[This sermon was preached on Sunday, the 27th of July 2008, at St Andrew's Anglican Church in Langley, BC.]
Propers: Genesis 29.15-28; Psalm 105.1-11, 45c (BAS); Romans 8.26-39; Matthew 13.31-33, 44-52
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, increase and multiply upon us your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BAS)
As was the case for almost all of the first Christian communities, the Roman community had found its roots among Jews living in the city who had responded to the message that Jesus had been raised from the dead and was, in fact, the long-promised Messiah. However, during the reign of the emperor Claudius, Nero’s predecessor, many Jews had been expelled from the city as a punishment for a series of riots in which Jews had been implicated. Under Nero, the enforcement of this edict of expulsion had relaxed and many Jews began to return to the empire’s capital city.
- No single group in the history of the world, whether Jew or Gentile, has lived up to God’s expectations.
- The one saving act in the entire history of the world has been the faithfulness of Jesus of Nazareth to the God of Israel, whom Jesus called ‘Abba’ and who raised Jesus from the dead.
- Any one who trusts in the faithfulness of Jesus to God’s will and who is baptized into that trust has been made one with Jesus through the power of the Spirit and shares in this present time, not only in some distant future, in the life that Jesus shares with his ‘Abba’.
- Who can be against us? No one; God, after all, did not spare the Son.
- Who will bring a charge against us? No one; God, after all, is the one who judges.
- Who will condemn us? No one; Christ Jesus, after all, who died and was raised, intercedes for us.
- Who will separate us from Christ’s love? No one; the Spirit, after all, has poured out the love of God into our hearts.
- so that we can become mustard seeds that give rise to bushes which shelter those who are vulnerable;
- so that we can become leaven that gives rise to bread to feed those who are hungry in body, soul and spirit;
- so that we can become the treasure that gives value to what may seem to be a fallow field;
- so that we can become the pearl that reveals the beauty of God’s creating, redeeming and life-giving love.
No one, whether archbishop or bishop, whether conservative or liberal, whether professor or church bureaucrat, can take from us our basic identity, our true selves. That identity, that selfhood, has been given us by our Lover, God. Through Jesus, God’s Beloved, and in the power of the Spirit, the Love that unites them, God calls us to be agents of love not fear, voices of hope not accusation, hands that embrace rather than strike out.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.