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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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9th July 2017 – Fourth Sunday After Trinity – Jack Noonan

Sermon (Click Link to Listen)

Readings: Genesis 24. 34-38, 42-49, 58-67 ; Romans 7. 15-25a ; Matthew 11. 16-19, 25-30

Today’s gospel reissues a timeless invitation to engage with an historically manifested God whose track record overflows with compassion, forgiveness and loving kindness.
Abraham’s response to this invitation evoked faith. This faith rippled outwards changing those who encountered it. Creating trust in his life long servant Eliezer, obedience and confidence in Isaac and a patience in Rebekah.

With Abraham, God came in search again for mankind. And as in our gospel some would be open to the invitation and others would not.

Accepting the invitation to tango with God; gave a passionate Paul the drive to preach, throughout his life, the eternal freedoms found in Christ. It gave him a perspective and peace that passed all understanding even in martyrdom.

In Paul’s own words, the source, of this God inspired creative life, was the spiritual dynamism of the indwelling Christ in the believer. For with Paul, we believers grow into realising:
” I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal.2:20)

The Romans extract pulls no punches in relation toa specific spiritual conflicts we must face.
With Paul, we all experience conflict between our good and bad inclinations. In times of self awareness we also experience Paul’s angst, helplessness when defeated by our moral conflicts:

” I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do…

For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self,
but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me…?

This is no rhetorical question. On its answer depends our eternal well-being.

Who will rescue me(us)…?

It is the anguished cry of the trapped…..Trapped and …tired of forever going ’round the same mountain….encountering time and again the same obstacles/issues/problems that repeatedly trip us up in our journeying with God.

Who will rescue me(us)…?

Paul was an accomplished Pharisee, practising strict observance of the commandments/mitzvah of Torah. He observed the halachic laws derived from the Oral Torah. But his religious self -discipline and acquired self -righteousness did not resolve for him…as it will not for us…. the perennial conflict he outlined.

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do…

Who will rescue me(us) from this body of death?

Our self effort can only carry us so far. Eventually we crumble exhausted ….realising all our good efforts have now set us further back even from where we started.
Who will rescue me(us)?

Damascus Road becomes Paul’s turning point. God introduced Himself to Paul and issues a dramatic invitation which was difficult to ignore.
From that day on,for the rest of Paul’s life ; a ball of dawning realisation begins to drop and roll around his spirit, heart and mind.
Until the’ E/ur..eeeka realisation !’ God through Jesus is our rescuer. It’s the dynamic indwelling Spirit of God….who rescues us….who saves us…..and eternally sorts us.
As we read:
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Or as elaborated in Corinthians:

” but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Yes, as with Paul, so with us. Through all that life may throw at us we ,who are in Christ Jesus, will never be utterly cast down and will ultimately triumph. Though it is important not forget the counter-intuitive key to victory …Give Thanks….Give Praise though all hell appears to be breaking loose.
Positively proclaiming the truth in faith, and in actual experience that
”in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”(Rom. 8.37)

Today’s gospel, shows Jesus still reaching out to those who draw near to Him. The folk in the passage are a ‘mixem-gatherem’ group… some are contented and curious…others downright contraaary … still others; fault finding, murmuring in the politically correct tones of the period. But, Jesus calls them out.

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

As my earthly father often said: ” there are none so blind as those who will not see…and none so deaf as those who will not hear.”
Looking at the crowd:
‘… Jesus says, “I thank you, Father… because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;”

Here Jesus is speaking out of experience, the experience that the pc religious elite and the ‘clever’ in society had rejected him. The ‘ordinary’ people accepted and welcomed him. It is important to be clear here; Jesus is not condemning intellectual power; what He is condemning is intellectual pride.
I read recently:, “The heart, not the head, is the home of the gospel.”
It is not cleverness which shuts the gospel out; it’s pride.
And it is not ‘stupidity’ which admits it in; it’s humility.

All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
The Scot William Barclay comments succinctly on this radical passage ;

‘ In effect Jesus says : “If you want to see what God is like, if you want to see the mind of God, the heart of God, the nature of God, if you want to see God’s whole attitude to mankind—look at me!”
It is the Christian conviction that in Jesus Christ alone we see what God is like. It is also the Christian conviction that Jesus can give that knowledge to anyone who is humble enough and trustful enough to receive it.

All things have been handed over to me by my Father……..

Jesus has all authority. With that authority He issues an open, embracing authentic invitation . An invitation ,full of promise backed by the character of God himself.
Now we come to the well known verses and I wondered what was it that Jesus saw in those around him that triggered such a compassionate outreach to them?

‘Are you having a real struggle? Come to me?
Are you carrying a big load on your back? Come to me—I’ll give you a rest!
Jesus spoke to people searching for God and desperately trying to be good, but finding the task despairingly impossible. He reaches out to help us.
Pick up my yoke and put it on; take lessons from me, I’ll be gentle with you!
The last thing in my heart is to give you a hard time.
You’ll see—rest you need, and rest you shall have.
My yoke is easy to wear, my load is easy to bear (Bishop N.T. Wright)

.Jesus says, “My yoke is easy to wear.” In Greek the word for ‘easy’ chrestos can also mean well-fitting.
In Palestine ox-yokes were made to detailed measurements. Fittings occurred and adjustments made.The yoke was tailor-made to effortlessly fit the bearer.
Jesus says, “My yoke fits well.” Indicating that “the life I give you is not a burden to wear you out ; your task is made to measure to fit you.”
Whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly.
Whatever God seeks from us, He gives the grace to achieve it.

On saying, “My burden is light/ my load is easy to bear He echoes a rabbinic zen-like zoan: “My burden is become my song.”
It is not that the burden is easy to carry;
but it is laid on us in love;
it is meant to be carried in love;
and love makes even the heaviest burden light.
The burden which is given in love and carried in love is always light.

Sermon Take-Away

1. Do not doubt God is good …always….He never lies. His name is Faithful.

2. Check that your Jesus belief system is lie-free …devoid of fake truth……….For a long time subconsciously I believed the lie that God was sometimes deaf/blind to my situation and prayers. Weed out stinking thinking.
3. Daily read His Word… Build up your spiritual stamina during quieter times. Make hay…
4. Wilfully, stubbornly, and with chutzpah…. offer with your voice, the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving when times are bad.

Then we will be:”… persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.