Herewith a version of this morning's sermon. A cracking service... thanks be to God!
By now you will know that our teaching weekend ‘L!VE iT’ is a matter of weeks away. You will have prayed for it and heard hopefully much talk about it and it’s importance for us this Autumn.
For a moment though, cast you minds back. Many of you here this morning will know or remember that back in 2006 Holy Trinity held an exciting week-long event called 'Fan the Flame' which renewed the faith of many people here today.
For those of who were part of Fan the Flame, I think you will agree that the week was immensely important for us as a church. Through it we examined the basics of christian faith - forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, the cross, resurrection and so on. Many people here rediscovered the uniqueness and enormity of the love of God for them.
It is this enormous love of God that Paul writes of in his letter to the Romans that we have heard some of this morning. It is a love that reaches out to each of us in and through Jesus Christ, and offers us nothing less than an eternal relationship with Him - the way that he always intended. Throughout his letter, Paul argues that all humanity is guilty and accountable to God for sin and that it is only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we can have that relationship restored.
The L!VE iT weekend is an intensive opportunity to remind ourselves of what lies at the heart of Paul’s letter. Over that weekend we will be learning together about our central act of worship - the Eucharist. Those planning this weekend felt that this was a vital theme for us as a church. For in sharing in the eucharist, through breaking bread together and drinking wine, we give thanks to God for, and in a way re-enact, God’s offer of that restored relationship of love.
Any relationship that we may be part of requires work. I say that to every dewy eyed wedding couple I see. Love, I tell them, is not a spontaneous emotion. You cannot just randomnly fall in love or fall out of love. To be in a love relationship means that you make deliberate decisions to do and say loving things to each other. When the Bible speaks of love, it does so as an action. Something that God does to us, and we are to do to each other.
Similarly our relationship with God requires work. We don’t just randomnly fall in love with God. He showed us love first through Jesus. We have each responded to that love in some way. If, though, we do not continue to work at our relationship with him our it will go stale. Paul, as Jesus elsewhere, is quite clear, love acted upon and lived out to God and neighbour fulfills all that God asks of us.
It can become all too easy to take anyone in any relationship that we might be part of for granted. The consequences of that should be obvious in say a marriage or even a close friendship. The same is true of our relationship with God. It should be so much more than worship on a Sunday. It should be a relationship that defines us, drives us, challenges and changes us. And yet, over time, many of us might admit that coming to church becomes nothing more than a habit from time to time. Something that we just do, rather than, as Jesus promised us in the Gospel reading this morning, where 2 or 3 gather expecting to meet with Him, there he will indeed be.
Paul says to us - WAKE UP! If our relationship with God is nothing more than habitually coming to church - WAKE UP! If we are knowingly meeting with God on Sunday and yet slipping easily back into what Paul calls the works of darkness - WAKE UP! Instead let us renew our relationship with God and each other and - to use Paul’s phrase - put on the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, lets work hard at our relationship with him through prayer, service to others, study of the scriptures and receiving the eucharist - that our relationship with God becomes so intimately close to us its like wearing a shirt or a blouse.
L!VE iT is an opportunity another opportunity for us to grow together in friendship and grow in faith; to become both individually and together, more the people God longs for us to be.
The church council, the planning group and I commend the weekend to you, and especially to your prayers. But friends do let this opportunity pass you by. Do not miss out on an extremely exciting opportunity to deepen and renew our relationship with God. Amen.