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Sermon, Pentecost 20C

Sunday October 6, 2013, St Petri

Lamentations 1:1-6, 19-26, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17: 5-10

Living and telling the Gospel

As I pondered these three words of God, it occurred to me that they are like markers or descriptors of how our life goes. They speak of cycles of life. They give voice to a cycle of living by faith in God’s grace we experience – a journey that repeats itself throughout our lives. When you think about it, life is quite cyclical. Things seem to go in circles.

For example: We experience suffering. Our suffering ends. We experience joy that strengthens us as we face another time of suffering, but with the experience of the joy to help us through.

Or, your team hardly ever wins. Then it begins to win. Then it wins the big win, then all the players get old or move and the cycle starts again.

We are born, we are re-born in Christ, we grow in him , we experience life together with him, we face our sunset years and our dying in him and we are resurrected to the life to come and cycle continues over and over again for each person….

So in these readings God speaks of our journey of faith and life for our encouragement…

We  begin where we are at – very human.In our humanness we experience the trouble and sorrow of life at times and we are moved to speak a sad word, sing a sad song; a lament….

Lamentations 1:1-6 How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies.

We are like God’s people of old who felt their brokenness and aloneness after their city and temple and whole country was destroyed. God had warned them.

They had not listened. God had to act in judgement and he did exile them from the land that was promised to them.

In their hardship, their insecurity concerning their future and concerning the trustworthiness of God’s promise to give them a land, make them a great people and give them a good name among all nations, they sang sad songs of loss for what once was….

All the splendour has departed from Daughter Zion. Her princes are like deer that find no pasture; in weakness they have fled before the pursuer.

When our day seems lost and we feel that loss, where do we go? Who are we singing our sad song to anyway? Only each other, or to the One who hears our praying?

In the very midst of our sad song God is. There is a flicker of flame: the flame of hope returning right when we need it!

Lamentations 3:19-26  19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

So, God’s comes to us in his Word and through his people there is a return to God’s life and hope and we are so grateful for this!

With a return to faith in God’s promises and God’s presence with us, and with a trust in his goodness and his power to create new things within us and around us we rise to the challenge of life.

The Lord fans into flame the calling he has given us and our hearts are rekindled.

2 Timothy 1:1-14 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,…..3 thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, …. …I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, ….. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord…….Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.  He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace……. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

From the pit of despair we have come and we have received that spark of hope from our God and we return to confidence and joy in believing by his mighty word.

So, despite our weaknesses and troubles, and the church’s troubles, we are not ashamed of who we are. The good news of a gracious God who has acted in love to find us and welcome us home into his holy community called the Christian church has been taught to us. These are the good words that have been given to us. These are the gospel words that will sustain us in all the cycles of life and so they are to guarded with the holy Spirit’s help.

Our return to faith and life in God’s grace and power is also our calling.

Despite our lows and life’s challenges we face at the moment, God still calls us to be fishers of people, sharing our home with God by inviting others to taste and see that the Lord is good.

Because of who Jesus is and what he does for us in our baptism and beyond, we are not ashamed of our story, our shared faith, our church, our name – “Christian”, “Disciple of Jesus”, “Woman of, Man of, Child of God”….

This is what we are and what we do, according to the Bible. This is what we here for as a local church. Our calling to be the good news of God’s grace follows us everywhere – work, school, home, street, park…..

As we do trust the Word of God by seeking it, listening to the Lord in his Word in whatever ways we can together and apart, he will place us in people’s lives and we will be given opportunities to live and tell Jesus.

And here is where there seems to be one last trouble. We can get a fat head! We can hold up our great words or our caring efforts or however we lived and told the gospel to another as somehow deserving of God’s reward. This is just the way our heart still is this side of heaven. We are saints it is true and yet we still struggle with the old woman and man within.

Jesus recommend that we put this ego centric kind of pattern away from us by reminding each other that no one is too big for their britches around here.

Luke 17:1010 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

We are all unworthy of God’s grace ad love and when we do some good stuff, it is only the right and good thing to do – not in any sense a reason why we are OK with God.

The reason we are people of faith is because he has made us this by his grace poured into our very souls at baptism. Jesus says it is best to stay with that and not put too much stock in our great behaviour – right and good though it is in his sight.

Friends, God owes us nothing but gives us everything. As a result we own him everything and freely give him our very selves in this task of living and telling the gospel of Jesus.

In this ongoing cycle of life, no matter which part of which cycle you find yourself in today, we are not ashamed of him or each other and we trust him for the faith – especially when faith seems so small and we feel so overwhelmed by the challenge.

So, go ahead. Live and tell the gospel of Jesus in your words and your way and at the end of the day be glad that you have been gifted this mission and this community called church as we all give God all the glory for all the good and rely on him to let faith and hope and purpose grow in us.

Amen

CONVERSATION STARTERS

When is the last time you “sang a sad song’? Share your stories…

  1. The songs of lament in the bible name those things we experience in life that deplete us. Notice how the verses from lamentations are quite specific. The experience of sadness is related to;

  2. The sense of being deserted, lonely, alone, cut off from others

  3. That experience of being let down, disappointed, betrayed by someone or something once trusted.

  4. That sense of having no beauty or splendour or colour in life and/or feeling very down on ourselves.

  5. That fear of feeling like we need to run away from our trouble, feeling powerless in the face of the thing that is challenging us or hurting us.

These laments songs are very accurate! They name our trouble for us. God names our trouble for us. but why? So we feel worse and stay lonely, disappointed and alone?

No.

Notice the switch that occurs when the song writer looks to the Lord in his trouble – verse 21.

21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Somehow the Lord enables us to take our eyes off our trouble and see him in this trouble. And this is a great relief!

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

Have you had this kind of experience? Have you been through this cycle of life in God’s grace before? Share your thoughts/experiences of God’s grace in trouble.

  1. What helped you do what this song writer does? He acknowledged his trouble and all the feelings associated with it but then by faith he remembers something else – the Lord and his past great acts which reveal his good heart toward the troubled person. How does this happen for you?

I said, “As we do trust the Word of God by seeking it, listening to the Lord in his Word in whatever ways we can together and apart, he will place us in people’s lives and we will be given opportunities to live and tell Jesus.

And here is where there seems to be one last trouble. We can get a fat head! We can hold up our great words or our caring efforts or however we lived and told the gospel to another as somehow deserving of God’s reward.”

  1. Do you agree?

  2. And how does this work in your life?

It seems quite easy to believe that what we do in our calling to share the gospel can be held up to the Lord as a reason for his acceptance and love for us.

This is contrary to very nature of the Lord’s grace and all he has done to make us acceptable, holy and pleasing in his sight! Our performance is not the means by which we are accepted and love by God. His grace is the means by which we are accepted and loved and this is given to us personally at our baptism. We only stand by his grace. How is this good news for us sometimes and bad news at other times?

Speak these words from Lamentations and then pray….

Lamentations 3:19-26  19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

#Luke17510 #2Timothy1114 #savedbygrace #pent20c #lamentations3 #fathead #liveandtellthegospel #lament #sadsong

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