God Working in Us - Epiphany 5c
I speak to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - Amen
Today as everyone is by now aware is our Annual Meeting day. It is a Farringdon tradition that on the 1st Sunday of the month of February the annual meeting will occur.
At such an important day in the life of this church, as when we gather do discuss the past year and make considerations for the upcoming year we are faced with some really strong scripture
Similar to last week, with the Call of the prophet Jeremiah, we have the call of the prophet Isaiah
Again a moment of grandeur of the “hem of his robe filling the temple” and incredible and scary creatures in attendance – seraphs were not the cutie and cuddly cherubim’s – but monstrous creatures with six wings and they made a noise that was so loud that it shook the pivots of the temple
Again with the prophet denying his possible role – claiming to be too sinful for the role of a prophet
Again with God assuring that his humanity coupled with God walking alongside, is all that is needed to be a prophet
Then there is the Gospel story, which many see as Luke’s version of the calling of Simon Peter and James and John the sons of Zebedee – the calling fishing disciples
Again with a moment of gradeur - with, in this case, Jesus is the one that (after speaking to the crowd that has followed Him) reveals His glory as God, by knowing the patterns of creation and telling the experienced fisherman where to catch fish
Again God’s selected person makes claims of unworthiness, knowing God’s righteousness and knowing all too well Simon Peter’s own sinfulness
Again with God, as the Son, assuring Simon Peter and telling him to simply leave everything and follow Him
Two powerful call stories… One might think that either or both of them are entirely fitting as, we – each and everyone of us - the church - consider our callings, our roles over the past year and coming year
But as important as these are – some might make the easy misunderstanding and think of these as strong spiritual messages as for only those that are willing to give up everything and follow Jesus
An easy enough misunderstanding – as I believe I have heard either these readings or the reading of the call of Jeremiah (from last week) at nearly every ordination service that I have attended
Rest assured, The readings are for all of us and how we respond to God’s call on each of our lives
How each one is lowly when compared to God – but with God each of us are capable of whatever God calls us to
But today I would like to consider another foundational element
I would like to start at maybe the most basic of them all:
Why do you believe in God?
Why do you think that God exists…?
What is it that makes you believe in God?
When you consider these questions, we all might approach them from different starting places
· To some it might be because our parents taught us, and we trust and believe in them and so what they believe must be worthwhile
· To others it might be that Bible says so
· To others … yet another reason or rationale
· But I believe that for each of us, in one way or another, it is because we have experienced God.
I think that with all the pressures of life and the competing options for our lives – our faith has some component where we…ourselves claim it personally
o Some have said “in Christianity there are no grandchildren”…
I believe that deep down that we have all experienced God in some form
- For some it might be in the prayers of Sunday morning worship
- For others it might be when we deeply connect with the thoughts/images and power of the Holy Spirit in the midst of Communion
- For some of you it might be in nature - in contemplating the beauty and majesty of all creation and feeling deep inside you that something greater must have made this
- I know myself, four moments when I have no doubt of a divine creator - when I held my newly born children - each one, just moments after they were born
- For others it might be in your own private prayers
- It might be in the healing grace God has delivered to you or a loved one - in which “beyond expectation” God answered prayer and healed someone…maybe it was you
- It might have been in the reading of the bible where you connected with God by the power of the Holy Spirit in a story or psalm
- Where you understood what the writer was telling you - and who it was that was really doing the writing
- It may have been when you were feeling that the world was against you, when you have felt like you were a round peg in ‘a world of square holes’ and something in God’s creation reached out to you and told you that you were part of God’s world, part of God’s plan
I could go on and on …
Yet In any these situations or however God reaches you … in all of them ….you experienced God
God interrupted your life and made Himself known to you
And by making Himself known to you He told you that He loved you,
You matter to God and God has a purpose for each one of us
What ever the reason we believe in God… it is based on something
In this day and age, when there are so many demands on our time – going to church on Sunday mornings are no longer merely a cultural thing to do – Church is not the standard it once was.
In Canada, statisticians will tell you that 90% of the population believes in God
Yet only somewhere around 20% attend church in any regularity
I imagine that many of you have even had neighbours, family or people at work look at you funny when they hear that you still go to church
But you go because you believe and you have your reasons for believing
Today from our passage of St. Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthian church – we have Paul’s clearest presentation of his reasons for believing
And we have a strong detailed explanation of a great deal of other people’s experiences
St. Paul puts on the hat of the lawyer – and presents a case for Christ – point by point, in what many scholars see as the reader’s digest version of a creedal statement – a statement of belief
What, a few hundred years later, the early fathers of the church used, with other scriptures, for forming the Nicene creed
St. Paul starts out the passage by saying
My friends, I want you to remember the message that I preached and that you believed and trusted. You will be saved by this message, if you hold firmly to it. But if you don't, your faith was all for nothing.
St. Paul is putting it all on the line – it is a message of why he and they: believe, trust and will be saved
He continues to say that if one doesn’t then: your faith was all for nothing
The main point of what he is leading up to declare is so important, that if you don’t understand this point – your faith is for nothing
Then the case for Christ
I told you the most important part of the message exactly as it was told to me.
That part is: Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say.
He was buried,
and three days later he was raised to life, as the Scriptures say.
Christ appeared to Peter,
then to the twelve.
After this, he appeared to more than five hundred other followers.
Most of them are still alive, but some have died.
He also appeared to James, and then to all of the apostles.
We all have our personal reason for believing in God – but the first most importance of all belief: is that Jesus Christ really existed – really lived as one of us
Then died – died for each and everyone
Died as the scriptures – as the prophets, the God inspired writers, said He would do
Jesus the one and only Son of God – the only fully righteous one to ever live – without sin – freely took on sin & death in our place – that we as sinners alone could not be righteous to God – but Jesus in our place died as the sacrificial lamb for each one of us and all our unrighteousness – died for our sins
Then he was buried… this is to say that he really died… and was in the ground
Not that He had some incredible ability to slow His heart rate down to a single beat per minute and was just faking His death
Remember the Roman soldier’s sword that pierced His side – water and blood came out – the medical world can now tells us what they were merely reporting then - this means His blood had already coagulated
Then Jesus was raised to life on the third day
And the proof of the resurrection was a very long list of people
St. Paul leaves nothing to speculation – Jesus really did defeat death and all that death represents
Many of the people at the time of writing this were still alive to testify that they had seen Jesus alive after His death
This is the first most important event that St. Paul is telling us
This is what our whole faith rest upon – the resurrection
And Paul has laid out a case for Christ that is corroborated by so many others
Make no mistake about it – this a matter that is a foundation of the faith
At Christmas we celebrate God coming in the midst of us
But every Sunday as we celebrate the first day of the week we celebrate the turning point for all history – we celebrate the first day of new life – when God the Son’s defeated death forever more
Oh, to be sure, the church's proclamation of the resurrection has its enemies these days, just as it had its enemies in the time of Paul
In our society, there are many post-Christian people who are telling us that Easter morning never really happened; those new nature worshipers who maintain that we just die as nature dies
Those supposedly rational, common-sense souls who scoff at our childish beliefs,
And who never could turn and become like little children in their trust, in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
There are legions of people that want to tell you that Jesus is: just a prophet or just a great man; but not really the Son of God and did not really rise from the dead
If they are right and the resurrection didn’t happen than as St. Paul declares our faith was all for nothing
If Jesus Christ is not risen, then there is no forgiveness from the Father.
Christ's compassionate prayer for us from the cross, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"—that prayer has been heard by no one,
And it reflects no heart of divine love,
For if Christ had not been raised there is no God of triumphant goodness and we are still in our sins.
And can you imagine what it would mean not to know any forgiveness in a world such as ours?
Never to know any pardon for those multitudinous evils of our society in which we are daily implicated?
Never to experience any grace toward our own personal failures?
Never to have the chance of starting over, in a new beginning?
Never to be able to escape the guilty burden of a past
Not to know and trust Christ risen from the dead means finally not to be human,
For it means that there is nothing and no one beyond this world to whom we owe our being.
If God did not have the power to conquer the grave, then he had no power to create in the beginning,
For surely a God defeated by death could not make the wonders we find in this universe, much less the amazing creatures we call human beings.
But Thanks be to God – the doubters do not have the last word
Thankfully St. Paul recorded his testimony and the case for Christ’s resurrection, beyond approach
Thankfully we, in some way or another – small or dramatic, have experienced God
We, each one of us can testify to God working is us
Jesus Christ lives and now dwells in our midst as Lord.
You and I know those things, good Christians—despite all our failures in the church
We know them to the depths of our being
Like St. Paul said “I am what I am” both in human frailty and raised to glory with Jesus right there beside us
We know from whence we came and to whom it is we are going.
We now experience God's forgiveness in Christ as our daily sustenance.
We now live in hope by His promise of a final kingdom, where God will be all in all, and where evil and pain, and sorrow and sighing will be done away forever
This Sunday, like every Sunday, since that first Easter Sunday, is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ
We are all called…we believe… trust … and are saved
Our faith is grounded on firm rock… our faith is of first most importance that:
Jesus Christ rose from the dead
Jesus Christ defeated sin and death… For each one of us
We also know and can testify that God is there beside us, working in us
Let us pray….Lord, may your love of us and our love for you… our belief in you - fueled by whatever way we have experienced you and your love… lead us in all our lives… lead us to glorify you by being your agents of love into this world - as your people – as your church - Amen