Sermons from St Faith's   

God's Way

Fr John Reed,  Sunday 9th December, 2018

When I was at University, I regularly attended a Sunday night young people's group in Lewes.  After the meeting had ended I was given a lift back to University by Andrew.  Andrew was a civil engineer working on the new Lewes bypass.  He loved his work and often talked about it.. attimes we wondered if there was anything else he could talk about.  And when he gave you a lift home you would often get a ride of the newest bit of the bypass, with a running commentary.  On one occasion as he drove at great speed over a new stretch of road he said; 'there’s a bit there that isn’t flat so he turned off and drove over it again and then said 'I will tell the workmen to fix it on Monday.'

Today's reading from Baruch written in the politically turbulent times of the first century AD, but looking back five centuries earlier to the time of the Babylonian Exile uses the words from Isaiah 40, that we find in today's reading from Luke's Gospel.   After a failed conspiracy with the Egyptians against the might of the Babylonian Empire, Jerusalem fell in 587 BC. As a punishment all the craftsmen and the ruling classes were marched in captivity to Babylon.  The road was not gentle on the old, the very young or the injured or disabled. The Babylonian soldiers probably didn’t care who lived or who died on the way.  Up mountains through valleys in the blazing heat of the sun, in the pouring rain through a long and twisted way.

Isaiah’s message of hope to the next generation in exile who had heard of that terrible journey, was one of a return to the land of their parents.  And God's way was straight, no winding paths. God's way was flat, no mountains to climb up to or valleys to climb down to. God's way was shaded by trees, with large canopies of leaves to keep the sun off their heads, bearing fruit for them to eat. And where trees grow there is ample water to drink.  It is a way not of sorrow and affliction but a way of righteousness and God's glory.  It was a far bigger undertaking for those people than the Lewes bypass.

John the Baptist every Advent calls us again “to prepare the way of the Lord, to make his paths straight.” For the people in captivity it wasn’t just a matter of how do we get back, but having the mindset that God could lead them in safety and being prepared to make that way in their hearts.  Paul writes from prison to the church in Philippi;   “may the one who began a good work among you bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”  Advent begs the question; are you allowing that good work begun by God to grow in your lives, are you living as someone whose heart is overflowing with love, because you cant help but love and love and love.  Paul's goals for his listeners are high.

Aesop tells in a fable of a majestic eagle and a tiny wren having an argument about who can fly the highest.  So they took off in pursuit of the highest any bird can fly, but the Wren used his cunning. He sneaked into the thick feathers on the Eagle's back, and was lifted up on the wings of eagle. The Wren was tiny and the Eagle was oblivious to its weight.  As the Eagle flew he kept calling loudly to the Wren in the belief that he, a big eagle, would easily out pace a tiny wren and fly the highest. But every time the Wren would reply in a tiny voice “I am above you, fly higher.”    And as much as we think we may experience God at work in Jesus in our live there is more God can do with our lives.  We all need to “fly higher” in the love of God.  John the Baptist challenges his hearers to take a good look at themselves, make changes and to be the way of the Lord. Someone once said God's chosen people are not God's frozen people. 

We have much to be thankful for at St. Faith’s after a very successful Christmas tree festival, the commitment and the sacrificial giving of time and talents to God's work in this place by so many is to be commended.  Our worship too gives glory to God in the best way we can, it is at the centre of our Anglo Catholic way of being Christians.  But let us not drift into the complacency that says we cannot fly any higher in the love of God than we are doing now.

The Bishop has launched a rule of life: it is quite simple to explain.

We are called:
To Pray
To Read
To Learn
We are sent
To Tell
To Serve
To Give

If you would like to know more about what it would mean for you, we will be looking at this next year in Lent.  We will also be running a course called “Your Shape for God's Service” to help people pray, read, and learn about their discipleship.  And the Bishop hopes people will want to sign on the dotted line to say I will commit myself to following this simple rule of life.

It sounds demanding  but that is what Paul and John the Baptist were talking about.  When I sit in vicars, studies and occasionally have to wait while they answer the phone or make coffee, my gaze often strays to the bookshelf. One title that always grabs my attention is “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers.  The title is electrifying; giving your very best for God's greatest expectation of you, that is exciting - or as the little wren said, 'Fly higher'.  Advent calls, are you awake? Are we giving our utmost for whatever heights God may call us to?


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