Second Sunday After Pentecost – Sunday After Trinity

Sermon Title: Sunday after Trinity
Date: 18th June 2017
Preacher: Roxanne Addley
Church Calendar Date: Second Sunday After Pentecost
Lectionary Reading: Matthew 9: 35-10:8, Romans 5:1-11

May our meditations be pleasing to you, O Lord, as we sing praises and rejoice in you. Amen.

When I arrived here back in February, I was rather uncertain how things would go. I was used to a different tradition: a tradition without vestments, of contemporary pop music and long, thorough biblical sermons.  I also hadn’t really used the lectionary, unless I was preparing for my own morning prayer.  However, God has been good and it’s turned out to be a wonderful placement here at St Paul’s, and a time of learning many new things and meeting new people.  And, significantly, as today’s readings demonstrate, getting a feel for the flow and synergies that are built into the readings of our lectionary. You see, our readings this morning continue the themes drawn out from our sermons over the last two weeks at both Pentecost and Trinity.

You might remember that two weeks ago I preached at Pentecost on how the Holy Spirit fills us with the gifts to be a people sent out to do Christ’s mission.  Last week, Susanne preached on the Trinity and how our Creator God sent his Son to be the bridge between our earthly world and the new creation, who then also sent the Holy Spirit to sustain and nurture us, and to invite us to be part of this great mystery: to be a sent people, filled with the love and grace of God.  Well the lectionary hasn’t let up for us today.  We’ve just heard the reading from Matthew about Jesus sending out his twelve disciples in the early part of his ministry.  He says “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”

It sounds rather like today’s world to me. God created a world of abundance and plenty, where there would be enough for everyone. But today we find poverty and starvation on a global scale, coexisting with greed and wastage.  And if we look more locally to our own country Australia, surely we must be disconcerted at the lived experience of many of our indigenous communities whose quality of life and life expectancy is so much lower than those of us, the more recent immigrants to this great country.  And then if we look at our own home town, Melbourne, we too are experiencing a rising level of homelessness, and pockets of our city in which generational poverty exists.

Jesus said “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”

We are the labourers and our mission is to go out into the broken world, empowered by the holyspirit as healers, restorers, people who bring life and hope into the worlds in which we live and work.

And that is part of what Paul is saying in his letter the Romans.  He is giving us our “key messages” as a people justified by our faith, sent out to bring the good news to the world.  And three of these messages are peace, grace and hope.  Let’s look a bit closer at what Paul has to say.

Paul starts chapter 5 with the words “Therefore, since we are justified by faith” and follows this with a discourse on the results of our faith in God.  And the very first thing he says that arises from this faith, our faith, is that “we have peace with God”.  Well, the pursuit of peace seems to be a universal human obsession whether it is world peace, industrial peace, domestic peace or personal peace.  And this obsession is manifested in our search for peace and the literature that abounds in the book stores and websites on finding inner peace, domestic harmony and global security.  However, despite all this outpouring of advice and analysis, it seems to me that collectively we are failing abysmally in the peace stakes.  War is chronic in many regions of the world, domestic violence is rising in Australia and at a personal level, addictions and addictive behaviours are endemic in our society.  Where is God’s peace in all of this?  Well, Paul says that arising from our personal faith, we have peace with our creator God through Jesus Christ.  As people of faith, how do you feel God’s peace?  I have to say that all my life, I have been searching for that peace and for me it expressed itself in a restless wandering and searching for what I would do when I grew up. And it took me to my 50s before I found out! And you know what? At this time, when I don’t know what I will be doing next year, or where I will be living, I feel at greater peace than I have ever before. It’s a calmness and a trust in God that I have, born out of my faith, that wherever God leads me next year, it will be good and the harvest will be plentiful.  How do you feel God’s peace? And how can you tell your story of God’s peace to you friends, your family and to the people that you meet in your worlds?

Well, Paul next goes on to say that we are standing in His grace! God’s grace. Through faith alone, we receive God’s unsolicited, unconditional and undeserved love. And it’s not something that just pops in and out.  Paul says we are standing in it! We are supported by it, we are surrounded by it, we are secured by it.  What an amazing message is that? Through our faith, and in spite of our human frailty and our propensity to stuff things up, we are loved unreservedly by God.  Can you feel God’s love in your life? Or perhaps a better question is, how is God’s grace felt or witnessed by you in your life? In my life, this aspect of faith has been most crucial in the tough times.  Knowing that God loved me despite my husband leaving me, despite my son falling into addictions, has been a saving grace.  I certainly wouldn’t be standing here today without an absolute conviction that we are surrounded and upheld by God’s love and as Paul says later in Romans chapter 8, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God”.

And finally to Paul’s third key message, the message of hope.  Verses 1-3 of our reading say “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.”  Well, it sounds like Paul wants us to boast of the hope we have in God! And he reiterates it later on in the reading. He wants us to talk about it and get excited by it. In fact, some translations use the word “rejoice” not boast.  But to do this, we need to understand what is this hope and how is it witnessed in our own lives.  Well the glory of God is absolutely a matter of faith, something of great mystery which will only be fully known to us when we meet God.  But in the meantime, I believe that we catch glimpses of this glory in God’s creation: in a beautiful sunset, a cloudy day at the beach with the surf thundering in, in the gurgle of a baby’s laugh, in the shared understanding of a friend’s love.  These can all be flashes of the glory of God which fills us with joy and hope.

So, like two weeks ago, I ask the question: How do we take ourselves out into the world as sent and action oriented disciples?  How do we activate our Vision at St Paul’s as a caring community of Christ worshiping God, engaging the community and building connections between people of all ages and cultures?  And again I say we can invite people into our community. We have our annual dinner coming up next week. That’s a great, non-threatening opportunity. If we invite people in, encourage them, and God will do the rest.

But to have a deeper conversation, we also need to own our personal narrative. Paul has given us three key messages. Those of peace, grace and hope.  How do you express God’s peace in your life in your own words? How can you share the love and grace of God? And what are some examples of God’s glory that allow you to live in hope?  I think that if we can answer these questions for ourselves and can talk to each other about them, then we can talk to others and boast in this unifying faith that we have. I challenge you to give it a go!

So, as we prepare today for the Eucharist, let us think deeply about how God fills us with peace, grace and hope.  Let us feel the presence of God.

Peace, grace and hope be with you, Amen.