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Sunday 20th August 2017 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity followed by Cool Drinks & Refreshments
Celebrant: Rev'd Nathanial
Preacher: Jack Noonan

Sunday 27th August 2017 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity followed by Cool Drinks & Refreshments
Celebrant and Preacher: Rev'd Nathanial

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7th August 2016 – Eleventh Sunday after Trinity – Dagmar Wilkinson

Readings for Sunday 7th August 2016 – Proper 14

FIRST READING: Genesis 15. 1-6

The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.’ But the word of the LORD came to him, ‘This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.’ The Lord brought Abram outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.

SECOND READING: Hebrews 11. 1-3 & 8-16

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old – and Sarah herself was barren – because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, ‘as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.’ All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

HOLY GOSPEL: Luke 12. 32-40

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

May I speak in + the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

During the terrible days of the Blitz, a father, holding his small son by the hand, ran from a building that had been struck by a bomb. In the front yard was a shell hole. Seeking shelter as quickly as possible, the father jumped into the hole and held up his arms for his son to follow. Terrified, yet hearing his father’s voice telling him to jump, the boy replied, “I CAN’T see you!”

The father, looking up against the sky tinted red by the burning buildings, called to the silhouette of his son, “But I CAN see you. JUMP!” The boy jumped, because he trusted his father.

Martin Luther, who really liked Genesis chapter 15, was very radical in his view of faith. He said, ‘God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing.

My initial thoughts while praying and pondering over scriptures for this Sunday were actually on the catholic side of the CofE. It was really St Faith’s fault! St Faith was the 3rd Century saint who is said to have been a girl or young woman in Aquitaine. Her legend recounts how she was arrested during persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire and refused to make pagan sacrifices even under torture. Saint Faith was tortured and finally grilled alive. This image of St Faith leaning against the instrument of her torture painted in the side chapel of St Faith at Westminster Abbey was something of an everyday revelation to me. We gathered there every morning at 7.30 for Morning Prayer, and twice a week for morning Holy Communion. It was definitely one of my most loved and inspirational places in the Abbey. St Faith had such a strong faith that she did not waver and boldly confessed her faith in Jesus Christ. No doubt, she lived her faith out and this ultimately led to her terrible death.

All three readings today speak of faith, of promise and are full of encouragement. We have heard twice the wonderful uplifting sentence, ‘DO NOT BE AFRAID!!!’in the first reading from Genesis to Abraham, and to Jesus’disciples in Luke’s Gospel. Since today’s first lesson deals with the promise given by God to Abraham, the second lesson “edits” Hebrews so that Abraham is showcased in it as well. Hebrews nicely supplements the Genesis text in that Sarah is given equal billing in it with Abraham, even pointing out that Sarah “received power to conceive,” an extremely unusual expression for the ancient people since the dominant notion of the woman’s role in the production of offspring was completely passive.

As we move through the book Genesis we can follow God’s plan and his actions. All of creation (including but not limited to humanity) is declared good in Genesis chapter 1. But as the result of violence, mainly human violence, but apparently also, the violence of the wider creation, God generates a flood to wipe away all the wickedness and violence. Of course not all is effaced; Noah, his family, and the representative animals connect the past to the future. But beginning in Genesis 12, the story moves decisively away from the cinemascope perspective of the whole world, and zooms in on one man and his family. Instead of pondering the wickedness and violence of human beings, that, as God realizes, is not going away, and instead of trying to work blessing for the world through humanity in general, God takes a new approach: working through some particular individuals to bless all the families of the earth.  It is a decision to work universal benefit through particular individuals–a strange idea for many modern people, but one that God repeats in the incarnation of Jesus.

In the first reading we witness a significant moment in the narrative when we are told that God and Abraham are developing a level of trust, and that each is encouraged by the promises or actions of the other.

But as we will see, the road of mutual trust is neither straight nor smooth for these two–there will be other obstacles and tests before both are satisfied in the character and trustworthiness of the other. Abraham’s reputation in the tradition is one of unparalleled virtue, but the story itself suggests more ambiguity; it gives a mixed picture of Abraham’s moral character. This is in keeping with all other significant Old Testament characters–the “heroes” of the faith were all flawed and broken in one way or another, just like the rest of us.

 

Hebrew 11 is the great faith chapter of the Bible, first defining faith and then using well-known Hebrew people to show faith in action.  These people heard God’s promises and believed them in spite of waiting a very long time to see the promises fulfilled––some promises never having been fulfilled in their lifetime.  For instance, Abraham didn’t live long enough to see the nation that sprang from his seed.

It begins with the famous definition of faith in the first verse, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The text then quickly moves back to creation to note that God’s Word is a power that creates “what is seen … from things that are not visible.”

Faith, rather than being something ultimately dependent upon us, comes to us at God’s own initiative which, mediated by God’s Word, engenders a hope-filled response to the promises of God. This response of trust in God makes “visible”- through the lives of the assembly of believers – what otherwise would remain “invisible.” In other words, one who trusts God’s promises, is God’s own witness to the new creation that is breaking into our “everyday” visible world through the gospel of Christ Jesus.

In faith (as in resurrection) God calls new life out of that which is “as good as dead”. The gift of faith is God’s work that witnesses to that very God who “is able even to raise someone from the dead”. In short, God’s invisible work of new creation becomes visible (incarnate) in the life of the one who trusts God. As Hebrews itself puts it, “Faith is the ‘substance’ (in Greek hypostasis; in Latin, substantia) of things hoped for, the ‘proof’ of things not seen.”

The community to whom Hebrews was written had undergone great hardship, including public ridicule, confiscation of property, and imprisonment. Because of the pressures put upon the community, some had become apostates, others avoided worship. Still others were weary of the suffering and disheartened by the delay in the coming of the Lord that would confirm their belief, a belief that came at great cost. Into this situation, Hebrews comes as a “word of exhortation”. As exhortation, Hebrews contains both words of admonishment against “thinking of the land that they had left behind” to become followers of Christ, as well as encouragement, often in that order.

In the end I begin by returning to Genesis 15:8 which we did not hear today but I dare to think you are true Anglicans well versed in Scriptures. ‘’By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out to the place which he was to receive for an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he went” (v. 8).

Perhaps most of us here received such a call in one way or another. “Get out of your country, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you”. Certainly, this was true for me when I first felt God’s call to priesthood in the Church of England. It required a great leap of faith, a jump into an unknown territory, years of hard work, crisis, doubts, learning different language, customs, learning eating funny food

Our trust in God’s providence for us strengthens us on our earthly pilgrimage, and also on our pilgrimage leading beyond this visible world.

Amen.