Sunday, 18 November 2012

2 Before Advent: a sermon for Breathing Space Communion by Kevin Bright

In the quiet reflection of this act of worship, as we look for inspiration for the week ahead I apologise for starting on a downbeat note.
Remembrance Sunday can leave us feeling pretty low. We remember acts of love and courage but as we reflect on lives unfulfilled we are also left with the feeling that there are few signs that an end to human conflict is on the horizon.
The current fighting between Israel and Palestine has a depressing familiarity. I was watching a TV report where separate BBC journalists reported from family homes damaged by missiles on either side and neither family looked as if this was a war in their name, they just want peace and safety for their children.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised at what we see today as history repeats itself over and over.
At present we may feel that we are lucky not to be caught up in direct conflict, but we have had and will continue to have our times of challenge and it’s then we need to draw on our faith and remind ourselves that despite all we may fear God does not change and that is the only thing that remains constant.
The letter to the Hebrews was written to Christians who had stopped meeting, who were struggling with their faith. The point is made that the priest at the temple offering sacrifices is no longer relevant since the eternal reality of Jesus sacrifice is that through him we can depend upon our faithful merciful God.
At the time of Jesus even though Herod’s temple was unfinished it would have been one of the wonders of the world. Single stones were 45 cubits long (that’s 45 x 18 ins = over 67 ft) and pillars over 37 ft high cut from a single piece of marble.
It’s no surprise that the disciples marvelled at the construction and were shocked to hear Jesus tell them that all this will be destroyed. Naturally their first question is ‘when’? Even though the Romans would eventually turn the temple to a ruin in the future ‘when’ was not important in this context it was the temporary nature of things made by man which can give a false impression of security which Jesus wanted the disciples to consider.
It can seem like this with our homes when we have lived there a long time, even this building which has been here several hundred years. We can become disappointed with those we come to revere in their roles as parents, law enforcers and other positions of authority as weaknesses and failings emerge showing the frailty of human nature. Nothing is permanent except God.

In Mark’s gospel we hear ‘beware no one leads you astray’ and ‘when you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed’. The point is not a dramatic message about the end of the earth but much more a message to us his followers to keep going in our Christian faith no matter what turmoil we have around us.
We are called to live out our faith whether in a place of peace or conflict. It needs to be a part of us that doesn’t change with the circumstances, like the God who offers us hope we also need it to be a constant.
None of us will wish to seek occasions when we are frightened, distressed or in mourning but at such times it seems natural to turn to God. Perhaps the greater challenge for those of us with comfortable lives is to turn to God day by day when all is going well and we feel no urgent need for his help.
Stones have been tumbling for centuries. Most recently stones have been tumbling not only in the two world wars but now in in Afghanistan and Syria. Stones have been tumbling as we lose those we love, face illness and times of personal crises.
At these times we need to draw on our faith, not be deceived that the end is near, and trust in our unchanging God. Believing that our eternal life with God is both now and in the future let’s take the advice in the letter to the Hebrews and ‘hold fast to our hope’… provoking ‘one another to love and good deeds.

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