Sunday 19th

IST SERMON

MORNING PRAYER                     TRINITY 4         Preacher:  Fran Powis

                    

Psalms 42 and 43         
Galatians 3 verses 23—29
Luke 8 verses26—39

Opening Prayer

Chapter 8 of Luke’s Gospel shows us how different people react in different ways to the stories and healing miracles of Jesus. We can see how the disciples were amazed at Jesus’ calming the storm, whilst the parents of the girl whom Jesus healed were astonished, however the Geresene people were overcome with fear and asked Jesus to leave the area after he sent the demons from the possessed man into a herd of pigs, which then ran into the lake and were drowned.

The people’s livelihood was affected, they lost out financially and so they were not very satisfied with the result of the miracle, even though they had seen the previously possessed man, who used to frighten them, in his right mind and clothed, sitting at Jesus feet listening to him.

Have you ever felt that people can be suspicious of us because of our faith, maybe they feel uncomfortable around us, they don’t share our faith and so they reject us and can turn against us.

In Galatians chapter 3 Paul is calling the Galatians foolish or bewitched by false prophets, we have to stand firm in our faith and not be knocked off track by the suspicions or words of those who don’t believe, and this can sometimes be difficult.

We are justified by faith. Four hundred and thirty years before God gave the Israelites the Law, in the form of the Ten Commandments, to live by, he had promised Abraham that he would become the Father of the Jewish Nation and because he believed Abraham was ‘credited as righteous’.

We can do nothing to earn or deserve God’s favour, we are all equal under heaven, and so Paul concludes that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus”. We all have the same value in God’s sight.

Verse 25 says, “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law”. In other translations the word supervision becomes discipline. A disciplinarian, like a strict school master corresponds to our word pedagogue. In Roman times a pedagogue was a slave who escorted his master’s children to school, he escorted them and guided them to where they received their education, even when they didn’t want to go;  after all nothing has changed over the millennia.

Rather like children today, sometimes, hopefully not often, they do not want the discipline of a regular education, however children need boundaries to be set for them until they can discipline themselves.

As children grow into adolescence they have to learn for themselves, sometimes they rebel and kick over the traces, they cross the boundaries and make mistakes, we have all be there and done that.  If as young children we have taught them self respect, and confidence in themselves, then they will learn by their mistakes, as we did!

St Paul is saying that the law of the Old Testament was a temporary measure. It is there to guide us until we learn better. When we met Jesus and came to him, we learned to love and respect him and so the old laws are no longer necessary. What matters now is living to please Jesus and that means wanting to do well and live well, through love and not under a strict discipline like a yoke across our shoulders.

This is why Paul says, “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”.

2000 years on and we are still trying to live up to this standard.

The first eight psalms of the section from psalm 42—72 are ascribed to the sons of Korah, Levites, descended through Kohath, they were involved in temple worship. It is also understood that Psalms 42 and 43 were at one time just one psalm. This belief is reinforced through verses five in both as they echo one another. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God”.

The writer was talking of his depression, he felt abandoned and in need of strengthening sustenance like deer need water when they are stressed.

I don’t know about you but some of the rhetoric surrounding the debate on the E.U. Referendum has made me feel very low and downcast.  It is an important decision we are about to make, we need God’s guidance as we have been linked to European markets for 40 years, and if we leave now we will have to forge ahead and find new, or old, countries to trade with.

There may be upheaval after the vote, there may be times of disagreement whilst things settle down. We still have our elected government for a further four years so our Chancellor will have to look at what money he has to balance our economy with.

Harsh words over the last few weeks will have to be settled. We need God’s guidance to learn to live in harmony together again after the disagreements. We will need the Holy Spirit to lead us forward, either healing wounds with Europe from within, or with our neighbours on this side of the Channel from without.

Current laws are not going to be torn up, so what we have, we must learn to live with, and pray that what God teaches us about loving our neighbour bears more fruit than licking our wounds and glaring at those we have disagreed with.

The Shack by William Paul Young, is a heart rending humorous, work of fiction which tells of a man meeting God, the Holy Trinity, in a shack in the mountains.  If you haven’t read it I would certainly recommend that you do so.

There is a passage in it in which God says he dislikes laws, Mack the main earthly character asks then why did God give us the Ten Commandments? God answers that it was to drive to despair those who thought they could earn their way into God’s grace by obeying a set of rules, (rather like the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day).

But for those who live under Jesus, “all things are lawful”, and the Holy Spirit adds that we are all free so long as we allow God to live in us.   Mack thinks this freedom is dangerous, he prefers to have everything under control. The Holy Spirit points out that Mack likes the law so that he can judge others and therefore feel superior.

When asked to explain this the Holy Spirit uses the example of friendship, she says that if two people are friends they expect to spend time together, laughing and talking, the expectancy is alive and dynamic; however if the friends turn that expectancy into an xpectation then law enters the relationship and the friends are expected to conform to the expectations of the other, which can in turn lead to disappointment. The living friendship can die.

God goes on to say, ‘If you have no expectations you will not be disappointed in each other’.  In reality, God is never disappointed in us, because he loves us  unconditionally.

We are all equal under God because of his grace, not his law,  let us thank God for that freely given gift every day, and night as we settle into our rest, always praising our Saviour and our God.

Amen.