Sermon by Hector Cumming
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be wholly acceptable to you, our God.
I will refer briefly to two readings as my homily will concentrate on Hebrews chapter 12 verses 1-2, which summarise the Christian life.
I would encourage you to read Hebrews chapter 12 verses 1 -2, whenever you have doubts in life.
Tonight whilst we have three readings they all convey one message: keep the faith. No matter what life throws at you, keep your faith.
In tonight’s reading from Jeremiah we are told of false prophets whose plan is to make God’s people forget God. To forget a God who fills both heaven and earth. Karl Marx called religion “the opium of the people”.
In 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first person to leave the earth and venture into space. He came back and said “I looked and I looked and I saw no god.
I wrote a poem called “the first Astronaught”
I flew to the void at the edge of the earth
I had left the plethora
In nothingness, blackness surrounded me
Yet I was safe.
Enshrined in a womb created by man
The first to be free; to escape and to find no God.
The burden lay easy on my faith in mankind
Unshaded, the window shed no light for my soul
No arm reached out to embrace and enfold
No smile, save my own in the glass
I have been, I have seen the void at the edge of the earth
To the eyes of the hopeless
To the ears of the deaf
I cry – there is no God
I saw no God.
The false prophets that Jeremiah warns us against, will, if you let them, cause you to forget God. But my message to you tonight is “keep the faith, no matter what life throws at you, keep your faith.” Faith is like wheat, which nourishes, straw cannot nourish you.
The passage from Luke seems at first hard and difficult. We like to think of Jesus as warm, caring, compassionate and ready to heal – even the centurion’s servant. Why then did Luke report Jesus as saying “do you think that I came to bring peace on Earth? No, I tell you, but division.“
To understand this passage we must look at the people Jesus was talking to. Jesus was talking to his disciples who were all Jews, who awaited a Messianic age, when there would be universal peace and no evil in the world.
Jesus came to earth to find the lost, to tell his people that if you believe in me you will never die. For God so loved the world he sent his only begotten son.
A neighbour of mine, an atheist, once said to me, holding both my hands, with tears rolling down his face, it’s all right for you, you believe, but for me there is nothing. John was desolate because Dennis, his partner of many decades, had just died and John had come to my door to ask if I would attend Dennis’s funeral.
Jesus told his disciples that he was not bringing in the Messianiac age, which they were expecting him to do. Remember when Jesus was crucified some called out “if you are the Messiah, come down from the cross and we will believe.” When Jesus returns in glory he will bring in the Messianiac age, when there will be universal peace and no evil in the world.
In tonight‘s Gospel reading Jesus goes on to say that there will be division amongst families. 2000 years later there is still division with in the family of Christ. Israel Folau believes that his small church are true Christians and condemns all others to hell.
For over 40 years LGBT Christians have gathered here to profess their faith and to worship God; a God who honours them with love and grace. Recently I asked a Presbyterian minister if he considered the phrase a homosexual Christian to be an oxymoron. He replied ‘No.’
Later In tonight’s passage from Luke, Jesus confronts the crowd and calls them hypocrites. Why, because they can look at the clouds and foretell the weather but could not see salvation when He was standing in front of them. Jesus who can see into our secret places asks us to believe in Him. But do we see Jesus standing in front of us, or do we look away, close our eyes, our ears, our hearts.
Keep the faith, no matter what life throws in front of you.
This brings me to Hebrews chapter 12 verses 1–2. A summary of the Christian life.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Paul lists many people who have kept their faith regardless of what life threw at them.
Today, in Nigeria there is a 16-year-old schoolgirl called Leah Sharibu, still held captive by the Boko Haram. Over a year ago the Boko Haram broke into a school and took away over 100 schoolgirls. Four died, the rest, except for Leah were returned to their families. Leah remains a captive because she refuses to renounce her faith in Christ Jesus and convert to Islam.
We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, persons who witness to their own faith and also witness to yours and my faith journeys.
Let us set aside every weight. Just as a runner takes off their tracksuit before competing, so I urge you to lay aside everything that hinders your faith. And the sin that clings so closely. Jealousy, anger, envy, quarrels, lies, deceit, A sense of entitlement – unless the sense of entitlement is curbed by responsibility it can lead to evil. A person can feel entitled to harm another because they are a LGBT person, a person of a different race, culture, religion, dogma, a freedom camper.
And let us run with patience, perseverance, the race set before us. It is up to each of us to bear patiently what life throws at us:– loss of enjoyment, loss of friends, loss of family and to persevere with life as a Christian, a life at which many will mock and ridicule. But remember it is our own race. We are not asked by God to compare ourselves to others; nor to compete with others for God’s grace and mercy. It is our race which we run.
Looking to Jesus – Jesus is the author of our faith. Ask Amber who was baptised here recently. Jesus is also the Perfecter of our faith. We need always to fix eyes on Jesus and ignore anything or anyone in our life who would make us turn away from following Jesus. Who for the joy set before him – this joy was to live for ever in the presence of God. And that also should be our joy. A joy that sustains us through all that life may throw in our path.
Endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Crucifixion was for criminals, for thieves, for the scum of society. Jesus was naked on the cross to be mocked and spat upon. Above His head was written Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. Below him lay his clothes being gambled for by the soldiers. One thief mocked Jesus, the other recognised Jesus as Saviour and said “remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom“. Jesus replied “today shalt thou be with me in paradise“
Disregarding the shame of the cross Jesus said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do“. And sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. To be with God is the finish line of each one of our journey through life.
So in the week ahead and for the rest of our lives let us remember and find encouragement from those who have shown love, empathy, understanding, compassion.
As the prophet Micah said , “Act justly, Love mercy and walk humbly with your God. By so doing, we will not go off course, but will run with patience and perseverance until we reach Jesus and the throne of God“.