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Sunday 21st January 2018 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Third Sunday of Epiphany
Celebrant and Preacher: Rev'd Nathanial

Sunday 28th January 2018 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany
Celebrant: Rev'd Nathanial
Preacher: Jack Noonan

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15th October 2017 – Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity – Jack Noonan

Sermon (Click Link to Listen)

Readings: Exodus 32. 1 – 14 ; Philippians 4. 1 – 9 ; Matthew 22. 1 – 14

In Paul’s first letter to that wayward congregation in Corinth, he tells us that God, in His wisdom, choose to communicate His Gospel Message through the folly/ foolishness of preaching.

For…the world by wisdom knew not God, (so)it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

However it is well to note what the great South African preacher,Andrew Murray, once observed:

Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach, only how to pray. He did not speak much of what was needed to preach well, but (spoke) much of praying well …

Every time this Reader sits to build a sermon , he becomes painfully conscious, of the dancing of a Divine Irish Three Hand Reel ,being performed in the room… where the dancing partners are Faith, Foolishness and Prayer… where word on words is cajoled into service, hoping to survive the delete button long enough to be printed and spoken to you here this morning.

Let us pray…

Father God through Your Holy Spirit settle over our gathering together. We seek to Praise You, Worship You, and learn from You. Bless the seed words of this sermon to our minds ,hearts and spirit in the name of Jeshua Ha Mashiach…King Jesus the Messiah. Amen.

Today’s three readings can be linked together ,in one way or another, by a single word……………Celebration.

In the Gospel ,Jesus describes:

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.”

In the brief celebratory letter to the Phillipians, Paul repeats the word ‘celebrate’ translated as ‘rejoice’ some 12 times and the word ‘joy’ some 7 times.

Christians indeed have something to celebrate….the question is do we all know what it is!

In this sermon I had intended to explore the Gospel reading’s second unnerving tiny parable about our needing that all important wedding garment…

The Exodus Desert Party at Sinai I intended to gloss over; but as the writing proceeded it was there with the infamous Exodus Party that the sermon lingered.

”When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, (they) gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him…..”
(Aaron)….cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

Here we see a situation where God’s own covenanted people,
(As we also are)
despite all they had experienced of God, in their lives, since leaving the bondage of Egypt… had quickly dropped from their minds, the miracles of provision and health. Put aside was the experience at the Red Sea and their escape from forces determined to destroy them both physically and spiritually.
In failing to value the works of God in their lives, they quickly revert to old life attitudes, rebelling against … the tried and trusted Living God of their history…replacing Him, with a new age glittering one of their own creation.

They also set about discarding and replacing God’s appointed spiritual and political leader, Moses….a humble man who;
”The LORD would speak to… face to face, as one speaks to a friend ”.
with a leader they could intimidate; Aaron, the now spiritually compromised brother of Moses. Aaron, the spokesman for Moses in all his dealings with Pharaoh now aquieses to the clamouring of mob rule.

It is worth noting that without proper visible leadership, people, individuals and congregations fail and panic during times of change, testing and waiting. They stopped trusting in Moses as we sometimes stop trusting in Jesus.
Sometimes even the holiest of individuals, as Aaron, can be persuaded to do things contrary to their spiritual character and contradict their personal history with God.
‘Spiritual Compromise’ is an alluring siren ’round many a corners in our personal and corporative lives, making the road of least resistance appear attractive and expedient.

In this reckless impatience the people denigrate Moses, God’s appointed liberator, leader, mediator and intercessor…
The clause “as for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt” is deliberately cast in disparaging language.
In times of difficulty we must hold on to and not forget the many blessing we have received at the hand of God. He is the eternal giver of Faith, hope and love…especially when we ask.

Notice how Moses in many respects foreshadows Jesus…who in His appointed time would lead a new exodus through the darkness of unbelief, mediate a new and better covenant,and intercede for God’s New Covenant people.

Aaron… built an altar before (the Golden Calf); and… made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival(celebration) to the LORD.”

They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel/to dance.

There is more here than meets the eye: the Hebrew verb used for ‘to dance’… ‘tsahek’…..is used 3 times in Genesis(26.8;39.14,17.) and there it connotes form of sexual activity associated with pagan orgiastic rites. Moses could take the people out of Egypt but not Egypt out of the people.

That’s why Moses on his return and witnessing this behaviour, hurls and smashes the tablets of the covenant….it is not an impetuous act, rather, it’s a very tremendously deliberate act signifying the cancellation/annulling of the Covenant between this people and the LORD GOD.

In the concluding verses of our passage, I’d like to draw your attention to the ‘argument’ between the LORD GOD and Moses.
It tells us ‘things’ about God and Moses.
Significantly, it also shows that all matters in God’s economy may not be as minutely planned, foreordained, predestined or set in stone, as some may think.
This is a wonderful passage and an encouragement to all of us who seek the Lord through prayer.
There is an ebb and flow in the argument.

The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely;…..
“I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are.
Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may destroy them; and of you I will make a great nation.”

God’s phrase;’Now let me alone, both initiates and anticipates Moses’ intercessions. The phrase is a tacit comment on Moses character, it shows the heart of Moses for these people. It also tells us something of the character of our God: He is responsive to human entreaty.
Moses’ response re-echoes and reworks God’s own words of censure.
(He) implored the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt…?
Moses argues that destroying the people will diminish the honour of God in the eyes of the unbelieving Egyptians. They will joke about the fate of the Hebrew people, thus diminishing God’s reputation.
Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’?
The final prong of his argument is to remind God of his unconditional promises to the patriarchs.
”Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel… how you swore to them by your own self, saying… ‘I will multiply your descendants… and all this land … I will give to your descendants… forever.”
Interceding and mediating in prayer is not mean/light task. If my prayer does not move me it will hardly move God. It is good to remind our Father of His promises and His history with us both individually,as a family and as a people.
I imagine Father God, smiling inwardly, with relief, at the wonder of this most humble man’s courageous advocacy.
Wrapping up his defence Moses pleads:
”Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.”
And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
To conclude:

Down through the generation to this present moment God seeks believers who would be Prayer Warriors. Who, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, in the name of our great Intercessor and Mediator Jeshua Ha Mashiach…Jesus the Christ…stand firm in faith like Moses and pleads as Christ does for humanity. We pray ”Your Kingdom come”…and until it manifests….let not God’s words spoken through Ezekiel ever become true again:

“I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.”
It behoves us as the current generation of Prayer Warriors to stand and pray in the gap until His Kingdom becomes a tangible reality….in us and about us.

Amen.