Saturday, 22 November 2014

Be good for Goodness Sake

Sermon 23rd November
Jeremiah 7:1-11 

It’s that time of year again
Advent is fast approaching
The shops have gone all out Christmas
And I am driven to write and rewrite lists on a daily basis

Next week, is the first Sunday in Advent, and the countdown to Christmas starts in earnest.
This means today must be the last Sunday of the year... this is the church’s Hogmanay! The day we remember the Reign of Christ in heaven; the day we reflect on the year past, and the way forward. And Jeremiah tries to shake the people out of their complacent ways into returning to God and God’s ways.

I got stuck with an earworm this week, even though I actually didn’t hear the song, I saw the words, and there it was, stuck in my head, relentlessly wheeling round and round –
You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town!
Gosh – it’s still November! Get thee behind me!

However.... all of this was actually triggered by Jeremiah’s prophecy,
God is watching, stop your bad behaviour!
God is watching – be good for goodness sake!

Thus the earworm...
The funny thing was looking at the actual words of the song – it does parallel with what Jeremiah is telling the people; if you think you can hide away, don’t!
If you think your public behaviour on the Sabbath is enough – think again!
If you think because you go to God’s temple that is enough – you need a reality check!
He knows when you are sleeping; he knows when you’re awake; he knows if you’ve been bad or good – so be good – for GOODNESS SAKE!

The psalmist knew it too! Psalm 139:
“You know everything I do;
    from far away you understand all my thoughts.
You see me, whether I am working or resting;
    you know all my actions.
Even before I speak, you already know what I will say.
7 Where could I go to escape from you?
    Where could I get away from your presence?
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
 or the light around me to turn into night,
12 but even darkness is not dark for you, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to you.

It is so easy to slip into complacency
So easy to relax, think we’ve got it made; rely on the slow and steady habits acquired over years of routine and tradition.

We feel safe in our comfortable homes, and our familiar churches and our regular routines - but God never called anyone to comfortable complacency – this reading from Jeremiah, to those at worship in the temple has six calls to stop or change... do we really take this seriously? 

Six calls:
·       Change the way you are living – your behaviours
·       Stop believing deceitful words – you’re kidding no one when you say, “but I’m ok, I worship God... even if I’m off doing this that and the other...
·       Change the way you are living – you know when you are being unfair; did you say please and thank you to the shop girl? Did you think bad things about your boss? Did you have a quick gossip with your neighbour? Did you pass the blame?
·       Stop taking advantage of foreigners and the disadvantaged – do you try to buy fair trade? Do you buy cheap stuff even though you know it’s been made in a factory where the workers are being exploited?
·       Stop killing innocent people – do we speak out at the big corporations? Do we protest when the country acts in ways we feel are unjust? Do we work to help those affected by disease and poverty?
·       Stop worshipping other gods – is it more important to attend a sporting fixture than attend worship of God? Is your book, or your TV programme, or your pint at the pub more important  than spending time with God?

If you do these things, then you may stay in this Promised Land; if you can!
God knew that they had fallen into easy ways; they had wandered off, little by little – and that of course is the most dangerous way!

If something incredibly bad happens all at once we see it and respond / avoid accordingly; but it’s the drip, drip, drip effect that’s the most dangerous... we all know the story of the poor frog!
(Frog thrown into pan of boiling water will jump out. Frog put in cold water that is slowly warmed, will boil (yuck))

This prophecy has the potential to throw us into panic or turmoil.
It also has the potential to show us our short comings, and point us in a newer, better direction: and what better thing for this time of year?

Advent beckons; time to stop awhile; reflect, renew.
Let’s listen to that ancient prophecy and do something with it... taking some time to ask yourself those difficult questions - and answering honestly, deep within your soul.
This is a good time to pause in all the busyness; choose one thing you know would strengthen your journey; one thing that you know would help you to get closer to God – and do it!
Advent gives us four weeks... to prepare for the coming of our Saviour.
Four weeks to prepare for the new year ahead
Four weeks to walk more closely with God
Time to do something new!

And, funnily enough, over the next four weeks, between now and Christmas our new theme is time.

Christmas is coming... so stop awhile and take time with God.
Jeremiah’s prophecy may be ancient, but it spans the years to speak to us again – don’t be complacent! Time to act!

God knows when you are sleeping; he knows when you’re awake; he knows if you’ve been bad or good – so be good – for GOODNESS SAKE!

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