Sunday 7 August

1ST SERMON

MORNING ALL-AGE WORSHIP      TRINITY  11       Preacher:  Rev Lynn McKeon

Hebrews 12: 1-3

 

Our Bible reading today says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

The Olympics started last Friday. I love watching sport on the TV. Believe it or not I was quite the sporty type when at secondary school, I obviously followed in my dad’s footsteps, he as a young man used to run for Birchfield Harriers.  Which begs the question — have you ever run a race? Have you ever won a medal or a trophy for running a race? It’s a thrill to run a race and hear the voices of the people who are watching as they shout words of encouragement. It is an even greater thrill when you finish the race and win a medal or a trophy.

Several years ago when the Olympics were held in Barcelona, Spain, the world saw one of the greatest moments in Olympic history. Derek Redmond, a young man from Britain, had dreamed all his life of winning a gold medal in the 400 meter race. He had worked hard to get to the Olympics and his dream was within his reach. He was in the semi-finals and was running the race of his life. He could see the finish line just ahead as he rounded the final turn - and then this happened!

Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in the back of his leg and he fell to the track with a torn muscle in his right leg.

As the medical attendants ran toward him, Derek struggled to his feet. He started to hop toward the finish line on one foot in an attempt to finish the race. Suddenly, a large man came out of the stands, pushed aside a security guard and ran to Derek's side. It was Jim Redmond, Derek's father. "You don't have to do this," he told his son. "Yes, I do," said Derek. "Well, then," said his father, "we're going to finish this together."

And they did. They stayed in Derek's lane all the way to the end. At first, the crowd watched in silence. Then they rose to their feet and cheered - and wept.

Derek Redmond didn't win the gold medal, but he walked away with the incredible memory of a loving father who, when he saw his son in pain, left his seat in the stands to help him finish the race.

That is what our Bible reading is about today. It teaches us that life is like a race that has been set before us. We may struggle and face many obstacles, but we have a great crowd of witnesses who are cheering us on. We have a Heavenly Father who loves us and will help us when the pain is too great. We have a Saviour, who left his place in heaven and came to earth to show us how to run the race. If we will keep our eyes on him, how can we help but finish the race?

Dear Jesus, sometimes life is difficult. Help us to keep our eyes on you and to run the race that is before us. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.  

 

2ND SERMON       

EVENING HOLY COMMUNION         TRINITY 11   Preacher:  Rev Lynn McKeon

Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16
Luke 12: 32-40

Let’s be honest about the passage of scripture read a moment ago from Luke’s gospel. It is obvious that Luke has taken various sayings of Jesus and put them together... especially in this area of his gospel. But then again, he’s not alone in this. Matthew does it as well. It was a common practice in that time when it came to this kind of writing.

For example, many, if not most, biblical scholars think that Jesus didn’t really preach a “Sermon on the Mount,” as Matthew records it. Instead, Matthew took different sayings from different sermons, put them all together, and then set it up as if it were one sermon. If so, again to be honest, Matthew seems to be somewhat better at it than Luke.

And since we’ve tried to be honest twice, let’s go for a hat trick and make it three times. The passage we read from Luke’s twelfth chapter doesn’t seem to flow together very well. It’s kind of choppy, in fact, perhaps because Luke did take material from different places and times and put them together. But then again, it could also be because Jesus is dealing with a tough subject. And the clue to it all may just be found in the first verse we read.

“Do not be afraid,” Jesus tells his followers. “Do not be afraid.” Afraid of what? Well, consider their situation.

Jesus’ disciples have given up everything to follow the Nazarene... their professions, their families, everything. Jesus talks all the time about the kingdom of heaven, encourages them not to lay up treasures for themselves on earth, but to live each day in preparation for the coming of God’s kingdom.

But, they can’t help but be concerned with daily survival. Yes, Jesus may have fed the multitudes, but it will be only a few hours before they are hungry again. It’s human nature – and they are very human – to think about such things as the next meal, where they will stay, how they will get by.

Evidently, Jesus picks up on their concern. And what does he say in response? “Do not be afraid. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Yes, but will the kingdom give you your next meal? Is there any security in the kingdom?

If I were to come up to you and ask you what is your greatest fear, what would you say? The chances are, it would have something to do with your concern about the future.

Some of you might be distressed about your mortgage. Will you be able to pay it in an uncertain economic future. If the economy becomes unstable, the interest rates will no doubt rise, and some folk could be in a position where they can ’t afford the payments anymore, some could struggle to unload their houses. and inevitably lose them.

Some of you might be concerned about your health. You’re not getting any younger, that’s for sure.  You watch your parents deal with what can be the debilitating effects of aging, and you see in their faces your own future. And that can be a terrifying thought. You don’t want to leave your children with the same legacy, but what can you do? You can worry, that’s what. You can be fearful.

Some of you might be worried about whether you’ll have enough financial  resources once you retire. Or, you’re already retired, and you wonder if you’ll have enough to continue living, especially with the way the market is behaving. You want to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible, but you’re just not sure if that’s going to be possible. So, you’re fearful.

Go ahead, add to the list. There are all kinds of things that make us afraid. Do Jesus’ words seem empty to you at this point? When he says, “Do not be afraid, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” are you tempted to respond by saying something like, “Yeah right, but that won’t pay the bills or take care of what is facing me down the road ahead”?

How do you respond to Jesus when it comes to the way you live? You want to be a person of faith, but you know in your heart of hearts that your faith is intermingled with a heavy dose of anxiety, not to mention downright fear. What are you going to do?

What happens when it appears that Jesus not only doesn’t help you, but he makes it worse? After all, everywhere you turn, Jesus is confronting you about how you invest your time, your money, your energies... all the resources at your disposal. You feel like a well that’s being gradually drained dry, and you don’t know if you can take it anymore.

And since we’ve already made an attempt to be honest – three times, no less! – let’s do it at least once more. Jesus adds to our misery by telling us we ought to be more light on our feet. We ought to live with less, sell our possessions, and give away our money. “Make purses for yourselves,” he says, “that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven (there he goes talking about heaven again), where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” And then he throws in the clincher, designed to make you feel real good and guilty. “For where your  treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Now there, doesn’t that make you feel better? Well, no. No, it doesn’t. In fact, it makes you feel worse. Jesus, or maybe Luke puts all this in the context of a wedding. I find that strange, because my experience, as someone who works with wedding couples, is that weddings are some of the most expensive propositions on earth. Still, Jesus takes an illustration from a wedding.

You’re like a servant, he says, waiting for your master to return from a wedding banquet. The blessed servants are those who are prepared when he returns. Why, they might even find the master serving them rather than the other way around. “Be dressed for action,” Jesus says, “and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet.”       Jesus is telling his disciples to be light on their feet.

Have you ever been so anxious to get somewhere that you slept with your clothes on? For most of us, if we’ve ever done it at all, it’s been a long time, hasn’t it? I used to do it when I was a teenager expecting to get up early the   following day to go on holiday. But I don’t think my  behaviour had anything to do with this lesson from Luke’s gospel. Nevertheless, if we understand what Jesus is saying, that might be a pretty good illustration for the way he wants us to live... on top of the bed with our clothes on. Could it be that Jesus is talking about an attitude, a mindset, a way of life that finds his followers ready to move at a moment’s notice, to be at his beck and call, to be light on their feet?

To explore that for a moment, let me ask some questions that might require you to search your mind and heart. Would you still be a follower of Jesus if there were no promise of heaven? Would you still come to church if this life yielded nothing in the end but a grave? You would probably say that’s not the point, that we have been promised those things. And you would be right, of course. But are you a follower of Jesus solely because of what you believe you will get out of it when you leave this earthly life and travel to the place beyond the grave? These kinds of questions do cause us to consider why we follow Christ, do they not?

Well, have you ever thought about following Jesus for his sake and not your own? I am becoming more and more convinced that the dimmer our vision is of the kingdom of God, and the more mundane our idea of heaven, the more we try to get out of our faith and the less we give to it. And the less we give to our faith, the more entrenched we become to this world. And the more entrenched we become here, the more spiritually bloated and sluggish we find ourselves. One day, the time will come when we are claimed by Christ. Will we be ready when he comes?

There was a musical group in the 60's, called the Impressions. anyone remember them. The lead singer was a chap called Curtis Mayfield. One of their hits found him singing...People get ready there’s a train a comin’. You don’t need no baggage you just get on board. All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’ Don’t need no ticket You just thank the Lord. The grammar might be suspect, but still, there’s a lot of gospel in that song.

To run with Jesus you don’t need no baggage, no ticket, to get on board. Just be ready, have your traveling clothes on, and he will call. Just be ready, so you can be light on your feet. It’s the only way to run with Jesus. It’s the only way.

Amen.