Sunday, July 20, 2008

Evening... good day. Topped off by a great service at Adeyfield Free Church tonight. Also had a good meeting earlier today about baptised children receiving communion before confirmation. Good turn out... We'll see how many pitch up at the end of September when the programme of preparation starts.

Tonight I have a headache. Tiredness and Somerset cider and dehydration. Oh well, better get some more cider!

Herewith the sermon from this morning based on Romans 8:12-25 and Matthew 13:24-30,36-43...

I received an email yesterday that swelled my ego suitably. It was from a woman that I know slightly. She wrote: “...I hadn't been christened, religion had no part in my life. Now 10 years on, my children go to church and have beliefs and even I even read your blog. A vicar who likes The Cure - fantastic. What I'm trying to say is you've made me feel the church is for everyone not just the old Fogeys.”

As I say, the email did wonders for my ego, but it also got me thinking. Our two readings tonight remind those of us who identify ourselves with Jesus that we live and work with and alongside all sorts of people – both wheat and weeds – and we are the living and breathing advert for Jesus, but there is also a note of warning – if we identify ourselves publicly with Jesus Christ then he will be the standard by which we will be measured up against by the media, others both Christian and non-Christian alike, and ultimately by Jesus himself.

Now in true, convoluted language, what Paul does is remind his hearers that if they align themselves with Jesus Christ, if we call ourselves Christians, then it must count in an obvious way. In other words, in some way Jesus' life and death must fee us into new ways of living. Something distinctive. What does that freedom mean? Well Paul's compelling answer is: life. If we call ourselves Christian then we should be living lives recognisably like that of Jesus Christ for if we are not, we are living according to 'the flesh' as Paul calls it.

Paul says we can only live true life if the Spirit of God dwells in us. And when it does God's Spirit actively directs and guides us and over time forms us into children of God.

To fully help his hearers to get their heads round this he compares the life of a slave with that of a child in a family. To be a slave is to be under oppression, owned by and directed by someone else, without freedom and living in fear.

Being a child on the other hand means becoming a heir. It means being loved no matter what. It means addressing the head of the house in the same way that the Son does – Daddy! It means God giving us equal rights in the family as his Son. And the Son does not mind as it is Jesus the Son who has gone out of his way to invite us in – offering us freedom, life and hope.

As Jesus' siblings we have a duty to be a good advert for the Christian community and for Jesus himself. We should be finding ourselves so transformed by God's Spirit, that we desire to please our father by the way we live, the things we say. Children usually look up to their parents in respect and love and long to be like them. so should we. We can each make what we believe as accessible to others as possible, we can hope to reinforce words with actions - by the way we live. As adopted children of God we can and should enjoy all that God offers – but let's not romanticize it. It's not all love, love, love. Paul reminds us that we cannot pick and choose which parts of the life of Jesus we buy into.

Just as Jesus endured suffering and scandal – so will we. Yet God's spirit in us reminds us of our true nature – in those moments when we question who we are and what we believe, when we forget who we are, when we desert who we are – God spirit says 'You are God's child, now behave like it!' If we are going to talk like the Son, we also need to act like him and until we do, the rest of the world cannot receive what's on offer.

The real problem is though, that in trying to share what we have with others, we so easily slip back into the slave mentality. Notice it is the slaves who want to uproot the weeds, not the master.

In life's field, we are planted each planted amongst much wheat and many weeds. Even the church is made up of people that we may consider desirable or less desirable. Jesus' teaching is clear - whilst we may desire, as God does, for it to be a gathering of the righteous – it is not our place to be slaves and weed out the things, attitudes and people that we may consider undesirable. If we do it too soon, we risk uprooting and damaging the crop – namely the faith of some of the community. Matthew's church, as ours today, lived in the tension of desiring to achieve purity, religious perfection and holiness with the need to forgive, accept and restore. The church has always been made up of a whole mixture of people. Despite contemporary calls for this or that strand to be weeded out – it is not our task. Beside weeds and wheat look very alike!

The task of harvesting ultimately falls to the landowner. The task of judging falls to Jesus Christ. As his siblings we are to live like him – to work for reconciliation and to forgive without limit. Oh but don't take this parable as word of comfort from Jesus, because it is not.

Friends we need to speak of our faith in everyday language, and we must show that it counts in Christ-like lives. We need to ensure that we are approachable by others but also that we do stand for something – not just the values of our world suddenly found in the pages of the scriptures. Paul reminds us for the need for distinctive living – are you a slave or a child? Wheat or weed? God knows...

When the harvest comes, wheat will be put into the storehouse and weeds will be burned. As adopted siblings of Jesus Christ, if we appear not be what we profess – we become fodder for tabloid newspapers, and when it comes to harvest time, it is the landowner who can see what is wheat and what is weed.

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