voice. Prayer changes us. It doesn’t change God’s mind but allows us to enter into this relationship of Love and therefore we are changed as we become enveloped in that love. There are many ways to pray and another time we can look at those.

Worship is also another important way to be in relationship, not only with God, but with each other. I remember when I was a child, going to church was a bit scary. The theology back then was that you went to church only to commune with God and so no one looked at each other and everyone (as a young child) looked rather serious. Sure, we need moments of our own contemplation with receiving the bread and the wine, with listening to the music and gazing at the stain glass windows, but we are human beings who need each other and need each other to be real and vulnerable. Being willing to be our true selves with each other and with God.
A question Jesus asked two followers was, “What are you looking for?” what do you really want in life? What are your greatest hopes and desires? What do you long for? The two followers then spent the day with Jesus. I’m sure they were asking him lots of questions and listening to him and how he responded to them. Their response then, was to go and share what it’s like to spend quality time with Jesus. He shows us how to be loving and vulnerable.  (John 1:35-42)

St Anselm said this “Lord, let me seek you in desiring you: and desire you in seeking you.  Let me find you by loving you, and love you in finding you.”

Do you turn to Christ?  The response of the parents and godparents on behalf of their child/godchild was:  I turn to Christ.

The next question asked in the baptism and confirmation service is:

Do you repent of your sins?

From the Pilgrim series which is a course for the Christian journey, it says this:
“Sin isn’t just the big things we do wrong.  If it were, many of us might conclude we are doing ok.  Sin is just as much what we fail to do: the good things left undone as much as the selfish things we did do.  And sometimes all of us lie in bed at night regretting missed opportunities for good or harsh words spoken.  We all fall short of our own standards, let along the standards of God.  That is sin… all these things cut us off from God and from each other.

To repent of our sins then is not just saying sorry.  Repent means to re-orientate your life. You may recall Jesus saying in Matthew’s gospel, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17). Repent, turn your life around and know that you are forgiven so that you may lead a new life in Christ.[i]

St Paul in his letter to the Romans that we heard today, reflects on sin and sees it as relationships which have gone wrong resulting in alienation from God, from others and from ourselves. A t the beginning of this chapter, Paul had been speaking about baptism. Death to the old life and beginning a new life. You will hear those words as I bless the water for baptism “may they die to sin, rise to newness of life, and continue for ever in Jesus Christ our Lord…”

The old life is when we have surrendered to sin. It’s got a good hold on us.  The new life says, you don’t have to surrender to sin because the new life can lift you beyond them. It’s not that we won’t ever sin again, but we don’t have to keep beating ourselves up but learn from our mistakes. In baptism Paul says that when we accept God’s generosity, his love, celebrated in baptism, we enter a new way of life. We open ourselves to God’s goodness and so we not only experience forgiveness and hope but also begin a journey where that love produces love in and through us.  God’s goodness and generosity reproduces itself.[ii]

Which leads me to our gospel today:  “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

We are ‘in Christ’. We are the church, the body of Christ and so in a lovely way it’s quite circular. You are welcomed, Christ is welcomed and God is welcomed.  To live into this welcoming or ‘receiving’ relationship, we support and care for one another and ourselves.

Ken Morgan who is acting Head of Parish Mission and Resourcing for our Diocese wrote in this month’s TMA. He said in effect that Love is the core of our relationships in Christ. As disciples, each of us need to start from the place of love. The two great commandments of love God, love neighbour and self, I would call the heartbeat of our Christian faith.  From the evangelical side of our church, many have the 3DM (3 dimensions) characteristic which is ‘Up, In and Out.’ Up (towards God), In (toward each other) and Out (toward those outside the church). In the more liturgical/sacramental side of the church, we would say ‘cultivating personal spirituality, building community, and encouraging prophetic action. (3DM –Andy Goodacre; Tracey Matthews on the latter).  We have more things in common than we realise!

When we live in the new life with Christ after baptism, our world view can expand and Love produces love in and through us.

The Lord be with you

[i] Pilgrim: a course for the Christian Journey ‘Turning to Christ’ pages 49,50

 

[ii] Parts of this last paragraph taken from: First Thoughts on Year A: Pentecost 3 William Loader 2017