Daily Archives: Saturday, 7 August, 2010

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (8 August 2010)

It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom

Readings
Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16
Luke 12.32-40

For the rest of the month of August, we have  a series: we’re looking at Mission and Stewardship. So to begin, I want to share a quotation with you that I hope you will remember always:

The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.

William Temple, who was Archbishop of Canterbury during the early part of the Second World War, said that. ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.’

It’s a great thought, isn’t it? The Church exists so that others may benefit. I think it’s a tremendous thought. Problem: I suspect that many church members don’t believe it. Or if they do, they don’t realise the implications.

Because while it is a great and a tremendous thought, it’s not a nice and consoling thought. It’s really quite a disturbing thought.

The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.

Why is that a disturbing thought? Let me ask another question: Are you a member of the Church? The Church doesn’t exist for your benefit. I’m a member of the Church. The Church doesn’t exist for my benefit. The Church is the Body of Christ—we are the Body of Christ—so we exist for the benefit of those who are outside the Body. The Church does not exist to meet your needs or mine.

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“It is your Father’s good pleasure 
to give you the kingdom”

Devotions: Bremer Brisbane Presbytery meeting

Readings
Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16
Luke 12.32-40

Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12.32

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11.1

Faith is ‘the conviction of things not seen’, the gift of God that enables the believer to stand firm in the midst of difficulties and trials. Or at least, faith reminds the believer where to go to find help in the midst of those difficulties and trials.

Faith is ‘the assurance of things hoped for’, the means by which we lean into a hope-filled future—not because we’re optimists by nature, but because it is God’s future.

Hebrews 11, the great faith Chapter, gives us examples of those who lived by faith in Old Testament times: Abel, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Rahab and others. It tells of those who

through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

More than that though, it tells of those who

were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two (according to tradition, the prophet Isaiah met his death by being sawn in two by a wooden sword), they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

All of these, whether so-called ‘winners’ and so-called ‘losers’, had faith—they had conviction that gave them the power to conquer or endure; they had assurance that there was a promised future in God’s good time.

We too live by faith. Yet unlike these Old Testament heroes, we see the promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ; but like them, we see it by faith.

But there is one further dimension to our faith. It is built on Jesus himself, upon God’s taking flesh and living our life. It is built upon God’s humility in dying our death. And it is built on God’s authority over death.

We see more clearly than our ancestors that God is a seeking God, a finding God, that God is looking for partners in bringing about the new creation. We have the word of Jesus:

Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Isn’t that wonderful? It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom, little flock though we may be. It is the Father’s pleasure for us to work with him in revealing the nature and the contours of that kingdom in our own day. It is the Father’s pleasure for us to live faithfully, whether the ‘results’ of our work look like ‘success’ or ‘failure’ to us.

There’s a sense to me at least that Hebrews 11 describes a heroic quest for the promises. I’ve already used the word ‘heroes’. Yet for me, faith isn’t heroic. Really, faith is all we have. Whether we are ‘successes’ or ‘failures’, whether life is going well or badly, whether we ‘escape the sword’ or are ‘sawn in two’.

And we have faith because in and through Christ, it is God’s good pleasure.

Now, today, it is our turn to live this life of faith. To live with conviction about the present and assurance for the future. To receive the kingdom, and to be generous in sharing it with others. It’s God’s good pleasure. Amen.

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