Sermons from St Faith's   

Journeying with God

Paula O'Shaughnessy

Sunday, 18th August, 2019

In today's gospel passage from Luke, Jesus tells his disciples that he has not come to bring peace to the earth.  He has instead come to bring division.  This is a surprising message and a difficult one.  It is both difficult to understand and to accept.  It is usual for us to think in terms of Jesus being a bringer of peace and of healing.

The earth however, is not a place of harmony, justice or peace.  Jesus brings messages  which are not welcomed by the people in power.  He tells the people that they need to be true to God and to beware of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  Underlying this message is that God knows all.  It is no good to give the appearance of doing good, of following the holy laws, if the reality is that it is only an outward show of virtue.  For God knows all and no secrets will be hidden from him.

Today's passage comes after the parable of the watchful slaves, who are waiting for their master's return from the wedding banquet.  The individual slaves act in very different ways from each other’s.  Some act in faith and duty, doing as they should whilst they are not being watched.  Others are faithless and are not alert, or at their work.  The good slaves act as faithful stewards, whilst the corrupt and lazy will be punished by their master.

In this context, we can understand why Jesus brings division.  There is division already; the world is an unequal and unfair place, where injustice and suffering happens.  God's people are required to act on the command of God, to be good stewards.  There cannot be an acceptance of wrongdoing, of not following the will of God.  So inevitably there will be strife and division.  God relies on his people to act faithfully, as those who can be trusted.  The relationship of God and his people is at the heart of this. 

The people need God.  If they do not continually seek God, and to strive to fulfil God's will, then the world and its people will be lost.  The disobedience of the first man and woman (Adam and Eve) in the Garden of Eden is the warning of what that loss is.  The good news from Jesus is that there is hope and that God wants his people to return to him – and that they can do this through faith and good deeds.

Like Adam and Eve, who were flattered and deceived by the serpent into disobeying God, people can so easily be taken in by lies and deception – things that are not what they seem.  To see and understand the truth requires courage, prayer and self-honesty.

In today's Old Testament reading from Jeremiah, the prophet speaks the word of God to the Jewish people.  He warns them of false prophets – who do not speak the word of God, though they claim to do so.  Jeremiah warns the people of the dangers of listening to the smooth-talking false prophets, saying what people want to hear. Instead, Jeremiah tells the people that they must be true to God, and that because they have not been, they will suffer the consequences.  In the time of Jeremiah, the loss the Jewish people suffer is being subjugated and exiled to Babylon.

For us today, as Christians, as followers of Christ, the concern is not the same as the people of Judah.  But our faith in Christ is at the heart of our beliefs, our life of faith.

We know the consequences of turning away from God, the terror, the destitution of spirituality. This may be too much greed, or the overwhelming lust for power of leaders.  The love of God saves his people and gives them hope, transforming the world.

In a shifting world, where there is sorrow, suffering and evil, people may lose faith and hope.  It is the calling of God to his people to turn to him for help which offers true salvation.  It is also the will of God that his people will in turn offer hope to others by their acts and words of faith.

In prayer, reading scripture and worship, we as Christians work on our faith.  It is a defence against the darkness and uncertainty of the world.

It is the good stewards who act as God's faithful people.

Kindness is important, to have mercy.  It is important for the person who does the act of kindness, as much as for the person who receives the gift.  Like the tapestry of the mind and the soul, which is as much a part of reality as the physical world.  Sow kind acts and memory's garden will smell sweet.  God asks his people to do good, so that they can become spiritually closer to him.  The people are to act on the word of God, and to be his stewards, his faithful.

The divisions of the world, which Jesus talks about, reflect the fundamental differences between God and the world.  Jesus has come to transform the world, not just to go along with the way things are.  Where there is suffering, or evil Christ and his followers offer hope and salvation.  This spiritual journeying with God continues.

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