Sermon Nov 17 2019
10.45am by Bernard Moss
Gospel Reading Luke 21 vv 5-19
(nb this was read to an organ accompaniment from Simon Russell)
We live in a troubled world and that hard-hitting reading enhanced by such powerful music paints as disturbing a picture as you are ever likely to get
It’s all there – wars and revolutions, famine and pestilence, fearful events and persistent persecution; family strife with major fallouts and animosities
And of course it is uncomfortable reading not least because it could all too easily be seen as a contemporary 21st century comment upon what is happening in our world today.
We have just heard from Andrew and Lisa Peart – you know our CMS mission partners who were with us in the summer before going back out to Bolivia – that country is going through political upheavals – transport is difficult – curfews imposed – and although Santa Cruz where the Pearts are based is not as volatile as elsewhere still there is a worry and a fear for the safety of everyday people. Anayeh and Liliana their daughters are back at school but they all ask for our prayers
And that is just one example of the troubled world in which we live – there are so many many more.
But let’s go back to our reading just for a moment – turbulent times then – and Jesus was able to read the signs of the times. Here was the might of the Roman empire about to fall upon the Jewish nation. The temple was soon to be destroyed and demolished and all manner of persecutions would follow.
And when the gospels were written the turbulence hadn’t diminished. By the time Luke was putting together his gospel cataclysmic upheavals in Rome following the suicide of the emperor Nero and the struggle for power between his rivals meant that international safety was under threat. and amidst the chaos the cry arose “let’s find a scapegoat for the crisis and blame the Christians for all their strange ways”
there’s no papering over the cracks – the background to the life of the early church was the truly terrifying political upheaval where no one felt safe.
And sad to say with some notable exceptions this has been the story of humanity – this is what people and nations can do to each other – this is why we observed Remembrance Sunday and the Armistice last weekend – this is why to this day worldwide people bear the emotional as well as physical scars of conflict and war
Now all of this is heavy-hearted stuff and rightly so, because the faith which we hold as Christians together – and indeed the faith which holds us – is not set in a vacuum-sealed-pack of niceness and bonhomie, tucked away in a cosy corner away from all the troublesome chaos
The Christian faith has at its heart the symbol of the Cross – the ugly commentary on how low human behaviour can sink
And yet it is the sign of hope, of forgiveness, of new life, of resurrection – it’s the sign and symbol of victory that was gained not by hiding or running away but of facing the worst, and by the power of love that is the heart of God overcoming the power of evil and sin.
That is why as Christians we need not shirk from the awfulness of the troubling world or give up hope
We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song – a song which celebrates our belief that sin and death are not the final word – that there is a power that can overcome the worst that human beings can do to each other, and that power comes through the cross of Christ
That is what encourages us in the final words of our reading to stand firm – not in our own strength but in the strength of Christ who has redeemed us. To stand firm, full of a God-given hope, trusting in the words of Jesus who said “fear not for I have overcome the world”
But we are still human and still frail and we still get scared and political turmoil can still shake us to the core as we wonder where all this will end… but that has been the case for the people of God throughout history – why are you cast down oh my soul asks the psalmist – my tears have been my food day and night while people say to me all day long Where is your God? ( Psalm 42)
Oh yes – we have been there too – we know that territory all too well – it is the counterpoint, the all-too-human counterpoint to the journey of faith … and yet into that dark moment the loving power of God comes shining through and hope is rekindled – put your hope in God for I will yet praise him my savoir and my God – is how the psalmist puts it
And in the New testament that is the conviction that sustained the early church and the church ever since
Andrew and Lisa Peart have recently shared with us their faith in the power of God’s love in Christ that can overcome even amidst the political turmoil in Bolivia
And we can share with them the same faith the same hope and the same confidence in Christ,
Of course there is also in this reading and the verses that follow a hint about the end of the world when all will be wound up in the mercy of God
But that is another story for another day!