Sunday, 11 September 2016

Sermon 11 September: Fallen Promise

Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 

Sermon: Fallen Promise
Perfection to Imperfection

Today we begin a new series looking through the Old Testament to some of the key stories which make up the history of God and creation. God and humanity.
As we start over we go to the beginning of it all.
Creation. Purpose. Existence.
Why are we here and what are we to do with it? 
Genesis has two versions of the creation story.
Two similar yet different interpretations - because let's face it, who really knows? There wasn't anyone there to record it for all humanity! 
today we hear snippets from the creation, and the first people set in the Garden of Eden; they were designed perfect. Innocent. They were given charge over Eden; all creation was there and they wandered freely. There was just one condition; but, the condition created temptation, and temptation drove them beyond Eden out into the world.
In the biblical story temptation comes in the guise of a serpent; a wily creature with the power of speech who is able to give voice to the internal argument we all experience every time we are tempted. And temptation can be good as well as bad; a wee treat; a moment of calm in a fraught day – temptation to pause; to stop; to enjoy; to relish. This is all in our vocabulary – and of course the temptation to stray…
During the week I read a question that bright me up short for a moment. In the biblical telling of the story God says, if you eat the fruit you will die the same day. 
Yet they did not die - so was God lying? Can God lie? 

After being a bit nonplussed, I came to these conclusions.
First: it's allegory! We cannot know for sure the detail. This is more about humanity’s relationship with the creator than the ins and outs of what Adam and Eve did. 
Second: they did not die the same day, but they were expelled from Eden the same day. They did lose eternity the same day. They did move from perfection to imperfection. They lost their innocence. Suddenly they knew. Everything.
They knew good and evil. They knew right and wrong.
Innocence died in that instant. 
Third. And this is an answer from a colleague which resonated beautifully. God as creator is our parent. As parents we tell our children to do or not do something, if it's important and for safety it may be a stern warning, even a wee threat attached. 
Don't do it, you'll die, is the threat. But it doesn't mean if they do it, we are going to literally kill them. We forgive them. We may remove them from the treat, take away the toys. Punish the offence. But we don't stop loving them, caring for them, what we want is for them to thrive, to grow to learn. 
Thus it is with God too. Innocence was lost. Knowledge was gained which would have far reaching implications. And that first implication was the realisation that they were naked and needed to cover up. The second implication was the desire to hide from God, because the knowledge also told them what they had done was wrong.
Wrong as wrong could be. 
That simple act of giving in to temptation has far reaching implications. God could have left those trees out of the garden – not put the temptation there at all. God could have not created the wily serpent. God however wanted them to be able to make choices; wanted humanity to work out for ourselves the difference between good and bad; right and wrong; to choose God or not.
Here we are today. In a world where people still sin, still lose innocence, still seek to outwit God and others. 
Evil is in the world. 
We cannot deny it.
There are those of us who will remember exactly what they were doing 15 years ago today. And already, there are those for whom today is just another day and they have no idea what anniversary it is.
Fifteen years ago today the world was changed forever. 
An age of innocence died when those men chose to take control of and fly those planes to New York and Washington DC. 
Suddenly, the violence of extremism became a reality rather than a theory, or something that happened to other people in other countries. 
And in the fifteen years since that day extremism, terrorism has become a stark reality in the western world.
From Paris to Syria; from London to Egypt Westerners have become targets. Travel has changed; security checks, what you can and cannot take with you – on 11th September 2001 innocence died. And the world was changed forever.
In some ways of course it was not new; it was not the first terrorist attack ever; it was not the first large scale attack in the world. It wasn’t even the first in the USA; but it was different – for this was not a lone voice, protesting, planting a bomb or opening fire; this was the first coordinated multi targeted attack on US soil; it was the first to play out live in TV – in that moment everything changed. Fears were born as people died.
Mistrust on a scale never before seen
Arrests and imprisonment of people because of what they wore – which marked them out as being of one particular faith and suddenly the imperfect world become a little more imperfect
Suddenly the colour of skin; the family name; where you worshipped God became factors in whether you were trustworthy or not

So…. Before we begin to spiral down into a pit of despair – let us pause.
Because, we are still here.
Humanity continues to live and love; children are born; lives go on. Temptation is a reality we all live with every day
God is still with us; Eden is somewhere on the horizon
God made us to choose. We are all made in God’s image – this doesn’t mean we look like God; it means we have potential: to love and care; show compassion; help others; protect life – my lasting image from that day 15 years ago is not the collapsing towers and other terrible images; it is of the first responders; filthy, exhausted but still helping; still searching – and then in the following days all of those who travelled to New York however they could to join the bucket lines; they were tempted to help.

The world may be imperfect – but in this imperfect, fallen world are people who are prepared to step up and reflect God’s light in the darkness – and that give me hope.


Sunrise over the Forth JMR2013

Monday, 5 September 2016

sermon 4 September - All God's Family

“Jesus is not ashamed to call them his family” – that’s people; that’s you and me. And that was the verse that inspired my choice of reading this week.
Two months ago, when we held the Civic Week service here I spoke about us all being in this together; and in fact that had been the sermon title again until I looked back and had second thoughts!

Today is the other village event of the summer – Community Day; a much newer event than Civic Week, but with a similar aim – to bring people together.
There will be stalls from many of the village groups – each showcasing, perhaps raising funds, definitely sharing information and hopefully generating a feeling of family. Focusing on the things which unite us and make us part of our community.

All through the bible there are examples of families working together; and, what happens when they do not work together, but instead fall out, bicker and turn against each other.
Although things may go terribly wrong for a while, God still finds ways to help them, move them and bring them to a better place.
The writer of Hebrews was trying to explain to the Hebrew people what Jesus did, and why. The Hebrews of course are the Jews, the Chosen People – the ones who had rejected Jesus as Messiah because of their own convictions of what a Messiah should look and behave like. Thus, here we are at the beginning of the letter with the author spelling it out:
Humans: given an amazing opportunity through Jesus – who became a little lower than angels, in order to fulfil God’s plan.
That plan was to bring all the children: all humanity to glory; to salvation. And because he does that, he is not ashamed to call them family.
What a gift!!!
We are God’s family through Jesus death and resurrection.
We can do this simply because he came and lived and was one of us. He became human in every way – he was tempted, he suffered, he laughed and cried – he experienced life in every way. And because of that he was able to break the power that sin has over all humanity – because of that we believe that death is not the end; death is only a new beginning.

That promise; that gift of life is open to all God’s People.
Who are All God’s People?
Well, everyone. Every. Single. Person.
Everyone has the same opportunity to hear that message; to be told who Jesus was and what he did, and make their own choices.
They can choose to believe or they can choose to turn their backs.
What do we do then?
How can we respond to this?
Actually I think it’s very simple; not everyone is called to preach; not everyone is called to be a missionary or serve the church in formal ways. But from the moment we invite Jesus into our lives and choose to follow him we are called to share that.

Tell people you go to church
Tell people why, how it helps you, what it means to you. In simple terms – share the Good News!

God’s family is all God’s people
All God’s people are welcome in God’s house
All God’s people are all of humanity – and each needs to have that chance, that same opportunity that we have had – to hear the promise: Jesus is not ashamed to call you family; and Jesus is here to help us – his teaching tells us to love – love each other; love ourselves; love God
And, as I have said before (and will no doubt say again)
If we can each do that – what a wonderful world we would have