This is a rough outline of a sermon I may yet get written. Lots on the go.
Theme for Lent: what is the acceptable fast?
not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and God will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing God will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
when our children were young they asked for coffee:
I told them with humour: If you drink coffee you will die.
Truth it was, truth it was not because it was incomplete.
The fatality rate for humans is 100%, the only question is when and how each of us will die.
Our children were precocious and figured it out. The second time I told them they’d die if they drank coffee, they responded: If we do not drink coffee we will die, too.
Coffee has nothing, or at least very little, to do with it. Everyone is a sinner, all deserve to die, all will die.
This is the background to each of the texts, which if forgotten, leaves us reading as if God’s reality for us were something different than
Because God claims us, Therefore we can live and respond
Isaiah writes: listen that you may live.
This is not listen or else you will die. You will die anyway. Rather Isaiah calls to us: listen to God’s Word that proclaims that God makes it possible for us to live abundantly and boldly:
Because God is gracious, even if and when we fail miserably,
Therefore we can live boldly and abundantly.
Paul writes that we should learn from the examples of those who died in the wilderness: We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and they were destroyed by the serpent.
This is not Paul telling us that if we put Christ to the test, then we will die. It is Paul telling us first that we are saved by grace, no matter what we cannot earn it. And as God’s children we do can learn to not put Christ to the test. Because putting Christ to the test takes the life right out of us. We will die, whether we put Christ to the test or not, but if we avoid putting Christ to the test, we will live more as Christ calls us to live.
And what is the context of Paul’s admonishments? We will all be tested. Paul’s readers in Corinth were being tested, even so that they often felt overwhelmed. But because God had claimed them, and because God gave them the ability to endure any testing that came their way, therefore they do not need to live in fear, or be overwhelmed by the testing of the present day. They can endure. They can continue to behave like children of God.
In the Gospel from Luke, Jesus answers the question brought to him about those who suffer terribly: they are not worse sinners than any others. Do not repent and you will perish as they did. Repent, and you will perish in some other way. It’s like coffee. Except that by repenting we can live more boldly and more abundantly. We can be the people that Christ calls us to be, so that others will see God’s grace for them in our sacrifices to bring justice, freedom, food and homes to those without.
No matter what we do, only by grace do we continue to live, ‘one more year’
One: This is real Life
cruel short brutish
testing, to our limits of endurance
all will die.
Eg: shooting in Christchurch, deaths by flood, by tsunami,
death by completely avoidable starvation, completely avoidable illnesses,
passed, current and future deaths caused by intentional chaos to cover decimation of the earth leaving it barely inhabitable for future generations, all done to secure profit and power for a few trillionaires, a few multinational corporations, a few unknown power brokers and wielders.
Two: This is God’s Reality
God’s Work, Word, Purpose, Hope for life
God’s thoughts and ways so high above our thoughts and ways,
God abundantly pardons
God calls us thirsting and hungering to come, to drink and eat our fill of good food, delightful food
to buy wine and milk without money or price
Christ assures us there is no test beyond our endurance
Three: This is what God asks of us
that we honour the goodness of Creator and Creation
seek the Lord while he may be found, while he is close
while we still have ‘one more year’
that inclining our ears to God, we turn from wickedness and unrighteous thoughts
that we trust God’s faithfulness
that we understand the manure of life as nourishment for our souls
that we produce fruit: made possible by manure of evil, soaking and drowning waters of baptism, bright light of Christ (God’s ways of astounding faithfulness, sacrifice, mercy, love and renewal)
that we learn from examples of our fore-bearers
that we be witnesses of God’s Grace to nations we do not know
This is our Lenten fast of sacrifice, that we fast and sacrifice in order that injustice will be stopped, that the yoke of oppression be broken, that our bread will give life to those that are hungry, and our homes become the home for those who are homeless, that our country become the country for those who have no safe country.
NZ: taking rapid, multi shot guns off the market, turned in by farmers and others for who they were conveniences, but not worth the price of allowing such easy access to make mass shootings easy to arrange.
A small start on the injustice rectifying.
We breathe, we take steps, we struggle forward,
It’s never really enough, but we keep working forward, one small step at a time
God is faithful
we remain faithful
We all breathe air, take up space, in order to produce fruit for God, to do God’s will, to be Christ’s presence of humble compassion and care, Christ’s hands of poignant purpose and clear justice, and Christ’s voice of brilliant light and hope.
We, each and every one of us, mature through the manure of life. There is plenty manure for each and every one of us. There is more injustice than is comprehensible, so much cruelty that is beyond imagination, and a plethora ignorance and apathy that is more than astounding.
Everyone lives through it, or dies from it.
If you think you have no testing, no manure as nourishment for your soul, then you are asleep at the wheel; a waste of air.
It is through the tests of life that we come to know God’s power to overcome evil with goodness, vengeance with forgiveness, hate with love, and chaos with grace leading to hope.