Heartache to Hope with Friends
Sermon , Pentecost 10thA, Wednesday 5th and Sunday 9th August , St Petri
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’[a] 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”’[b] (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 ‘or “Who will descend into the deep?”’[c] (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’[d] that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’[e] 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’[f]
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’
Friends, can you hear Paul’s heart bleeding for his own kin, his nation, his people? I feel his angst. I think of all the people I know and the many I don’t know who are in the same position of the Jewish people of whom Paul speaks – they are ‘zealous’ (for making a good life happen) but without knowledge (of where real good life comes from)’.
I see people trying to establish themselves in God’s new life of promise and peace (righteousness) rather than simply humbling themselves before God and receiving the promise and peace of new life achieved for them in Jesus’s death and resurrection that is way more and way better than any life they can manufacture. Truth is, this is me too. Sometimes I live this way.
But I wish so many people I know had that knowledge, that deep knowing, that experience of the grace of God given in full in Jesus of Nazareth. I wish that many friends and strangers would humble themselves before this gracious God and simply receive all he has achieved and promises for them today and into his future for them and this whole world.
I know there a lot of people at St Petri who have this desire in their heart too. I thank the Lord for a long story of walking the talk in the St Petri community story. It is a good story.
Of course, the story is never perfect because none of us are perfect. There are other stories in our story: complacency in this mission, a lack of concern for the saving love and life the gospel gives to people. It is easy to get very secure and very internally focused.
But I marvel at Paul’s mission heart, and his love.
I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit – 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. (Romans 9:1-4)
Wow. That is love. He is willing to be cut off from his kind and loving heavenly Father whom he has come to love and trust in because of his personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus on that Damascus Road, SO OTHER PEOPLE COULD HAVE THIS GIFT on their road.
This is the key character for the church. This is our key character benchmark for being St Petri here. Not numbers or look or making the church something it used to be or making it like the church up the road – but self-giving, self-sacrificing love for people.
But how? What does is look like for Christians to willingly give up our place, our needs, our comforts, our position, our safety that we enjoy in Jesus for the sake of the people at the Coop, the people at the club, the people at the netball and the footy and Probis and Lions, the pub, the park, the school and ……?
Here is how, according to Paul… Using your feet and speak!
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone proclaiming to them? 15 And how can anyone proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’[g]
Feet to speak! Walking among people with all of their fear, pride, sadness, shame, guilt, divorce, drugs, dysfunctional relationships, depressed spirits and diseased bodies. Walking and speaking Jesus’ words of love into all of this.
We have beautiful feet. Feet of sent people carrying sent words in your mouth. Speaking feet! Feet that get you into the place to speak to people.
And this takes real intention, some planning, some action, some effort.
Like when you go shopping.
You get your list together. You get your shopping bags out ready to go. And then you walk – to the car, the bicycle or the shops.
Like going shopping, walking the talk and talking our walk takes planning and resources and effort.
Because, remember, when we go shopping we are actually fishing – being “fishers of people” (Matthew 4:19).
We make our list by listen to our friends. See what they need - know their struggles, understand their troubles, get a sense of how they need to be re-supplied with God’s grace.
We get or gear. We listen to Jesus’ words and think about how Jesus has spoken into our lives and how we can then speak into those things. We pray for our fiends…..
We walk with Jesus and we talk his words in our own words as we are invited to talk our walk.
And that is being church. We are not called so much to be ‘home shoppers’ but people talking and doing with all the other shoppers.
That is Paul’s solution to the angst in his heart for those he loves because he knows God loves them all and wants a conversation with them all. Walking, talking feet and mouths where people live and love.
And how God loves them all, and us!
To the Jewish people Paul recalls;
Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory [cloud on the mountain, in the Tabernacle, in the Temple] , the covenants (Abraham, David, Solomon, Ezra], the receiving of the law [Moses on Sinai], the temple worship and the promises [forgiveness, name, purpose, place, future]. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs [Abraham, Isaac, Jacob], and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah [the new King David]…. (9:4-5)
But they have ignored this latest and best gift that encompasses all the other gifts and super-charges them – God human with us.
What might we say of our people?
“Theirs is the Sunday school bible stories. Theirs are the worship gatherings, the church buildings, the Christian gospel story. Theirs is the caring of parents, the praying of parents and other people, the giving of life in the font, the forgiveness and new life in the body and blood….”.
But so many are still they are zealous for some kind of ‘god connection’, but their zeal is self-driven and nowhere as full and free as life lived on the knowing of Jesus – God with us and for us.
But friends, Paul declares to his own people and we declare to our friends, family, enemies and strangers, God still loves, and he still speaks and wants a conversation.
And then grace talks as we walk:
The same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’.
This is your hope. This is your God of love. This is his grace in you.
This God does not stand off afar.
He walks toward you with feet bloodied by nails and then beautiful as he kicks off the grave cloths and walks out of death for you.
The risen Jesus is walking toward you with his beautiful feet and he is speaking:
‘Anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved from missing out on his love and life.
Call on his name today.
Receive all his gifts of life and then make that list, get your gear in order and put those beautiful feet to work so you can speak those beautiful words as you go.
How beautiful are the feet who bring good news!