Sunday, July 12, 2020

Gospel? What a riot!

Sermon for the fifth Sunday after Trinity

No good deed ever goes unpunished.

You've heard that saying and probably have first hand experience as to what it means. All you want to do is a little kind, noble and helpful act of generosity and you end up causing mayhem.

The Apostles certainly feel that way. All Paul and Barnabas want to do is preach the Good News and they manage to cause civil unrest in Iconium. All they want to do is heal the sick and they inadvertently whip up the people into a pagan frenzy. 

But then what would you want to happen? 
What has to happen for things to ran smoothly for once?


You approach a town that has never heard of Christ. You preach the Gospel. What then? What do you want to happen?

Ideally, we would want everyone to say, "I believe!" change their lives, build a church, find a priest, and start the business of preaching the Gospel themselves. 

That would be wonderful but it seems too easy. If people are so ready to drop their beliefs for Christianity, what will stop them from dropping Christianity for the next popular religion?

If anything it is the people who resist the most who will take Christianity most seriously. We see this in St Paul, himself. It may look as if St Peter, St James and St John turn to Christ at the drop of a hat, but they do struggle with Jesus' teaching and even abandon Him at His arrest in Gethsemane.

Christianity comes with a struggle.


Our Lord points out the reality of preaching in His parable of the sower. Some people just won't get the Gospel at all. Some people will treat it as a fashionable idea. Some people will only hold onto the Gospel for as long as it is convenient. Some will hold onto it, wrestle with it, question it, be hurt by it but will grow and grow and grow so that not only is the good news thoroughly received but will not be lost.


The Church has to expect resistance and allow for it. In times of civil unrest, the Church needs to be utterly uncompromising in preaching God's message even though it offends those who have not yet heard what is really being said. Even if preaching the Gospel becomes against the law, it will never be against God's Law provided that it is His Gospel that we preach. Thus even if we are commanded to keep silence, we must follow the Apostles' example and disobey in order to bring the Fact of Everlasting Life in Christ Jesus to a world that needs to hear it. If people see just how committed to the Gospel we are in the face of being countercultural, the more they will realise its importance and relevance.


If St Barnabas and St Paul cause riots just by telling people how much God loves them, should we not expect the same and give thanks for it?

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