Sunday, October 24, 2021

Visible and invisible

Sermon for the twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Do you ever stop what you're doing and wonder whether there's something happening around you that you just can't put your finger on? Do you look at the News and think that there's something you're not being told? Do you find your Facebook feed occasionally points to some conspiracy theory that somehow makes sense? What do you make of all this?

[PAUSE]

It is true that the public have been prevented from knowing the truth before it's too late. The hunt for the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq is not something easily forgotten, nor has it been adequately explained. There have been conspiracies which is why we always seem to be looking for then even when they aren't there.

At the moment, we are surrounded with theories about COVID that may or may not be true. Before that, however,  there were the same theories about Bird Flu, Swine Flu and Mad Cow Disease.

There are lots of theories that we are being controlled and manipulated, nudged gently into accepting something that is actually unacceptable. But this is nothing new.

[PAUSE]

St Paul looks at his world and sees the Roman forces marching through the city on some errand. He hears of fighting at the outskirts of the Empire and is probably old enough to remember some insurrections that have taken place in Israel. At the centre of it all is the Emperor whose mind is not an open book to St Paul, nor does he know of the attempts on the Emperor's life, though he may suspect that Christians will be blamed for any trouble that the Emperor hears about. The Jewish authorities have already tried to pin false charges on him just as they did to the Lord.

St Paul, like us, sits in a political, social and spiritual whirlwind not quite knowing what will happen. How can he defend himself against the confusion and fear that rush towards him? How does he deal with forces that he cannot understand?

[PAUSE]

"Put on the armour of God," he tells the Ephesians, "and remember that we are not fighting human beings." St Paul tells us that it is not what we can see that wishes us the harm. When we fell in the Garden of Eden, we let Evil into Creation. It was already there outside, knocking at the door which we opened through our disobedience to God. Evil is the by-product of our free-will and of the Devil's free-will.

The battle truly is between Good and Evil, but it is we who are the battleground, as individuals and as a society. We can't predict its spread, nor do we have power of ourselves to stop it. This is why we need the armour of God: God Himself is our armour. Look at what armour He gives us: truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Spirit and the word of God. All of these come directly from God. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

What we are up against are things invisible: principalities, powers and rulers of darkness. They cloud our mind, distract us from understanding what's going on and convincing us to worry about our future and fear for our lives. The lie that they spread most easily is that we are fighting people. They convince us that there are people to hate. This is not true: we are to love our neighbour. The depth of our love is most obviously shown to our worst enemy. This is where the armour of God really comes in.

The armour of God can be used at all times and especially when we cannot see the bigger picture. We don't need to know about conspiracy theories when we see the truth of God's love for us and when we simply have faith in our salvation in Him. Even if there is a New World Order seeking to bring down the Church of God, it cannot win. It doesn't matter how powerful our enemy is, the truth is that God loves us and God is saving us and God is supreme in the Universe. We need to trust Him when all is dark around us. It doesn't matter how close the virus is to us when, in Christ, we have assurance of eternal life in the Gospel of peace and from the Word of God Himself. And when we find ourselves making a decision that we can't see the outcome, we choose the way of righteousness, however painful it may be, for righteousness will always, always lead us to God Himself. 

[PAUSE]

Let the world have its conspiracies. As long as we are working God's will in the world, the machinations of evil amount to nothing. All things work for good for those who love God. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Handmaid's Freedom

 


A reflection on how true religion frees the believer and Pharisaism does not.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Time management

Sermon for the twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Just how do you redeem Time? 

St Paul expects us to do just that, "for," he says, "the days are evil."

What does he mean?

[PAUSE]

Time is not something that we understand very well. It just happens to us. We have no control over it. Unless we have a TARDIS, there is no way we are free to go back and forth within Time. If we have no control over it, how can we redeem the time?

[PAUSE]

When we redeem something, we buy it back. This is the whole point of our redemption by Christ. Christ buys our lives back with His very life. But whom does he pay?

There are lots of different answers that Christians give but in many ways the answer is obvious. 

To ask whom we pay is the wrong question. When we buy something back, we recognise that there is a debt to pay - there is something lacking. Now, when there is a lack of goodness, that is the presence of evil. In choosing evil in the first place, there is a lack of good that we cannot pay. We need someone purely good to make that payment and thus destroy evil. That Redeemer is Christ. That is how our redemption works: we need Our Lord to plug the gap in our goodness which we call evil.

And this is how we can redeem the time as St Paul bids us.

[PAUSE]

St Paul tells us that the days are evil. There is a lack of goodness that needs to be filled in our time. We can only rid ourselves of evil by filling it with Christ. It means that, as we face evil in each day, we need to bring it to Christ in prayer and, instead of contributing to the day's evil, redeem the time by doing something good. 

You may be familiar with a prayer attributed to St Francis. It isn't actually his, but it certainly expresses his sentiments. It begins, "Lord, make me a channel of your peace." It is a prayer about redeeming our time, especially when it says, "where there is hatred, let me bring Your love." That's what we must do in every thought, word and deed. By letting Christ into our lives, homes, work and society, we can begin to redeem the time from the evil in the days.

[PAUSE]

Christ gives His body to the world to redeem it. The Church is given to the world to make Christ's body present in all places and all times. As Christians, we are the means of giving God's Grace to a world that lacks God's goodness. How will you redeem your time, today?




Friday, October 15, 2021

There's no discouragement...

 

 

A reflection on the dreadful events of today in the UK and why we must have hope to continue towards Christ.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Is all vanity?

Sermons for the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

St Paul bids us not to walk in the vanity of our minds. What does he mean?

[PAUSE]

When we do something in vain, it means a wasted effort. Our work comes to nothing. It is all wasted, fruitless, pointless. It is vanity. It is in vain.

We can see how sad this is when we are trying to do something specific. Too many times we see on the news of someone trying to save someone else's life but in vain despite their efforts. That is truly a tragedy: vanity is a tragedy. But trying to save someone's life in vain is far from being a complete tragedy. Vanity has a greater tragedy.

[PAUSE]

If vanity is a tragedy when a longed-for outcome is missed then what about a life lived in vain? What if all we do is a waste of time and we don't care about it? A life lived for nothing in particular. A life lived for no-one in particular. A life just lived - if you can call it living.

St Paul asks us to reclaim our purpose in life. He shows us that the life of vanity is rich only in sin and selfishness. 

What is the point of hoarding money if you're not going to use it? It has no-use otherwise? What is the point of being too concerned with your appearance? You will age and die and all people are ugly when they are dead. What is the point of living for pleasure after pleasure? You will get bored and soon no pleasure will be enjoyable. This is vanity - all is vanity!

There is no earthly point to living.

But there is a heavenly point to living.

[PAUSE]

If St Paul warns us against walking in the vanity of our minds then he is reminding us that not only do we have a final destiny in Heaven with God, but we have a purpose for God here and now. We should be preparing for our last end but we need to do that right now - always now. 

God gives our lives meaning and purpose and that meaning and purpose are present to us every second of our lives. We are not meant to live vainly. We are not meant to idle our time away twiddling our thumbs until He comes again. To do so disrespects the gift of life that He has given us now, now, now!

[PAUSE]

But this sounds too hard, doesn't it? Accounting for every second of our lives. Directing every action, every word and every thought to God's purposes in us. It feels like an invasion of our selves and an abuse of our freedom to be ourselves. But we are fallen and earthly minded and, to an extent, we cannot help that. But we must try. We must struggle against the world and its infecting our being. 

It is the Prince of this World, the Devil himself, who tries to convince us that God has no right to be in our lives. It is he who tries to convince us that we need a break from God. It is he who tries to convince us that we are wasting our effort of repenting of sin and falling in sin and repenting of sin again and again and again. It is the Devil who tries to convince us that we should lie back, enjoy ourselves and let nature take its course. 

No!

Just say no!

[PAUSE]

Any effort to turn to God is not in vain. Any effort to stop sinning is recorded and acted upon. God wants us for Himself to be loved and to be active in His love. That is the life to be lived now and it is the life we will achieve long after the Devil has been shut up for Eternity in Hell.

Your life is not in vain, so do not give in to vanity!