The Oasis

Writings from the ministry team

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Sermon – Trinity 12 – 14th August 2016 – Choices 

Readings: Jeremiah 23:23-29   Lying Prophets

       Hebrews 11:29-12:2   By Faith, God Disciplines his Sons

     LUKE 12:49-56     Not Peace but Division

Psalm:   82  

 

In Chris’s sermon last week, he talked about faith and how faith had helped the people of the Old Testament to trust in the Promises of God. ‘Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’. He also talked about personality types and how that affects people’s responses. Different personalities will respond to the same challenge in very different ways.

Now one of the wonderful gifts God has given to each and every one of us is free will, the ability to choose for ourselves how we respond to a situation and it’s this ability to choose that I want to concentrate on today. The choices we make can have a huge impact on our faith or lack of it! To follow or not to follow? – that is the question.

 

Our readings today are all about choices.

Jeremiah was, to say the least, a very reluctant prophet. He loved life and nature and enjoyed studying the mysteries of God’s creation. But God had other ideas and called him to serve, to be his messenger. He has to tell the people that they’ve got to change their ways and return to God. Now this might seem like an easy job but, it’s not. The people have become belligerent and disobedient to God, and as such, are in no mood to listen to Jeremiah. Now God has warned him that this is not going to be an easy mission, and that the people are going to fight against him. Now I don’t know about you, but if someone said to me ‘just go into that bunch of yobs and tell them to stop what they’re doing or else. Oh and by the way they’ll probably beat you to a pulp’. I’d think very seriously about following that instruction. In fact, I don’t think I’d think very long about it at all before telling the person to ‘do one!’ or words to that effect. But God has said to Jeremiah, ‘don’t worry, I’ll rescue you’. How many of you would think ‘Oh that’s all right then’ and step right in, especially if you couldn’t see the person who was going to save you? You’d need a whole lot of faith in that person to make a choice like that. But that’s exactly what Jeremiah did. Even though it meant his whole life changing from what he’d expected it to be, he made his choice and, for better AND worse, he followed the path the Lord set out before him.

 

Now in our reading from Hebrews we have a whole load of characters who made the choice to follow the path the Lord set out for them. Samson, Rahab, David and of course the Hebrew nation during the Exodus. Put yourself in their shoes. Can you imagine yourself on the banks of the Red Sea? Behind you, are a load of marauding Egyptians out for blood, your blood.

 

Before you is this huge expanse of water that has separated to form a path. The water is piled up high on either side of you. So now you have to choose. Do you go forward into the unknown, running the risk that the waters will collapse on top of you and you ‘ll drown, or do you turn back and take your chances with the Egyptians. They’ll be wanting to kill you, but who knows, you may be able to talk them round. You could always say, ‘it wasn’t my fault, the others made me do it’. They probably won’t believe you, but It’s worth a try, after all better the devil you know and all that.

 

So what would you do? What choice would you make? As Chris pointed out, your personality types would have a large part to play in your decisions. The backwards looking type would probably be saying, ‘I’m going back, at least back there I know what to expect’. The forward thinking type would be saying ‘come on then let’s go. It’s a new adventure a new beginning’. My husband Roger is very much like that always, looking forward to the next challenge, the next adventure. Then there are the ‘present’ personalities who are probably spinning on the spot, not knowing which way to turn, wishing they could just stay put and saying, ‘Why do I have to choose right now?’

 

Unfortunately, this time there is no choice but to choose. To go back, or to go forward? Forward into the unknown that is ‘the future’. No-one has ever been there before and it takes a great deal of faith and courage to move into the unknown. As Trekkies would say, ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’.

 

So now we’ve arrived at our gospel reading and this one’s a belter. We have Jesus saying ‘I have come to bring fire on the earth’, ‘do you think I bring Peace?’ ‘well think again’. I bring division, I’m going to divide families, and set them against each other.’ Wow, someone must have really rattled his cage. He sounds really annoyed, or at least that’s what it looks like at first glance. But let’s dig deeper.

 

The fire Jesus speaks of is the Power of the Holy Spirit, and he wants it to spread quickly, but first it needs to be kindled. Next he talks of his baptism. This is a metaphor for his passion and ultimate death on the cross, and, the release of his Spirit. But he knows that it can’t happen until the ‘time is right’. Jesus’ obedience to God is freely given. If you read Philippians 2 verses 7 & 8, it says ‘he emptied himself’, ‘he humbled himself’, in other words he made the choice, God didn’t make him do it. He knows he has a job to do and a message to get across. His ministry isn’t an easy one, it upsets the apple cart and disturbs the peace. More than that he knows that he’s going to suffer because of it, he’s come to tell the people that the time has come for them to choose. Do they confess him as their Lord or not? Do they have the faith to believe in the promises of God?

 

Whichever way they choose it’s going to cause a conflict. Families are going to take sides. Those who follow, and those who don’t, or aren’t ready to, or are simply too scared to choose. We can actually see this division at work in the story of Martha and Mary. The first sermon I ever preached when I started out my journey of faith, was their story. Jesus has arrived at their house for a visit and Mary plonks herself down at his feet to listen to him talk. Martha on the other hand is running around like a headless chicken, busy preparing rooms and meals etc. for their guests. These are things the sisters would probably have done together in the normal course of events. However, things didn’t work out like that and Martha is to say the least annoyed and makes her annoyance known. Jesus however, proceeds to take Mary’s side and so the division is set. But did Jesus divide them, or did they divide themselves? It is in fact the choices they made that divided them. Martha could quite easily have sat down with her sister and listened to Jesus and then later, together, they could have prepared the house and meals, probably with the help of some of the others present. Neither was at fault, and neither was to blame. They both had the same choice, but each chose differently.

 

We all have choices, That’s the gift we have been given by God. It’s what we do with those choices that matters and that takes faith. Because the choices we make can and will affect other people who may not agree with those choices, who may not have the same faith.

 

Chris reminded us last week that Jesus calls us to live in the moment, thankful for what God has done and in anticipation of what he is still to do. That takes faith, and faith implies risk. The kingdom of God calls us to take the risk. I read somewhere this quote, and I can’t for the life of me find it, but it said, ‘I would live by the best that I can discern today. Tomorrow I may find out that I was wrong, I made the wrong choice. But if I don’t live by being right, then I’m not destroyed by being wrong.’ In other words, it’s OK to make mistakes, so long as you recognise when you make a mistake.

 

The only way to follow Jesus is by faith and taking a gamble on God, after all he’s taken a gamble on us by giving us the ability and power and right to choose for ourselves. So, It’s down to us now, to choose wisely.

 

AMEN