Sermons Sermon during Advent 17/12/17 on Faith by Rev Dr Royse Murphy

 

Sunday 17/12/17

8 am

3nd Sunday of Advent: Faith

Lord, we thank you for your promises in Jesus and for the words in your scriptures and the inspiration of your Holy Spirit.

In our family we often make reference to a turn of phrase familiar to anyone who has had time in Wales or with Welsh people. My mother who is Irish by birth has a story which touches on a similar point. A Mexican Spanish professor was talking to an Irish professor and asked him if there was an Irish word that meant ‘Mañana’. Well, no, the Irishman replied slowly, ‘I don’t think we have any word with same degree of urgency’! By the same token, the Welsh phrase I referred to was ‘I’ll be there now, in a minute’!

Both of these suggest a carelessness with promptness, or at worst procrastination. I guess we don’t have to limit that to just the Latin or Celtic fringe.

In the Isaiah passage we read of the prophet who says: The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,  he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 

The cry was taken up by John the Baptist, of whom we read in the Gospel passage today. I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? 

 

To which he replies with the words of Isaiah: I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness’ - there is no doubt how John saw his mission. There was a prediction by John that Jesus would come, and there is a prediction by Jesus himself that he would come back.

It is often on our minds that we would appreciate Jesus’ input to the situation in this world now. ‘How Long’ we might cry, and it seems at times that we are having a reply ‘Mañana’ or ‘I’ll be there now, in a minute’

With  Advent we look forward not only to the arrival of Jesus at Christmas but reflect upon the promise of his return. So Advent is about a spiritual journey recognising that Christ has come, that He is present now, and that he will come again. Jesus taught us with words an example that there are demands on us in the ‘between times’. We aren’t just to kick our heels in the waiting room waiting for Glory. There are people to encourage, not least ourselves! 

Advent for many people is about excitedly waiting for Christmas. People often have a difficult time with their lives, austerity, through unemployment is down through an increase in part-time ,jobs, money is tight, and we have a lot of uncertainty around the world. 

As Christians, though, we hold onto a hope about the world God has in mind for us. We regard Advent, as a time for celebration and expectation. However distant God sometimes seems, he is waiting for our commitment to his world; to truth and justice.

But all sounds very serious. Also we do not have the courage and wisdom to know how to do this ourselves. Is God really like the headmaster; criticising us all the time? 

Change is promised by God but he seems not to be answering our prayers for this at times. We need to hold onto a faith that there will be that change in the world we would like to see. This is not about prosperity but about our spiritual recognition of our responsibility to one another. God cares for those who suffer, and for find Christmas a very difficult time. 

But as Christians we look forward to the more important fact of Jesus’ return in triumph to bring in a new world of justice and peace. 

Paul encourages us as he did the Thessalonians: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

And how are we doing? In this Church I would like to say that we are a welcoming community, that we are the example that Jesus wanted to leave behind until he came again. What are we to do if we are to be found faithful to his commands to us when he returns? Well, we need to look at his words to see. It is that tension itself that worries us - ’How Long’ do we need to see injustice poverty and conflict, how long discrimination, how long people unable to live to their full potential.

And the problems seem too immense. I have seen some very cynical and skepical comment by materialists on the way in which we are to wait for God. One very well known play by Beckett ‘Waiting for Godot’ seems to reflect this skepicism. In the play (and I hope this is not a spoiler for you,) the two protagonists interact in a difficult and abrasive manner with each other and third parties while they wait for Godot. Beckett would never say who Godot was, the play was originally written in French, so saying that God is Godot doesn’t exactly work according to Beckett, though he admitted that this could have been an unconscious comparison. 

I find it an excellent and deeply frustrating play, there are twists an turns and points at which one asks oneself ‘is this really getting us or them anywhere? But it is a true reflection of the state of human existence, with many Biblical quotes and one is not sure whether these originate culturally as Beckett had a strongly Christian roots and was brought up in the Anglican faith in Ireland. If absent Godot alludes to God, he is in turn dismissed, satirised, or ignored. Much the same happens to the public perception of God, and also the waiting for him that we might properly call faith.

So is there any point to faith? Does it get us anywhere - is it real, and how does it relate to God’s promises? Well, rather like a play it needs to be experienced. It helps to read about it, and we must read about it, but the truth of it can only be found in living it. Only in living in faith can God live in us and therefore work his will in the world. 

Paul leaves us with these words: May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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