Sunday 17 July

1ST SERMON

MORNING PRAYER                    Trinity  8                          Preacher:  Carol Shelley

 

Psalm 15;

Luke 10 v 38- 42

 

I wonder if like me, you listened to Psalm 15 and thought – where is my Hope of dwelling with the Lord?

Following the question “Lord who will dwell in your sanctuary?”; that is with you in your holy place, we may shudder at what we hear.

The reply from God is a ten point list which can leave the reader rather dispirited.

  • Those whose walk is blameless

  • He who does what is righteous

  • He who speaks the truth from his heart

  • He who has no slander on his tongue

  • Those who does his neighbour no wrong

  • Those who do not cast a slur on their fellow man

  • Those who despise a vile man and honours those who fear the Lord

  • Those who keep their oath even when it hurts

  • He who lends money without usury

  • He who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Listening to the list I’m sure many we could acknowledge many as things we would never dream of doing, but all of them?

Even if we do very few or at a very mild level, are we really not able to meet our Lord.

Will we be turned away when we arrive at the pearly gates?  

 

Looking at this situation in more detail we must acknowledge that God calls us to be morally upright.

Over this last week we have looked again at the parable of “The Good Samaritan”.

Again we are left in no doubt, this time by Jesus, as to what path we are expected to follow.

This story also leaves us with no doubts about who “Our neighbour” is.

We cannot avoid the truth that it is not simply the people we like or choose to share our lives with, no it is all whom we meet and anyone that needs our help or support.

 

Both the Psalm and the parable leave us unequivocally in a situation that does not allow flexibility or excuses.

So to return to my original question, is this ask too great?

Are we without hope of achieving our goal?

As I typed the word goal I had a light bulb moment, i felt that I was being led to see what I believe to be a truth, but not an excuse.

I’m not someone that follows football, but fortunately goals appear in other sports and we also use this word to mean what we are aiming for.

When a team is playing together, they will all hopefully be giving everything they can to support one another, and win; but only one person can score a goal at any one time.

In fact some members of the team are very unlikely to ever score a goal, but that doesn’t mean they are not doing their best.

Their role is different.

If we use the word goal for what we are aiming at, then again we can give 100% effort but may be not actually attain quite what we hoped for.

 

This is how I think God would wish us to view the message of the Psalm.

We should give 100% of effort to attaining the standards that God would have us achieve, but recognise that it is perhaps a goal from which we may fall short.

I don’t think this is making excuses, so long as we are truly giving 100% in effort.

 

Why do I feel this to be true.

Well, we have all heard the saying “Like Father, like Son”.

Jesus actually says to his disciples that by knowing him they have come to know the Father.

 

What do we know about Jesus?

We know that he had qualities which were admired by all who knew him.

We know that Jesus was kind, understanding, tolerant, and non- judgemental. He was sympathetic to people who were pushed to the margins of society, he supported and admired those who tried to heal the sick whether in body, mind or spirit. He encouraged all who tried to mend broken relationships.

Perhaps then, it is realistic to believe that God will accept us for our 100% effort, even if we do not actually attain perfection.

 

Our other text this morning again shows us how easy it can be, even with the best of intentions, to make mistakes.

We know that Jesus is in the period of travelling around teaching the many who were following him.

It is therefore not at all surprising that he decides to take time out and visit his friends, Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus.

We can assume that although his closest disciples went with him, what he was really looking for was peace and quiet to allow himself to rest and recuperate.

We are made very aware of the fact that the sisters are very different; in fact we might say “as different as chalk and cheese”.

We also know that Jesus liked them both, but on this occasion Martha makes a very fundamental mistake.

She does so because she cares so much for her guests that her response is instinctive and without thought.

She immediately goes into action.

She does what she thinks is her level best to make her friends feel welcome; she scurries around organising a large meal for them all. We can also guess that she probably prepares beds and other facilities that they might need. Having done all this she is just a little put out that Mary has made no attempt to help.

In fact it’s even worse: Mary appears to have indulged herself simply sitting listening to Jesus talking, probably the thing Martha would have most liked to do too.

 

When Martha has a strop Jesus talks to her.

He doesn’t rebuke her but he does make it clear that sometimes, with careful consideration, some actions and activities are better than others.

Now as someone who has always recognised that I’m more of a Martha than a Mary I have to admit that it has taken me a long time to accept this is a truth.

I always wanted to defend Martha, and in truth saw her criticisms of Mary as a little justified.

What happens when he arrives is so easy to understand, but actually with thought was not what Jesus needed.

 

Jesus made the guidelines far easier for all who might be confused by such debate.

His law was “to love your neighbour as yourself”.

Such clarity is not only easily comprehended, it should make following the law a great deal easier.

We simply ask ourselves what would we wish for in an identical situation and act upon our response.

We are all very different, with very different needs.

Therefore to ponder what the situation is, and what the individual needs in that situation, will enhance our actions.

In this way, we will become the people that God will wish to share his dwelling with. Amen