Sermons from St
Making your Choice
Fr John Reed, Sunday 19th August, 2018
There is a song by the Eagles which was very popular in the 1970’s called Hotel California.
“On a dark desert highway - Cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas - rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance – I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim –
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway – I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself
This could be heaven or this could be hell.”
On the first look it seems a very good place to go, attractive women and lots to drink
The end of the song, according to one of the Eagles' biographers was a bitter comment on the post-hippy music scene in California. People in the hotel tell him “we are all prisoners here of our own device.” The night porter says as he asks the way out “You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.”
The Proverbs chapter seeks to explain a right way of living in God's world, and two female characters each having their own magnificent houses seek to guide us in our choices. One is wisdom, the owner of the house of wisdom, the other folly, the owner of a house like Hotel California. Wisdom has built her own palatial house, the numbers of pillars gives it away - it's built on God’s creation. She has laid her table and mixed her wine. It’s a feast second to none on offer. The Servants are sent to call the guests.
“You that are simple, turn in here!” To those without sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
Folly offers stolen water that is sweet and the pleasure of bread eaten in secret. Her guests are in the place of the dead.
We have choices to make with the time we have, to choose to live the way God intended, or to seek things that appear attractive but have no real substance.
The church in Ephesus in the enthusiasm of new believers living in the hope of Jesus immanent return needed guidance. If you remember last week's passage from the letter to the Ephesians all was not well. The advice from the writer was to turn from behavior patterns like being angry, telling lies and stealing and to fill their lives with positive actions based on the way God is. The writer encourages them to make the most of the time by choosing wisely.
I went on my first time management course over 30 years ago, they crop up periodically within the Diocese. I was once asked to lead one at very short notice, because a colleague in lifelong learning had double booked themselves. The most important thing one of the course attenders remembered from the course was the original tutor had double booked themselves!
These exercises in the wisdom of using time do have a value, but as one course leader remarked at the end of a lecture. You will always choose to do thing you like first. The wisdom is get to understand yourself first.
But that is about time in the field of employment. Time is a much bigger question than work! All time is God’s time, freely given by God - time to make choices. Wisdom or folly. Its good to pause and reflect, what are you doing with Gods time?
The first command Jesus gave is to love God, not half-heartedly but with all your heart mind soul and strength. It will take time, lots of time. Time for prayer – study - and worship, making melody and giving thanks. Being filled with the Spirit.
The second command was to love on'es neighbour as you do yourself. Loving God is not an individual project, it is communal. If we say we love God and not our neighbour we are living a lie.
We hear a lot about “me” time as an important part of living a fulfilled life. The wisdom of scripture doesn’t mention me time, it talks about “us” time in two dimensions loving God and loving your neighbour. And through Jesus was are caught up in the love of God.
In today's Gospel Jesus talks of “abiding in Him.” It is an echo of the long speech Jesus gives on being the true vine. Vineyard owners and gardeners have known for centuries that if you take a branch and carefully attach it to a stem with roots, it will draw its life from the stem and produce fruit as if it had been part of the stem in the beginning. Jesus uses that analogy as an expression of the closeness between the follower and himself. The life that flows from him giving life to those who follow. That is what we receive by gathering before this altar as God's people in this place. And in Jesus we find true wisdom. Wisdom to love God and to love your neighbour too.