Sermons from St
Paula O'Shaughnessy, Sunday, 27th
Today’s readings remind us of the vulnerability of this earth and God’s people upon it. In the Gospel passage, we learn that Peter is to be entrusted with the care of God’s people. Isaiah reminds us of the transient nature of the earthly and the eternity of God and Heaven. The world we live in is one of contrasts – good and evil, plenty and want. Always, as Christians we are in search of God and the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven. Instinctively we know when the environment abounds with the love and mercy of God and when it does not. Our instincts make us yearn for the love and mercy of God, but it is a struggle to always live by this. Sometimes it is our own weakness and tendency to be poor in spirit. At other times it is the environment and the forces of darkness at work which prevent the flourishing of the Kingdom of God in the world.
There is the promise in Isaiah of deliverance and salvation for the people. This is our hope and our prayer, especially in times of darkness. The deliverance is God’s to give, which is the overcoming of evil by God’s love and grace, freeing his people. To always be in a state of searching, striving can be draining and self-defeating, revealing a lack of faith. Rather we should have trust in God and be like the lilies of the field, neither toiling nor spinning. To just ‘be’ – the calm and peace of being in harmony with the Holy Spirit. We do not have to be flawless, for St Peter was not without fault. Yet Jesus entrusted him with the foundation of the church. Peter was shaped by his experiences, as one of the disciples, learning to be faithful and growing in spiritual wisdom, to become the first true leader of the church. As well as a disciple, Peter was a flawed human being. It is knowledge of this which enables him to be the leader and founder of the church.
Humanity, infused with true grace from God is what transforms the world and makes it part of the Kingdom of God. It melts the heart of men and women everywhere. It requires courage and self-knowledge of the people who act upon the Holy Spirit, taking risks and being prepared to make the self sacrifices needed in the situation. True humility which does not seek recognition, but which enables others to live more peacefully, respecting difference, weakness and not exploiting vulnerabilities in whatever forms they may come. It is easy to be intolerant or judgemental; it is harder to be forgiving and not to rise to indignation.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he tells his listeners that there is a role for everyone. It is not enough to take a passive role, to not take responsibility. Everyone has a part to play – as a minister, teacher or in whatever capacity each can use their gifts, for the service of God and his people. The gifts we have will differ, but each one of us can play a key part in building the Kingdom of God. The warmth and gentleness of spirit is in our hearts is key to this. Keeping rigidly to rules if we break the spirit of the law is a greater failure. The duty to follow the teachings of Christ can seem overwhelming to us. Sometimes it is simply the enormity of the task which is why we lose faith or act in ways which we later feel ashamed of. When the world seems hostile or someone comes into our lives, we may question the purpose of it all. It is when we see kindness and goodness that our hearts are warmed once again and we have our faith renewed.
I think of my grandmother, who had a childhood of great sadness, living in an orphanage for some of her early years. Yet, she was one of the gentlest, kindest, most loving people I have ever known. For me, probably the most loving and most kind. She was a living inspiration of God’s gifts, filled with God’s grace, as she was. For she did not want those she lover to suffer the loneliness and deprivation she had experienced, as a child.
Let us pray, therefore, that whatever we do in our lives, we live in God, that God lives in us and that we share that love with the world and all of God’s creatures.