12th Sunday after Pentecost. A sermon by Revd Andrew Manning. The video and the text is below. God bless you abundantly.
On Alpha Last weekend we did the Holy Spirit Weekend It is very different doing it online without the normal physical bond that is present on such a weekend. The talks for the weekend are:
• Who is the Holy Spirit?
• What does the Holy Spirit Do, and
• How do I receive the Holy Spirit.
And in essence it is about understanding that God gives us Gifts so that we can be his servants – God equips us for what he has called us to – through the Holy Spirit.
In Egypt Pharaoh stopped providing straw to make bricks, but expected the bricks, in contrast God gives us every good gift so that we can live up to the life that he has called us to.
If you haven’t done Alpha or last did it 5 years ago I suggest that you sign up for the next one, it is an amazing journey and it works really well online.
Now, this morning we pray “Accept us as a living Sacrifice and transform us by your Spirit so that we will offer our gifts in Christs service.” The prayer implies that our sacrifice is to offer the gifts that God gives us back to God for him to use. This is one of the most important things to understand about the salvation that we receive, it is a basic principal handed down through Abraham.
Remember Abraham was given the gift of Isaac – he was old Sarah was barren and God gave them a son – Isaac was a gift and Abraham had to offer his son who was, the gift, the promise, the hope for the future, he had to offer this back to God but not to death as the Canaanite Cults did when they sacrificed their children to Molech; but to life, when we offer ourselves to God when we sacrifice ourselves to God it is to resurrection, that we give ourselves.
In Offering ourselves as a sacrifice we offer ourselves to participate in Christ who dies and rises again for us and leads us into new-life. So, it is not after we die and go to heaven that we enter the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the NOW life, the life that we receive in CHRIST when we offer ourselves as living sacrifices and accept that Jesus has paid the price of sin on calvary and that we now have life in him and through him and with him. (Christianity 101. in one minute).
In our Old Testament reading we have Moses’, Mother placing Moses in an ARK, a wicker basket, and placing him in the water and saying here is my son, God I sacrifice, I give him up to you in faith; and the result is that her offering Moses as a living sacrifice is that Moses is given a life of ministry for God! And Moses lives and the Descendants of Abraham – the one who offered up all of his Descendants to God in offering up Isaac; they, we, all receive life.
In our New Testament St Paul takes the Abrahamic and the Mosaic experience and calls all Christians to do the same:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12: 1,2)
Like Isaac and Moses and Samuel and David and every Prophet, God has called you by name and you are his, and God has given you the Holy Spirit to empower you to live life for Him.
God gives us life as He gave Moses and Isaac, and we share the resurrection.
God puts His Spirit in us as he did with Moses and Israel and the Prophets.
But you have to lay down your life! in order to take it up again.
I think we all have an understanding of Christianity as the “GIVING UP religion” if I become a Christian, I’ll have to give up things like FUN. There is an impression that the sacrifices we make are the enjoyable things.
If you a Christian, then you must give up on your old life. Yes true, but it goes deeper than that.
What Moses and Abraham and Joseph and Samuel and Sampson and Jesus and St Paul teach us is that we must lay down the life that God has given us, we must give back to God the new life that he has given us, not just the old!
God doesn’t want the life that he saved you from he wants the life that he saved you for!
Being a Living Sacrifice does not mean sacrificing your sinful nature and putting it to death! No, being a living sacrifice is offering your saved self, your restored self, your anointed self. To do what God has set you aside to do!
The sacrifice that we are called to make as our true worship is to accept the gifts of the HOLY SPIRIT that God has given us and use them.
In our Gospel this morning Jesus makes it clear that we do not come to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah, on our own or through what others say, we come to that conclusion when we interact with the Spirit of God for ourselves.
In the infancy of our relationship with God, and many people live their whole lives in this infancy, we live on what others have said God is, what others have said Jesus is, and the Holy Spirit is. We live lives of faith (that is what we call it) that though we ourselves have not experienced God for ourselves, we believe what others say.
As we mature we begin to experience the HOLY SPIRIT at work in us, and we can say; “IT IS TRUE Jesus is the resurrected Lord of My life and he has appeared to me, he is real to me and I accept Him as Lord of my life.”
And many people stay there, for them they believe in salvation for them. This is the Christian life acknowledgement that Jesus is the Son of God our redeemer, and it is even possible for us to go to Church every Sunday and sing songs about him and receive his sustaining sacrament and listen to the Word being read and expounded….
But we are called to more. We are given more and more is expected.
“But be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, is good, pleasing and perfect will.( Romans 12:2)
St Paul goes on
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Give your gift back to God He gave it to you for it to be used as your act of worship! (Romans 12:6ff)
Give God your life so that you can live it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Offer your gifts as active living offerings in response to God’s grace and power and mercy.
We as a church have made a great mistake, from the beginning in referring to some people being in full time ministry. We make that distinction don’t we, the clergy are in full time ministry: well that implies that the laity are in part time ministry, and of course that is not true, we are all living sacrifices devoted to the service of God, all the time. Everyday, every hour, in every way.
Being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your career and join a monastery. It means you have recognise your GIFT and use it for God, right where you are!
If you are an accountant glorify God by the way you manage the money you are a steward of,
If you are a teacher – disciple your pupils in the way of God: the way St Francis taught us when he said – preach always and use words if necessary.
If you are a nurse – then use the gift of mercy that has been bestowed upon you.
Your place of employment is your mission field, your position provides you with a circle of influence, and there you are to use your gift.
There you are to be the light of Christ, be a witness to the hope of salvation, be a reminder that God is forgiving and that if he loves you as deficient as you are that he can love others as deficient as they are.
Oh if your gift is being perfect then you are welcome to show others that, but if you are like the rest of us and the GIFT of God is forgiveness then that is what you should bear witness to, Bear witness to being a forgiven sinner.
If you have not worked out any of your other gifts yet and we need to work them out,
But at least use the gift that you do know you have received – God’s forgiveness. Act forgiven not holier than thou.
Act forgiven not judged.
Act forgiven so that others will forgive you as you forgive them
Bring your forgiven life and lay it on the altar and say – “Here I am Lord, you are the Christ! My Lord! My God! My King! and I am your servant , a living sacrifice.
My parting Shot – Jesus said not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah – this was either his great sense of humour or reverse Psychology –
But if you offer yourself as a living sacrifice – you won’t have to say anything! they’ll know, because they’ll see in you the light of world.
May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace, and the blessing of God be upon you always.
Revd Andrew Manning