Published by Michael Bigg on Sun, 17 Feb 2019 13:10

The text of Mike's sermon preached on the 3rd Sunday Before Lent (17th Feb)

(Based on Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; Luke 6:17-261 Cor 15: 12-20)


Today’s gospel reading is, I suspect, a challenge for most of us. Few among us can be considered “poor” in the grand scheme of things. Is anyone among us hungry? Some of us may be among “those who weep” at the present time, but I don’t think many of us are reviled, hated, slandered or excluded on account of Jesus. Does that mean we have received our consolation and have little to look forward to? It’s a sobering thought.

 

You might well object that it’s hardly our fault that we happen to live in a place where people are, by and large, wealthy and well-fed. It’s not our fault that we live in a country that is in the main benevolent towards Christians (at worst we are considered deluded, but we are rarely hated).

My suggestion this morning is that what’s important is our direction of travel…

 

Both Jeremiah and Psalm 1 give us the image of the faithful being those who are like trees firmly rooted by streams of water. As Christians our flourishing comes not from our own strength but from being firmly rooted in the solid ground of God and watered by the ever-flowing Spirit.

But in this analogy, what do our roots consist of? My suggestion is that our roots are “hope” and that hope one of the foremost features of Christian life. What else but hope reaches out into the dark earth, deeper and deeper, never knowing precisely what is coming but goes deeper none-the-less?

Christians are people called to live in a world that we know is very badly wrong. We are called to recognise what is wrong with the world and struggle against it. We are called not to despair of the struggle but to be people of hope that, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, God is at work to put everything right through Jesus Christ.   

And that is the basis of our hope. Jesus Christ. In particular: his resurrection. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15: if Christ has not been raised our faith is in vain and our hope has no basis.

But we know that Christ has been raised from the dead. We experience it in our own lives – we see examples of God turning death into new life. It happens every year as the spring bulbs burst back through the cold earth.

This is the hope that we have. That God is putting everything right through a new creation, of which Jesus is the first-fruit, the downpayment. This is both a personal, individual hope and also a profoundly universal hope.


Later in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul describes resurrection life as like the planting of a seed. Just as the daffodil is totally different from the bulb; just as the butterfly is a wholly different form of life from the caterpillar; so is the resurrection life a wholly different mode of existence.

This is the hope that we have. That God is making everything new. We are promised resurrection bodies that none could imagine by looking at our frail, mortal bodies. Our present existence is characterised by entropy, by decay, by frailty.  Everything crumbles and moves towards death. Even the mountains do not stand forever.

 Not so with our resurrection bodies. That which is perishable and characterised by movement towards death will be replaced by that which is imperishable. But not static, like a tin of beans. Instead, our resurrection bodies will be ones that go from life to life. Changed from glory into glory. Imperishable, undefiled, unfading. Life to more life, purity to greater purity, brightness ever brighter.

This is our hope. This is what we look forward to. This is what can empower us today, in step with the holy spirit, to seek foretastes of the resurrection in this world of darkness and decay.

This is why Christians can never be finally despairing. This is why we say no to injustice and loneliness. This is why we say no to poverty and abuse. We know that we cannot fix it – we will never make it all right. But every time an injustice is put right, we give people a taste of heaven. Every time that captive is freed, we give people a taste of heaven.

We are called to be strong trees with roots of hope sunk deep into the promises of God. That’s why we pray and worship and study, for every time we do these things we grow in hope and sink our roots deeper.

 

And so, let’s return to our Gospel reading.

I put it to you that when we understand the hope to which we are called we are empowered to give up the things that the world chases after. We can step away from the race to accumulate wealth or power or status. Instead of hungering for these things we start to hunger for righteousness and for goodness; we start to hunger for God.

My invitation to you this morning is to continue on the road of poverty towards the things of the world. Turn your back on the game of ever-increasing wealth and possessions. Turn towards the hope of ever-increasing life and joy. Turn away from filling your belly with food and power and status and instead hunger for God and God’s righteousness.

We are called to be people of hope in a despairing world. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

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