Rev Ellie Goldsmith's Sermon for 18.2.18 Lent 1

SERMON for  18.2.18  Lent 1

Genesis 9:8-17  Psalm 25:1-9   1Peter 3:18-end Mark 1:9-15

 

Sometimes especially in Lent, I think we confuse 2 things, because both have to do with repentance:

When we think back to starting out on our Christian pilgrimage, a part of that was to repent:  it involved acknowledging that God’s way of living is better than our own, and so we had to make a ‘u-turn’ and say sorry for how we had been living – going our own way and ignoring God, or just giving him a passing nod. 

Then we journey on his path, in his direction.

That is the repentance that leads to our salvation.  Baptism is a sign of this: drowning to the old way of life and rising to new life in the Kingdom of God.

 

There is also the regular repentance that is needed because our pilgrimage takes us through an imperfect world, and so every day, we pick up some of its imperfections -  dust and dirt - and it sticks to us.  So, there is the need for daily repentance - for these sticky sins to be forgiven and removed. 

We may even find ourselves side-tracked, going off down a cul-de-sac, and we have to make a mini-u-turn, repenting as we get back on track again.

 

I think the story we hear on Maundy Thursday illustrates this best:  Peter asked Jesus to wash all of him, but Jesus replied that basically he was clean – he had repented and was forgiven; he just needed to have his feet washed, to get rid of the dirt collected on the journey.

Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch Christian famous for hiding Jews in the war, wrote about repentance:  she said this:  "God has taken our sin. He has thrown it into the sea of forgetfulness, and he has posted a sign that says, 'No fishing allowed.' "

We should not choose to remember what God has chosen to forget.

 

During Lent, we must not go fishing, dragging up the old dirt – that nagging voice that says, ‘Look what you did!’  ‘you call yourself a Christian, what about how you behaved, and those thoughts you had? The resentment you harbor?’

 

No fishing! but we must allow God by his Spirit to deal with anything that’s making us stumble on our pilgrimage, holding us back or weighing us down. 

I wonder what that might be for you …

 

I think this is one of the things Satan tried to do with Jesus:  he was tempting Jesus to doubt that he was God’s Son and to doubt the mission he was about to start.

 

The Holy Spirit took Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days, and allowed the temptations; this was a way of finding any weak points Jesus might have, or where He might deviate from God’s purpose.

 

Lent is a time for the Holy Spirit to shine his light into our lives, and no doubt there will be deviations and even deliberate acts of willfulness. 

All can be dealt with; all has been forgiven already – we just need to repent and say thank you: for our eternal salvation and for dusting us down every day.

Then, like Jesus, we shall be ready and prepared for action.

A short time after Jesus left the desert, he heard that John the Baptist had been put in prison, and this seemed to trigger Jesus into public action:  his message was similar to John’s:

Repent and believe the good news: God’s kingdom is near.

John had stressed the importance of repentance, and Jesus continued that, and also adding the importance of believing the good news that God’s kingdom was within arm’s reach.  And this is the next stage on our pilgrimage – to take hold of the kingdom with both hands, and then reaching out to others with God’s invitation to join the kingdom of heaven.

 

And if repentance has a tone of solemnity and seriousness, then believing the good news surely outweighs what might have become the burden of repentance – especially in Lent.

For the good news does include forgiveness, and it includes belonging to the Kingdom of God living with his unconditional love to bless and guide.

 

Jesus became highly aware of this at his Baptism – God’s love and delight in him openly expressed before he had done any of his miracles, or said a word of his teaching, before he had called any disciples.

This love would see Jesus through his mission right to the end, the bitter end, and beyond.

 

I wonder how sure you are of God’s love …  does it help you to carry out those acts of kindness you might be tempted to withhold? 

Or to speak up for God when you are caught in a dismissive discussion? 

Or to invite someone to an event in Church? 

Or to enjoy times of prayer helping to open up a channel of blessing for someone?

 

Repenting certainly pleases God, and so does the sort of believing that translates into prayer and action. No-one said it was easy, but repentance and believing bring us and God pleasure and pure joy.

 

The 1924 Olympic sprinter, Eric Liddell, knew all about tests and trials.  But he is famous for saying, "When I run I feel God’s pleasure."

That’s the true spirit of Lent: as we run the race of the Christian life, as we stay on track towards Easter and beyond, we too may feel "feel His pleasure" – and nothing compares with this.
St. James puts it like this: 1:2-8

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 

Pleasure and joy for us – and for God:

we, like Jesus, learn to do what pleases our Heavenly Father, what gives him pleasure, the joy he gets when he sees us growing into maturity, ready to repent and ready for action.

 

The Old Testament reading about Noah describes the covenant God made with him and for all peoples to come.

And here is the vital truth about Lent and about all living:

God’s covenant rests on the striking notion that He is a personal being who longs to be in close relationship with us. 

It is not some kind of celestial legal code or metaphysical law that we keep or break at our peril.  

It is a covenant of love – it gives life, and health and peace.

God delights in us, and wants us to delight in him.

I wonder if that is something you can say – want to say – this Lent Sunday:  God delights in me; I delight in him.

 

We are told that Noah and God enjoyed each other’s company, and together they saved a few people and so continued God’s plans for the world; Jesus and his Father delighted in each other, and through them, the whole world can be saved; what might you and God do together if you take pleasure and joy in each other?

 


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Webpage icon Easter Day Sermon 1st April 2018
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Webpage icon Sermon for 3rd Sunday in Lent 4th March 2018
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