Sermons from St Faith's   


Paula O'Shaughnessy, Sunday, 24th January, 2016

If someone asks you, 'how do you feel about change?' You might give very different answers, depending on what is happening to you at that time in your life.  If everything is ticking along nicely, we probably would not want any change.  If we are worrying in anticipation of something we fear might happen, then we would probably say, no change please.  On the other hand we might be having a bad time, and hoping or praying for change.

Each week, we find that we need to pray for the same things – peace in the Middle East, an end to injustice and a fairer world.  Some things don't SEEM to change for the better.

These are difficult questions, but what seems certain is the urgency to pray to God.  There are good things which happen in the world too, of course.  We need to pray that we will always keep that urgency to pray, in good and bad times.  That we don't lose faith and hope in God – either because we fall completely into despair or because life becomes so comfortable that we forget that we still must rely on God.

As Saul was walking along the road to Damascus, his vision and understanding of the world and his relationship with God changed dramatically.  He did not seek change – he thought that he knew he was on the right path.  However, Jesus sought him out to transform Saul, to shatter his perceptions as illusions, misunderstandings.  This radical change doesn't come about in Saul by his reasoning, it is miraculous, divine action which makes it happen.

There is something fundamental in that – if God is to transform the world, he must first transform the people, from within.  Saul becomes an instrument of God, within the early church.  He must first become transformed from within, in order to then carry the Gospel message into the world, transforming the hearts of people.

How often we realise that it is experience, not argument or discussion, or reading about something which transforms.  Only by experiencing do we understand fully.  When you see it, feel it, only then does it become real.  All too often, the underlying cause of evil is not empathising with someone else, seeing it from their point of view.  Where people carry out cruel acts against others, they first de-humanise the victim.  The Wisdom of the Russian people shines a light on this.  The Russian word for the verb to hate is 'ne-ne-veedet' –  meaning, literally to not-not see.  (The Russian verb to see is 'veedet').  Saul himself is struck blind – Jesus is showing Saul that he does not see.  His bigotry, his certainty of his understanding, his intolerance of others, separates him from his Christian neighbours (who he regards as being fundamentally wrong or bad).  In this mindset, Saul has separated himself not just from his neighbours but also from God.

Later,as the Christian missionary, Paul, realising this says (Romans 13:9-12). 

The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.  Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light;'

In his letters Paul urges his readers and listeners to be prepared for the second coming of Christ.  This hope and faith, which Paul has, he repeats.  In 1 Thessalonians Ch 4:
For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever.

The sacrifice which God made, through the life of the Jesus, for the world – is the eternal promise.  The New Covenant.  God knows and loves all his people.

Our hearts must be tender and warm to all, to allow God to be alive in us. 

Isaiah 49

But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me,
   my Lord has forgotten me.’
Can a woman forget her nursing-child,
   or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
   yet I will not forget you.

We must have courage and faith, in all circumstances.  To see that God is alive in the world, and that there is a divine purpose.  We, like Saul, need to have the courage to open our eyes and see the world as true Christians.

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