Sunday, 19 June 2011

Soaring with eagles?: A sermon by Kevin Bright

Matthew 28.16-20, 2 Corinthians 13.11-13, Isaiah 40.12-17, 27-31

‘They shall mount up with wings like eagles’, I think I prefer the word ‘soar’ used in the NIV version instead of ‘mount up’. It better matches the images, probably influenced by posters with these words on of a majestic eagle soaring above mountains, tree tops and rivers, effortlessly riding the wind and looking down on terrain which land animals have to work hard to traverse.

Despite all out technological advances it’s still so far removed from our own day to day experiences. As I’m stuck in a jam on the A2 on a wet Monday morning the ability to soar like an eagle seems worlds away. Even getting airborne doesn’t come near, Easy jet doesn’t quite have the sense of majesty as you bundle for a decent seat and I’ve never really fancied hang gliding.

The beauty and romance of this timeless image offers an enduring hope to all who feel exhausted, weary, downtrodden, physically weak or forgotten, like the people in exile that the second section of Isaiah is addressing.

First he reminds them of God’s power and greatness, how our God created everything without any need for help from man, ‘nations are like a drop from a bucket, as dust on the scales’. These words alone wouldn’t offer much comfort and are easily misunderstood as telling the people how small and insignificant they are compared to God. Yet despite their lack of trust in God they are the beneficiaries of an inexhaustible love which is there to be drawn upon when all else fails.

We heard both Paul and Matthew end their writings with references to the trinity, Paul using the words we know as ‘The Grace.’ Where we say ‘fellowship’ of the Holy Spirit Paul says ‘communion’. Jane Williams describes how Augustine called the Spirit ‘the bond of love’ between Father and Son. It seems that without the Spirit the two are somehow separate. So as we wish for the communion or fellowship of the Holy Spirit to be with us all we are praying to be unified, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to be inseparable and to find meaning in each other. Something to think about next time we utter these familiar words!

This is what Paul is hoping for as he writes to the church in Corinth. They have been challenging him, questioning his authority and bickering among themselves so he wants to end his letter with a final encouragement telling the people to strive for God’s ways. He seems to be telling them that if they can live in peace with each other then there may be space for God’s love to flourish.
It’s hard to imagine that a group of Christians might be interested in our advice as to how they should live isn’t it, but if you felt that a certain section of the church today would benefit from your advice what would you write, particularly the ending where you want to summarise your message?

I think I would suggest that they root themselves in reality. Reality of the knowledge that we are all loved but also reality that we are not supermen or women and God is delighted to see us doing what we are able to do that reflects his love. The other advice I’d offer is to get on and do it now. Don’t wait until you feel you are a better Christian, until you’ve kicked all those lingering bad habits, just get on with what you know is right and pleasing to God despite other things which could get in the way.

In Matthew’s Gospel we heard what has become known as ‘the Great Commission’. Judas has killed himself by this stage so we hear how 11 disciples have their final meeting with Jesus and receive instructions to go out and ‘make disciples of all nations’ stressing the importance of baptism and teaching. Put in this form it seems quite daunting and sounds like work most suited to ordained ministers.

If we allow ourselves to think like this it would be a serious misunderstanding. If people can see even a glimpse of God in the way we live our lives there is a chance that they will also be encouraged to find out more about what motivates us. Baptism may follow this, signifying new life in Christ. Whilst we may not be equipped to teach academic theology the greatest lesson we can offer is when we don’t behave in the way others expect because of our faith. For example we can show that the least cared in society mean a great deal to God.

I said that the Great Commission could seem quite daunting and after struggling to summarise it into a few words I’ve reached the conclusion that it is not quite daunting it is very daunting.

Yet despite this we are motivated by the love of God to try and follow the instructions of Christ. Sometimes we will feel useless and sometimes we will grow weary. But we don’t face the world alone, in communion with each other we are stronger than any individual and through God the renewal of our strength is possible.

We may not always have that feeling of soaring like eagles but God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is always there for us and no matter how much we bombard him with our regrets, hopes, prayers and worries we can be assured that he never grows faint nor weary.

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