Sunday 24 July

1ST SERMON

MORNING HOLY COMMUNION        TRINITY 9   Preacher:  Rev Lynn Mckeon

Colossians 2:6-15, 16-19
Luke 11: 1-13

A priest, a minister and a guru were discussing the best positions for prayer while a telephone repairman worked nearby. "Kneeling is definitely the best way to pray," the priest said. "No," the minister said, "I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven." "You're both wrong," the guru said. "The most effective prayer position is lying down on the floor." The repairman could contain himself no longer. "Hey, fellas," he interrupted, "The best praying I ever did was when I was hanging upside down from a telephone pole."

“It was an answer to prayer.” Have you heard someone say that before? “It was an answer to prayer.” I imagine it was an answer to prayer because whatever was prayed for was received. It can be a dangerous thing when prayer becomes a way of understanding God as a genie who grants wishes or Zeus who brings about joy or despair, for the pure pleasure of seeing people happy or sad.

Very often when people pray Jesus is a physician. We pray for our health and the health of others and we want him to heal us. Other times Jesus is a financial adviser. We want Jesus to help us land a job, get a good grade or get a promotion. You can see the risk of praying for things to go our way. The downside is if our prayers aren’t answered as we have requested then Jesus is somehow at fault, or has something against us, or wasn’t listening. You will note that all of these prayers are spoken out of our fears. The unknown diagnosis, the unknown financial security, the scary stuff that keeps us awake at night.

We typically have two ways of being. One is when our heads are clear and our lives all make sense. Things are going along pretty well and our lives are full of purpose. The other way of being is when we feel unbalanced, afraid, and anxious. Our daily lives are a tension of these two modes of existence. We waver between our lives feeling meaningful and meaningless sometimes back and forth throughout the day.

Jesus teaches his disciples to pray this morning, understanding that we live in this tension.  He begins teaching the prayer that is familiar to us. The prayer we know as The Lord’s Prayer.

He acknowledges God as both personal and ethereal. God is the Holy Parent, relational and caring, in heaven, hallowed, mystical, intangible. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. When we say, ‘Thy will be done’ we are asking God to be God. We are asking God to do not what we want, but what God wants. And if that were suddenly to happen, what then? What would stand and what would fall? Who would be welcomed in and who would be thrown out? To speak those words is to invite the tiger out of the cage, to unleash a power that makes atomic power look like a warm breeze. We can do nothing without God. We can have nothing without God. Without God we are nothing.

After Jesus teaches what to say, he teaches how to say it. He says we are to pray with perseverance and he tells a story about a neighbour who goes to a friend at midnight and begs for bread. Jesus suggests that prayer is like driving for days to get to a friend’s house, whom you haven’t seen in a long time and you wonder if they will remember you and if they will be as glad to see you as you them, because you really haven’t kept in touch as you had promised, and you are so excited, so anxious to give them a hug and say “hello” but you don’t get there until it’s very late and all the lights are out and wonder if anyone is home and you stand in the dark. And you stand at the door and knock. It’s hard to tell if there is movement inside, any sign of stirring, it is so quiet. But there you are. You have driven so far to see them. You have nowhere else to stay. You can give up and go away, thinking they have given up on you. Or you can stand at the door and knock and knock and knock. And standing there, if you are persistent, who is to say that the friend will not answer? Jesus assures us the door will be open.

“Ask and you will receive,” Jesus said. “Search and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you.

The point of prayer is not to get what you want. The point of prayer is to have relationship with your Creator. When Jesus says, “ask, seek, and knock” he doesn’t mean if you pray hard enough, ask, seek, and beg long enough you will win the lottery, have perfect kids, and never be sick. When Jesus says, “ask, seek and knock,” he means to be relentless in your pursuit of your relationship with God. Seek first the kingdom of God. Seek first the righteousness of God. Jesus says be persistent in asking God what to do and how to fulfil the vision for the kingdom of God. Seek first the kingdom of God. And if you do this, all things and more will be added unto you.                                                               

Now hold on. Let me be very clear, I am not preaching the prosperity Gospel. In case you every guessed, I am not a fan. I am not saying if you focus on God and His Kingdom you will get the car you always wanted, or if you set your mind on Jesus he will reward you with health and wellbeing. No. If you seek God first in all things, then your soul is in the right place and your soul will be able to receive all it needs and more. If you seek personal gain, personal pleasure, or personal reward, you are asking the wrong question, seeking the wrong answers and knocking on the wrong door. But if you seek God in the quiet of the morning, in the hearing of the Word, in the space between the exhale and inhale, you will come to know that all is well. For all will be given unto you and more. Trust in God. Go to him.

Praying takes courage. It takes courage to ask for help and be real in whatever it is your feeling. It takes courage to muster up the honesty to seek God and say “help me, I am lonely, afraid and worried.” Ask for help. God is listening.

It takes perseverance to seek God, to seek a new way of living when the rut you are in is no longer working. When your relationships are shaky and your life feels unhinged. It takes perseverance to seek answers to questions, and to find light in the darkness. Seek God out. God is listening.

Finally it takes great nerve to knock on the door and be willing to fall into the arms of the One who is on the other side. If you knock on the door, you have to be willing to face the One who knows everything that’s going on, and how hard it’s been and what you did and accept that the One who answered the door still loves you and is so happy to see you. The door will be answered and you will be received and welcomed and heard. Keep Praying. God is listening.

Amen.

 

2ND SERMON

EVENING PRAYER                    Trinity 9                       Preacher:  Carole Shelley

 

1 Corinthians 10 v 1- 24

Matthew 13 v 24-30, 36- 43

 

When we look around our world today, we can so easily feel depressed by what we witness.  This experience may be even stronger when viewing a television news bulletin, or reading a news paper.It would be so easy from these three experiences to come to the conclusion that man is a rather hopeless species.

Despite man’s long history and apparent development there is still far too much homelessness, poverty and hunger. There is definitely far too much intolerance, aggression and war.

 

In fact we can begin to question if there is any hope for mankind, will he never learn the obvious lessons from the past or personal experience?

Of course there is much to celebrate and we cannot really doubt that man has moved forward using his ability to invent and create.

However, with the fundamentals of existence, and the fundamentals of living together we still have so much to achieve throughout our world; even if as individuals we can acknowledge that we make great efforts with our personal relationships and principles.

 

Apparently, Oliver Cromwell wanted his son’s education to allow him to learn from history, a sensible principle but I wonder if he did?

The German philosopher Hegal said “that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history”.

 

This is quite a long introduction to bring us to the point of our readings this evening.

The text from Corinthians, written by Paul, to the early church is quite direct.

Paul was a Jew, and all Jews were aware of their long history.

Paul’s first reference is to an event with which we are familiar – the Israelites escape from slavery in Egypt.

Led by Moses they not only escaped captivity in Egypt, directed by God they found a new land in which to live. A land that was to provide for all their needs, in their future development as a nation.

However, if you are aware of anything about the period between these two events you will be very familiar with the ups and downs of their experience.

They accepted all God gave them, but deserted their faith whenever times got challenging or life seemed easier if they abandoned God’s principles.

This is the lesson Paul is struggling to make the early church acknowledge.

It is also a very strong message for us today, some two thousand years later.

 

We like the Jews are offered God’s protection, God’s provision of all we need and yet how easy it is to respond like the Israelites when life becomes challenging.

We ignore what we have been taught, we moan and become dissatisfied; maybe we have even known times when we have turned away from God rather than to him for help.

 

Paul makes another very clear point in his writing. Just as now there were many temptations for Christians.

Other people’s life style can appear very attractive, but may be based on selfish principles.

We may find ourselves in situations where it is easier to go the way of the many, rather than stick to God’s desires for us. I’m sure we are all guilty of remaining quiet at some time when we know we should have spoken out.

But Paul makes his point about past history very clear: these things happened as examples and were written down as warnings for us.

We need not repeat mistakes, these situations are not unavoidable. What we must do is keep ourselves alert and well informed so that we have the strength to resist temptation.

In this country we are very fortunate. We live in a democracy, as a nation we have a reputation for tolerance, we have a good system for justice and we believe in the principles of equality.

However, from Paul’s writing there are two very important messages being brought to us.

Firstly, because we are so fortunate it is vital that we do not allow ourselves to become complacent.

Secondly, we must be prepared to fight for and share God’s principles for his people.

This becomes especially important as we see selfishness and complacency spreading. We are all able to show by example, especially to the young people and children we know and love.

So many lessons for the young are being taken out of family life and placed in the school curriculum.

It is society’s responsibility.

Now while I accept centres within community life have their place in the training of the next generation, it is a fact that children are far more heavily influenced by their personal experiences within their homes and families. Quite simply because this is where they spend most time, and these are the people who they trust and therefore have the most influence over them.

Paul stresses we must learn from example and our history, but most important of all we must “Trust our God”; this is where the Israelites failed regularly.

They blamed God for what went wrong and turned away. They certainly did not look at themselves and their life style for a possible root cause.

Again, how true this is for today. We may not worship idols in the sense of the Old Testament teachings, but we cannot deny that modern life easily creates alternative idols to which we offer too much time and energy.

Paul’s last lesson today is also made very strongly. In modern language: we can’t have everything or have a foot in both camps.

Paul says “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial”. We should always seek the good of others.

 

Here we are brought directly back to Jesus’ teaching; his second law “Love your neighbour as yourself”.

In his explanation of the parable about the weeds Jesus makes it clear that:-

  • He is the sower of good seed

  • The field is the world

  • The good seeds stand for the sons of the kingdom, that is the believers

  • The weeds are those who turn away from God, they grow from seed sown by the devil.

Jesus has summed up what Paul is trying to explain.

We are not expected to shut ourselves away from general life; excluding ourselves from temptation.

Our role is to be within our community, as a positive influence.

What we must guard against is straying from God’s principles.

What Jesus goes on to make clear in this parable however, is something that Paul has not mentioned – there will be a day when the good are separated from the bad.

A day of judgement.

If God allowed man to make this judgement he would make mistakes: for unlike God he doesn’t know the plan for each individual.

In simple terms man would pull out plants as weeds, because they look weak but  they may recover and become very fruitful.

Only God is able to make the correct judgement, in his time.

For ourselves the lessons are simple.

Keep ourselves in communication with God through Jesus; he is the way as our Saviour and Friend.

Look to God for strength to follow the path he would have our lives take.

Use what we know and who we are to bring positive influence to all who will listen.

We cannot perhaps claim to learn from the history and experiences of others, but we can learn to trust God. Amen