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Summary: People hurt themselves and others through their own selfish sinfulness; and it is not uncommon for a minister to condemn a congregation with fire and brimstone not realising that this condemnation promotes them to do the same to others. Read on …

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Summary: People hurt themselves and others through their own selfish sinfulness; and it is not uncommon for a minister to condemn a congregation with fire and brimstone not realising that this condemnation promotes them to do the same to others. Read on …

This sermon was delivered to the congregation in St Oswald’s, in Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 4th December 2011. (A Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow & Dumfries)

Isaiah 40:1-11 Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 2 Peter 3:8-15a Mark 1:1-8

Prayer: Merciful Father, you sent your messengers, the prophets, to prepare the way for our salvation: give us grace to heed their warnings that we too may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Our reading this morning is from the book of Mark chapter 1, verses 1 to 8. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: `Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'" John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Introduction

Many years ago I saw this cartoon of a preacher who was about too enter the worship service. He was wearing a black robe and he stood with a sneer on his face as he looked at the congregation waiting for the service to begin. In his hand the preacher was holding a file that says "Sermons on Hell", and as he stood there before the service, his hand was on the heating thermostat as he was turning it up to over the 100 degree mark.

The cartoon tried to depict in a humorous way, the torments of hell, an approach that has been all too common, full of fire, brimstone and condemnation.

This approach begins with a correct observation however that people do hurt themselves and others through their own selfish sinfulness; and it has been common for a minister with such a sermon to tell the congregation that their sins will send them to hell.

Then; taking this approach sincerely, the congregation then minister these self same hurts onto others. They actually condemn others for sins they themselves have committed only a few days, or few weeks prior.

You know the type I refer, ok it is not as bad as it was, but somehow, these people forget the beatitude where Jesus says, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

And the sad part is that these people think they are doing the Lord’s work by forcing people through condemnation, to change their sinful, hurtful ways.


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