Sermon for Sunday, 17th March 2019 by Rev Joachim Foot

‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’

 

He will transform the body of our humiliation[c] so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory,

 

How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings

 

The idea of fearing the Lord is sometimes

Perceived to be a bit inappropriate,

We like to keep God nice and cuddly,

We don’t want to scare anyone with

Any of that vengeance and wrath

And judgement stuff.

 

Or in more modern terms we might say

We don’t want any of the

‘Toxic masculinity’ of God coming in

And upsetting anyone.

 

Whilst at a superficial level,

This is an important thing to remember.

Screaming fire and brimstone is never

A very good way to rouse hearts

And minds. But,

At a more fundamental level

If we reduce God to being all touchy feely

Kissy cuddly, a sort of therapeutic

Cure, then we are missing

Something about the very nature

Of God

That is encapsulated in

God’s words to Abraham,

‘Do not be afraid’.

 

Fear of the Lord,

Is not a fear of retribution

It’s not a fear of judgements.

It’s more akin, I think,

To awe and wonder.

 

I don’t know if we have

Any astronomers with us?

So astronomers will tell you

That one of the extraordinary

Aspects of staring down a lens

And into space is not the wonder

Experienced, but the utter fear and

Terror of realising how utterly small

And insignificant the earth is

Within the galaxy.

There is a constant facing up

To the utter irrelevance of human

Existence in the make up

Of the universe.

 

What astronomers understand

In that experience

is the fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord comes from

The realisation of our own utter

Insignificance before God.

How pathetic we are before our creator.

 

This is, I think,

One of life’s salutatory lessons.

we love to puff ourselves up with our

own achievements and greatness.

We put up monuments to ourselves,

And we marvel at our own endeavours.

And yet, we are nothing.

We are small, feeble and pathetic

And in two hundred years time

No one will care.

 

And yet

And yet,

God loves us, cares for us

Calls us and directs us.

As the Gospel says:

How often have I desired to gather your children together

as a hen gathers her brood under her wings

 

we are called and loved as God’s children in spite

of our insignificance before our creator.

 

Our biggest mistake as a church

Is when we try to limit God,

When we try to make God conform

To what we want, rather than being

Led by him.

Indeed, we all too easily allow the church

To conform to the prevailing culture

Of our society and then wonder

Why no one comes to church.

When we make the church conform,

When we tame and temper

Our faith, we emasculate it

To the detriment of ourselves

And those around us,

By swallowing a secular narrative

About how society should be

And then, worst of all

Assuming that the secular agenda

is in some way comparative to Christian values.

If you’ve ever had to listen to a sermon

Of the ‘theology of safeguarding’

Then you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

 

The antidote is, I think that

If as a church,

We recover the idea of the fear of the Lord

If we look out from the narrowness of

Our own vision, we can see more clearly

The truly transformatory nature of faith.

That in all our insignificance, still chose

To send his son, to become one of us,

God, the immortal, invisible supreme being

Became a human. And, more than this,

God became man, he entered into

Our lives that we might enter into his,

As St Paul said in our reading

He will transform the body of our humiliation

 so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.

We pathetic tiny insignificant creatures

Are made to participate in the glorious body

Of Christ.

In the Holy Communion itself, we come face to face

With the broken body of our saviour. Our frail bodies

are transformed by the glorious body of Christ

broken for us as we enter into the divine communion

and our lives are made complete in him.

 

I will leave you this week with a quote

From the book of Proverbs, that sums us

The point I’ve been illustrating this morning

So remember:

The fear of the Lord(P) is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One(Q) is understanding.

 

In fearing the Lord, in knowing our place

We begin to understand God

And ourselves and his calling upon our lives.


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