Summary: What does it mean to live 'not of this world' whilst living in the midst of so much pain. This sermon challenges us to think about the importance of our relationship with God, and to ask the difficult questions that at times we are too afraid to ask.
In the name of the living God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Thirty people dead as Netanyahu vows to intensify Gaza attacks
Seven children and a teacher killed in school shooting in Russia
Scores of bodies found floating in India’s Ganges River
Asian American father randomly punched to ground while walking toddler in San Francisco
Just a few of the headlines in the news yesterday when I sat down to think about my sermon.
The message of the Gospel reading we have just heard is full of rich meaning and significance to us all, and all we have to do is look at what is happening in the world to see that, and as much as I would like to look at the entire reading in depth, It would need a full series of sessions over many weeks to do it justice!
So instead I have chosen just one small part to focus upon, which comes at the end of the scripture, and in many ways summarises the rest of the passage.
‘They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.’
The sentiment behind this is a simple phrase, ‘Not of this World’. But what does that really mean?
Is it that we live outside of the events that happen in the world, or that these events have no consequence to us?
No it’s neither of these, we all still live in this world and are affected by the things that happen to and around us, each and every day. We still have to come to terms with the tragedies that we see around us, and we still grieve at the injustices that we see through man’s inhumanity to man.
After all, as God’s people here on earth, is it not our duty to stand against the injustice that we see in the world, and to speak of God’s love for all, even in the face of oppression and adversity.
All we need to do is look back into history to see the examples that many historic people give us, people such as William Wilberforce who battled against slavery, Martin Luther King’s work against racism, Nelson Mandela battle against Apartheid, and Mother Teresa’s humanitarian work, to name just a few.
For many if not all of us, it’s unlikely that we will become known as a great humanitarian who has made an historical change in our world, but we know that there are people within the benefice who work with organisations such as the children’s society, The Leprosy Mission, Open Doors, Christian Aid and I’m sure many other organisations who are able to make large scale differences in numerous people’s lives. They raise awareness of issues, and can lead to changes in people’s perspectives.
The organisations and the people committed to their work could be described as shining lights in this present darkness.
Christ taught us the truth of God through his words and actions, he stood against those who oppressed and victimised people, he raised people’s awareness of corrupt practices, and led the people into a new understanding of God, and how they should live their lives in honesty, love and through God’s grace.
And right at the heart of his ministry here on earth was prayer. There are many times in scripture we hear of how he retreated to somewhere quiet to pray, and although we don’t know the content of the majority of these prayers, I believe that it’s safe to say, that he was interceding on the behalf of the people that he had met perhaps during that day, those who were saved through us words, those who were doubtful, those who didn’t believe he was anything other than a fraud, or even a demon.
It is likely that his prayers would be like many of ours, that those he encountered would become a people who were changed as they learnt and came to an understanding of who he was, what he represented, and that ultimately they would comprehend the importance and meaning of his teaching.
Locally we live in an area which when you look under the surface has many needs, and each one of us has the capacity, the ability to walk alongside people and share their journey, and we can demonstrate this through our actions, which, however small, show God’s love is at work in their lives.
With the bigger global issues, the ones which frustrate, annoy, upset and anger us because we feel unable to contribute to making a difference, then we need to continually intercede on behalf of those countless strangers who are in need, who we will likely never meet, in the hopeful expectation that God will answer our prayers.