Sermon

Sermon 18 July 2021

Readings 2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 89:20-37; Ephesians 2: 11-22 and St Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

At the heart of this message is the notion that we build a faith in God on what we understand and one that meets our needs, and the building of the temple is a good example of this and that God honours that which we build out of our own good intentions but, God wants our life in him not to be built on what we are building  but what He is building.

And that gives us a tremendous freedom – because we are often let down by the faith that we have built on our own desires and our own expectations– but never let down by Christ who is the “Great I am” the author and perfector of life.  

“Give us the stillness that restores our spirits and the grace that brings healing;

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ!

I Love God and I serve him as my duty and my Joy. Last week I stated that my Preaching role was one that I love but that it was becoming increasingly difficult to speak in the public domain and preaching has become difficult. Little did I know that I would be called to preach under more testing circumstances this week than last week.

I will be honest, I was empty, that’s why I took two weeks off, but like in the text although I was going for some quiet time aside from the work of Ministry I was drawn straight back in.  

and so today my prayer is definitely:

“Give us the stillness that restores our spirits and the grace that brings healing;”

From our readings I’d like to pick up on about Israel’s misunderstanding of their relationship with God, and I’d like to focus on Psalm 89 vs 28 to 33

“My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him.
I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens.
If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules,
if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments,
then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes,
but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness.

These are the words of truth that we must hold onto for God’s people, for ourselves –

God will punish us, but will not remove his steadfast love.

As I preached two weeks ago – we must acknowledge that it is the sins of the world (our sin and corporate sin) that got us where we are. It is the sinfulness of society of structures of the ways of the world that have brought disaster upon us. But as Christians we are not to remain in our sins, we are to realise that being forgiven means being set free to make a  difference, absolution of our sins, which we call holiness, does not make us better than anybody else but it sets us free to act appropriately and to not lose hope and to work for a better future, and to embrace the reality of the moment without fear,

but with the knowledge that God is healing us. And we can only embrace this way of life is we

 have the ‘stillness that restores our spirits and the grace that brings healing;’

We cannot add value to the Kingdom if we are operating out of fear, prejudice, hatred indifference or justifying people’s actions.

It is not acceptable to say – shame our country was looted because people were hungry and disenfranchised and underprivileged.

Just as it is not okay to accept that we are the most unequal country in the world and the gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing.

This country has being looted by the Capitalists, the Socialists, the Communists  the politicians and now the people…

and it must stop!

Being forgiven means that we focus more on what we are going to do about it than on how we got into this mess; and sure we need to be held accountable. We need to see how our world view contributed to this chaos, but more than that we have to dedicate ourselves to the transformative love of Christ – we need to reorder our lives  -we have been drawn aside by the pandemic, and by this war; they have been great disrupters – are we going to do something about it?

Are we going to see this as our “exodus moment ?”

Are we going to see this as our moment of transition – “do not be conformed to the ways of the world, moment?”

Today do not harden your hearts as the people did in the wilderness when they grumbled against God ( Ps 95 and Hebrews 3:8) – do not challenge God saying – “Did he bring us out here to die” What is the purpose of our life our faith our church?

Accept the Lord’s discipline – and don’t get confused, God didn’t make the people loot and steal and destroy our country, sin did that.

But despite our sin God takes action for our good – While we were still sinners Christ died for us ( Rom 5:8)

As Psalm 89 reminded us – our sin will be like a rod on our backs – we will suffer the consequences of our sinfulness – but our sinful nature has been overthrown and we are not trapped in that brokenness…

Psalm 30 vs 5 says “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

we may be in the middle of a dark night in our country, we may be weeping over all that has transpired, and we have heard for months now about the organised looting of our country by those entrusted to care for the land, we have experienced the looting of our resources and its people for personal gain both by the Capitalists and the politicians. Everybody demanding more and more and all of that just making us poorer.

Indeed we walk in the Valley of the shadow of death – as the Pandemic rages, as our streets are martialled by soldiers and militia, but in the midst of that we must, not fear: but  – accept God’s Rod of discipline and accept God’s staff of guidance. Repentance and discipleship.

For then, and only when we walk by the spirt –will we not fear evil.

“Give us the stillness that restores our spirits and the grace that brings healing;

I can relate to Jesus and the Disciples in today’s Gospel reading. Last week after the service I went off on leave… two weeks of peace is what I was looking forward to:  well I’m still looking forward to that, maybe another time. But here we are.

This last week has been tough on us all and made us question a lot about our lives as South African’s.

Helplessness, is one of the worst feelings that a human being can be subjected to.

We like control. We like assurance, we like order. Chaos and Crisis, are not things we like. It will even force us to be part of the chaos, at least then we are active and involved and feel like part of something, as opposed to victim of it. It’s what enables people to be embraced by mob mentality. It’s a means to survival – go with the crowd or be trampled by it.  To be part of something is a human need. And we have seen that manifest itself in this last week.

As someone reminded me it reminded them of Passion week – a crowd that could shout hosanna one day and crucify, crucify the next.

Jesus knew what facing a mob was like, he faced mobs more than once.

So, whether we mobbed and looted or mobbed to build barricades, or mobbed to clean the streets, we made sure we got involved, because we wanted to take control.

Don’t miss understand me I am just saying that we all have the potential to do good or evil. I am glad that you chose to do good.

Our world was shattered by a narrative that we had no desire to be part of but were sucked into. Naturally, I am much happier that we were part of the protection mob than the rioting mob, but you get my point:

Struggling to take some sort of control over the circumstances was a struggle for us all this week.

By yesterday people were back shopping, I have never been so delighted with a simple purchase of bread. Many people have been involved with clean up campaigns, we are all still on high alert, wondering what is coming next, but we are starting to get control back….. we like control.

The cause of SA’s woes, and they should never have been expressed this way – we have ways to express our dissatisfaction and violence is not an answer and damage to property and loss of life is unacceptable;

but the things that led to this are as real today as they were last week. Many people have lost their jobs and joined the millions that didn’t have jobs and have been feeling more and more helpless as COVID restrictions impacted more and more heavily on our lives.

Let’s be honest it has been a rough week, a rough year. And the impacts of this are going to have long lasting effects – unless there is repentance and forgiveness.

And that must start here, with us – in every interaction that we have, we must be calling each other to repentance for the Kingdom of God is here – I am not talking about a state led process of social cohesion or commissions, I am talking about a Preaching of the Good News by every one of us  – that the Kingdom of God is here, repent and believe the good news.

We are probably tired of the opinions and the rhetoric and the philosophical debate about the politics and economics of it all…

And the last thing that I want to hear is someone sermonising and intellectualising and philosophising about it all.

I don’t want to hear how I should be feeling about it – how I should and shouldn’t responded.

I want to know about how my faith can help me deal with the rage and the confusion and the loss and the disappointment.

This week I wrote a piece based on Psalm 42 “  why my heart is so heavy within me and why my soul is disquiet,”

For while my faith is in God;  I acknowledge the strain of this whole situation.

All I want is!

“God give us the stillness that restores our spirits and the grace that brings healing;”

I think that for years I have been speaking about dealing with the reality of the moment, I have preached about how we can’t have resurrection without crucifixion,

But, knowing that overcoming the suffering is possible and actually enduring it are two very different things.

Our scriptures speak into our situation today more than we know.

Our scriptures are well summed up in the Collect:

God You sent your Son to heal and to bring peace:

give us the stillness that restores our spirits

and the grace that brings healing;

How do we get that stillness, How do we have our hearts restored after or rather during this storm that we are enduring.

Well I’d suggest that we need to get back into the story.

When we interact with other people we interact with a limited part of their lives. Maybe we interact as a colleague, or as an acquaintance, someone who simply shares the identity of working for the same company or maybe going to the same church.

We share part of each other’s lives but not all of it. Like people driving down the highway we are all driving cars and traveling in the same direction – but our journeys are very different, and our vehicles are very different.

My point is that we select how we interact with each other, what we reveal about ourselves and what we allow others to reveal or impose upon us.

We select the texts of scripture that we read and believe, we restrict our interaction with God to that which we want – we build a castle of our faith that protects us. We build an intellectual, philosophical material faith that sustains us.

Then something happens and all that crumbles and we are forced to change the way we see each other. Something forces an interaction, and we are forced to change our view of the other, and that makes us change the way we see ourselves and the way that we interact with the world.

Face it the way that you see the world the way that you see others has been affected by the experience of this week.

We walked side by side not even knowing that this anger and hatred and bitterness and helplessness was brewing below the surface – in me, in you and in the other… we would not allow it to surface and we allowed our selves the delusion of calling that peace.

This week has caused hidden or buried anxieties to resurface, caused new prejudices, made us change the way that we see the world.   

Please I beg you, do not run from it and do not bury it. Bring every emotion every fear every uncertainty before GOD and ask him to

“give us the stillness that restores our spirits and the grace that brings healing”

We could not control the events that we endured this last week, but we can control how we respond to them.

We can turn back to God and seek wisdom and forgiveness and the ability to forgive and the power to ask God to

give us the stillness that restores our spirits

and the grace that brings healing;

for we need this if we are to truly recover from what has happened to us :

So these two things from the scripture that I wanted to highlight are this:

David wanted to build a Castle for God to take up residence and to bring stability to David’s Kingdom. He wanted a Temple that would impress the world – and we see that Solomon eventually did build this castle – the great temple which was destroyed and rebuilt and destroyed finally by the Romans.

In the Samuel reading we have God saying – Did I ever ask for a House of Cedar – but I will appoint a place for my people and I will build a house, and he shall be my Son.

We know that Solomon misinterpreted this to mean him, but we know that it was the House that Jesus would build that God was talking about and we are that house – we are that Temple with Jesus as the Cornerstone. 

The Israelites made the Temple the focus of their religion – when it was destroyed they fell apart, when the work of their hands was destroyed they felt lost.

My point is that we are the building blocks of God’s Kingdom and we are to be used by Him to build this house….and God will build you and I into an eternal kingdom that nothing can destroy…

But we have built our own Castle out of our religion – trying to elevate ourselves above the things of this world, that is what has crumbled – the temple of our making – but not the one God is building..

In the New Testament we have the Law being presented as the focal point and St Paul saying that he now sees that it is not the centre of the faith but that Jesus is  Ephesians 2: vs 15, 19, 20 21

by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 

in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

The Jews had used their laws to make themselves superior to build a protection for themselves – but their superficial sacrificial system was broken down..

So do not fear when your symbols of security in the faith are destroyed – God is still building. The superficial can be destroyed but Jesus died and was resurrected and cannot be destroyed… that which is of God is still with us to rebuild our lives…

When the churches are locked buildings. may it be a reminder that the church is us and we have been feeding people and reassuring them and cleaning the streets and bringing hope and healing:  and it is these things that make us the church – not anything else, And I long to get together on Sunday again and celebrate the things that we have done as the church each and every day out in the world, but the real church is not the rules or the building it is the love shown to neighbours, it is the hope preached to strangers it is the joy that we still have even when life seems unbearable

it is the fact that we keep on praying to a living God

give us the stillness that restores our spirits and the grace that brings healing;

Here this oh People of God the Lord our God is one – he is the creator of this earth – honour him in the way your treat the earth

Here this oh people of God – the Lord your God is one – he is the one who fashioned you in His image and that image is Love –

so, love God and love your neighbour and love your enemy and love your life and live your life in the knowledge that perfect love drives out fear.  (1 John 4:18)

God You sent your Son to heal and to bring peace:

give us the stillness that restores our spirits and the grace that brings healing;

and that is my prayer for you!

Our God is faithful and he will not fail you and so choose faith and not fear.

Amen.

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