Sunday, 18 November 2018

How long must we wait - sermon for 18 November

Hebrews 10: 11-25; Mark 13: 1-8

Entering a big city, when you’ve been out in the countryside can make the mind play tricks, the buildings seem bigger; the traffic noisier; the crowds pushier…
I well remember the first time I travelled to America – how big it all seemed.
Travelling from the airport into Seattle I was speechless looking out of the window; everything seemed huge: the roads were wider, and they we tiered – so there were two more highways above; the buildings scraped the sky, reaching ever higher.
As we moved through the city and into the suburbs, to where my friends lived, I discovered their small apartment, was not quite as pokey as I had been led to believe.

It’s all a matter of scale; for in a couple of days none of it really seemed that big after all; my mind had adjusted, and I was able to regain perspective.
Now that I have been back and forth fairly frequently, I am not so overwhelmed as I was twenty years ago.

As humans we adapt; we move from one thing to another, and what is strange, or big, or overpowering becomes the new normal.

The disciples had been travelling with Jesus for around three years; but they were still, really, country folk at heart. Coming to Jerusalem, the big city, was a novelty; and the Temple was a magnificent building – they were rightly awed by it.
Jesus, appears to be less impressed, and issues this terrible prophecy: it will all fall; the temple will be toppled.

Of course, immediately they began to clamour for more information – how? Why? When? How will we know? What warnings will there be?
Jesus continues to speak in riddles; and it seems he is laying the foundation for the end of things: wars and rumours of wars; fire and earthquakes…
Jesus knows they are leaving the Temple for the last time before he is arrested but this is not the end.

The destruction, the fall of the Temple, the violence and persecution are not sure signs of what is to come.
This is not the end. 
These things may occur and they may indeed be happening but this is not the end.

Here we are 2000 years later; still living faithful lives; still waiting.
All things are changing, the Temple is not the focal point anymore. 
Now we focus not on a building, but on an event: the resurrection. 
We know that faith is not about the buildings, but about the people.

We of course, also have the wisdom of hindsight: we know the fall of the  temple in around 70AD did not signify the end of the age and the return of Jesus.

We also have the complacency of 2000 years; there have been wars, and conflicts; famines and earthquakes; fires and flood, and still the world goes on; still humanity continues.
We may find ourselves saying, sure Jesus will return, but it won’t be in our lifetime.
The passage of time has numbed us to the reality of Jesus’ promise.

But we are now living in challenging days; the church is facing a new crisis; one it has not before dealt with.
Faith may seem hollow because it has been institutionalised;
Yet there is still hope in this passage.

Faith is not restricted to what the institution of the church is able to do; for Jesus predicts that these institutions, even the biggest ones built, with the greatest stones and minds and fervour shall not last.
Our Hope instead is in the arrival of Jesus and his kingdom.

How can we hear Jesus’ words that Temples will fall but the end is not yet? There is always new life and such upheaval has always been the way of it as one generation moves into another.

In these days of uncertainty; when our presbytery is tasked with once again looking at ministerial numbers. It is good to ask hard questions.

Is it right to use vast resources within the church to keep the stones in place?
Does the ‘listing’ of buildings that preserve their and our heritage have an uncanny way of preserving the problems that institutionalise us as well. 

What are Jesus words to us?
“Do not be alarmed”

The writer to the Hebrews was writing to people who were unsettled; he was writing in a time of change.
Today’s passage is clear: our confidence is not in the building, but in Jesus; and through Jesus we have hope.

Through Jesus we are able to  hold on fast to the promises of faith. Because of that, the author writes: “Let us provoke one another to love and good deeds… to meet together… to encourage one another…”

The world can be a big scary place
And we can feel small and isolated in it
But, we are not alone
We are never alone

We have a living God, who seeks good for us
And through God’s prompting we can work together for whatever our future is.

Over the next few weeks, a small group from our church, will be meeting with small groups from some of our neighbouring churches to consider the future plan:
What do we need to continue to be the church here in the  Leader Valley?
How can we bring the gospel message of Love to all the people who live here?
Their task is challenging; and we are living through challenging days.

Jesus said, “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed”
Jesus called us to love each other; to love God – Jesus also promised he would return.

When? We do not know
How long do we wait?
We do not know…

But this we do know: God is love, and in God’s love we can overcome all things.

Demolition of outbuildings at Earlston Manse

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Why do we give? A sermon for Remembrance Sunday

“Out of her poverty, she has put in everything she had…” (Mark 12:44)
Every widow; every orphan; every amputee; every one suffering from PTSD; every shell-shocked mind.
Every private; every corporal; every able seaman; every flight engineer…

Each, put in their two pennies.
Everything they had
Everything they were
Everything they lost
Given – for hope.

The human desire to strive for justice; to protect the vulnerable; to stand up for the oppressed can be summed up in the Psalmist’s verses:
Happy are those … whose hope is in the Lord their God; who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
 The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow (Ps 146: 5,6, 7-9)

For so many in the Great War a simple faith in God was core to everything; the words of the bible brought comfort; the very fact that each serviceman was given a bible tells us that.
The cost; the true price of war – cannot be measured in pounds and pennies, but in lives – shortened or changed – given in trust.
Trusting that the loss would not be futile
Trusting that the forfeit would be worth it
Trusting, that those who sent them out into peril knew what they were doing.
Trusting that their actions would fulfil God’s vision: justice for the oppressed.

Those young men who marched off to war in 1914 had no inkling of what would happen next; but all believed that it would be over by Christmas; they they’d be back home in no time… but as weeks turned to months; and then months turned to years, they, and their loved ones discovered it was not to be so simple.
Jesus, sat down and watched… the people; praying; offering; worshipping. Jesus watched, and Jesus knew the true cost to each donor.
And I am sure; that in 1914, Jesus watched the people: praying; marching; offering; worshipping.
Jesus watched, and Jesus knew the true cost to each donor. Every life cut short; every life changed through terrible injury; every home with empty chairs for those who would not return.
We now, in 2018. One hundred years after the guns fell silent, need to continue to remember the true cost of war.
There are few now who remember the Second War; and none remain from the Great War.

But, conflict continues. And British service personnel are deployed all around the world.
The Baltics…
Today, as we remember 100 years ago; we must also remember all who continue to serve our country; all who continue to answer the call to serve, to uphold justice; to restore peace; to bring safety in an unsafe world..
As we remember, may we be thankful, grateful, knowing that because of them, our lives are more secure.

Jesus knows all about sacrifice; it is through his sacrifice that we have hope for tomorrow.
Why do we give?
We give to honour the fallen; to honour each other; to honour God
We give to remember.
Remembrance Display Earlston Church 2018