If you are interested please contact him directly on 01249 712136 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
As we now read the Gospel account of the arrest, torture, crucifixion and death of Jesus of Nazareth I want you to advance beyond the traditional view of these events as a sacrificial offering to God The Father to apologise to and appease Him for the insult to Him by the Fall of Adam and Eve, Original sin and the individual sins of each one of us.
This is a very narrow, one strand view of Redemption and Salvation.
Far better to look on the events recounted in today’s Gospel reading as something integral to God’s original act of creation. It was always God’s plan as part of His ongoing revelation of Himself. It is the final great act, the final great symbol of God’s total involvement in every aspect of our lives, from birth to death. It is the ultimate Symbol, the ultimate act of God’s love for you and I. Listening to today’s Gospel reading I must ask myself; What more could My God do to convince me of his love and care for me?
Today’s sermon should be the companion of last Sunday’s sermon.
One of the most important ways we are created in God’s image and likeness is that we are created free. We have been given Freedom of choice.
Freedom of choice is a great gift but also a great responsibility.
As is nicely illustrated in the Book of Genesis by the story of Adam and Eve and the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They freely chose to eat this fruit and opened a can of worms. They now had to live with the consequences of their choice.
It is a well worth exercise for me to look back on my life at the choices I made and the resulting consequences. It is a well worth exercise to take the latter into account when making my everyday little and big choices.
To quote Shakespeare – ‘To be, or not to be; that is the question.’
It is these little everyday free choices that make me a good or a bad person. – To get angry or hold my temper, to say something nasty or something kind, to lie or stick to the truth, to act with greed or with consideration for others, to push my way forward or give way to another, to boast or to keep my mouth shut, to think just about myself or take others into consideration, to be patient or openly impatient etc.
Little free choices; but they mould the sort of person I am and will be in he future. All the above has to do with using the gifts my God has given me in the right way – I have the freedom of choice, just like Adam and Eve.
For the rest of my life I will live with the fruit of these choices. To quote the Book of Proverbs; ‘As you sow, so shall you reap.’
So by and large I am directly responsible for the sort of person I am.
On the other hand, to quote Nelson Mandela “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”
Unfortunately many human beings learn to hate rather than love, learn to abuse rather than respect, to steal rather than live honestly, to lie rather than speak truth etc. This learning can come from parents, grandparents, family, friends, tribe, nationality etc.
With all this in mind we can see why some of the last words of Jesus on the cross were; ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.’
It is only in recent years that we have begun to discover many of the emotional, psychological, mental and physical disabilities which burden many of us. Understanding, treating and curing many of these conditions is still in the distant future.
In short I am in almost complete ignorance as to why people do or say bad things.
To some extent the same can be said as regards my own motivation.
Why people are motivated or compelled to speak or act in the way they do, is known, in its entirety, to God alone. For me the words of Jesus in Luke 6; 36 – 37 must be my guide; ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.’
St Paul. ’So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.’
St John. ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because God first loved us.’
There is no room for fear in my response to God. I fear someone I do not like, someone I do not trust, someone I do not believe. I fear someone who is unpredictable, someone who is volatile, someone who is undependable. I fear someone who is selfish, greedy, self-centred.
How insulting it is to fear God!!!
Luke. ‘Coming to his senses he thought, How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.’
Is this true repentance or mere self-interest?
And then we read; ‘While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.’
The father does not look for words of repentance or explanations. Obviously the Father has forgiven him long before it occurred to the son to return.
So the message of the Gospel is that God has made the first move. God has loved me first. God has forgiven me first even before I have known God or repented.
Luke; ‘So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ She loved greatly because she realised that her God had already forgiven her and already loved her. God made the first move and her response was to love greatly.
The big question is how do I respond to God?
A bigger question is why do I not realise how totally and unreservedly good my God is?
Religion is my response of gratitude to God for the great things God has done for me.
I am forgiven by my God long before I repent, long before I go to confession.
I am a child of God long before I am Baptised. I am one with Christ long before I receive Holy Communion. Receiving the Sacraments is the official acknowledgment and celebration of, and thanksgiving for, what already exists.
God always makes the first move. I respond.
To quote St Paul in Ephesians; “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved) raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,
that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”
I have been created by My God with the gift of free will. I can accept the gifts of God – salvation, resurrection and Eternal Life with God with a heart full of gratitude or I can refuse the gifts of God and live my life simply as a rational animal.
So where do good works come in? Good works – being forgiving, being tolerant, being generous, being helpful, being compassionate, being loving, joining the parish community in its acts of worship, spending time in prayer etc. flow from, are the offspring of, result from my gratitude and joy for having received God’s free gifts. As well as wanting to continually thank my God I also want my family, relatives, friends and neighbours to share in this great sense of peace, joy and gratitude to God.
We will be flying from Bristol to Lisbon, and after a 90min coach transfer to Fatima, we will be staying at the 4*Steyler Fatima Hotel, which is 100 metres from the Sanctuary. The hotel has 204 rooms, all with central heating/cooling, TV, safe, minibar, hair dryer and free wi-fi. Guests can also use the indoor pool, sauna, steam room, spa and gym (additional charges apply). The hotel also has its own Chapel and Stations of the Cross in the garden for quiet reflection. You can choose from a single, twin or double room (an extra child bed is available upon request).
If you are seriously interested, please add your name to the list by the Lady Chapel noticeboard.
Contact Lorraine Miller for further information.