Sermon St Peter and St Mary 8 August 2021 Year B Trinity10 P14 Eternal Life
1 Kings 19v4-8 (Psalm 34v1-8) Ephesians 4v25-5v2 John 6v35,41-51
Let us pray
Who are your favourite Old Testament characters? High on my list would be the prophet Elijah. He was not only a humble and anointed servant of God, but also so human. Having defeated the 450 prophets of the false god baal, he fled to the wilderness in fear of queen Jezabel’s response, and just wanted to die; but God had other plans for him. So, as we read this morning, he was there twice fed by the angel with a superhuman food to give him strength to travel for forty days to Horeb, the sacred mountain of God, and there for the glory of God to pass him by in the ‘still small voice’.
So as we come together again this morning for our communion around the table of our Lord, and where we shall be fed with the ‘bread of life’, let us also be open to hear that ‘still small voice’ of our Lord.
The set psalm for today, psalm 34, directs us to ‘look upon him’, as Christians we would say to ‘look upon our Lord Jesus’, ‘and be radiant, and your faces shall not be ashamed’. So what is it that as Christians should be making us radiant?
We may answer that it is the witness of God’s Holy Spirit within us of our hope of eternal life, but how may that hope be observed by those around us? Maybe Saint Paul in our passage from Ephesians gives us some ideas. Could it be that our behaviour as Christians should set us apart from the varying standards seen in the world around us? God’s standards that if they could be applied would truly transform human society for the good.
Standards that include, speaking the truth, overcoming anger, taking care over what we say, being kind hearted and full of forgiveness, and can you imagine what it would be like if thieves repaid their depts and turned to working honestly. What a transformation that would bring about, but it is what God desires to see as society is to be redeemed through our witness to what He intended for us all in creation.
As we saw a few weeks ago, Paul describes how we Christians have been marked by ‘the seal of the Holy Spirit’, a seal that is to be a witness in the spiritual realm that we now belong to God. And those transforming forms of behaviour we have just read about, should be the mark to this physical world, to our families, friends and neighbours, of God’s presence in us, and of His call for them to also follow after Him.
As God’s ‘beloved children’, Paul sees us as being ‘set apart to be imitators of our Lord Jesus Christ’, set apart to be God’s ambassadors for His kingdom to this present fallen world; do we realise what a high calling God has placed on our lives, upon your life and upon mine.
And that high calling cost God the blood of His most beloved Son on the cross of Calvary.
So how may we understand that calling to be ambassadors of God’s kingdom in the here and now, and how do we recognise its effect in our lives? Well, do we know and feel that we are on the path to the eternal kingdom that has still to come, that we can rejoice in a coming ‘new creation’, and with it the hope and promise of an eternal life with our creator and our Saviour?
I do hope so.
I our gospel reading, Jesus in his discourse on the ‘bread of life’, a discourse that was difficult for his hearers in Jerusalem to understand, and also difficult for many still to understand today, Jesus slips in a small, but most profound, little phrase, did you notice it? Jesus tells the people, and us, the secret of ‘eternal life’. It is a secret that Jesus has revealed to us, and is a simple truth for all people, in all places and for all times.
Do you remember the rich young ruler who came to Jesus one day with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” It is a question that we must pray more people will also ask today, and a question that we must be well prepared to answer. So how did Jesus answer him? Jesus made it quite clear that it was not through doing ‘good deeds’ or by ‘keeping God’s commandments’, although both of these are what we should all be doing, Jesus gave a clear and simple answer in our gospel reading this morning; “Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.”
So in the grace and mercy of God, eternal life is not something that we can earn through what we do, it is a gift from God to us if and when we simply put our faith and trust in God and in our Lord Jesus, that is, when we believe in Him.
Saint Paul also makes it perfectly clear when writing to young Titus (3v7) that our hope of eternal life, and the most amazing promise that we are to become heirs with our Lord Jesus to the eternal kingdom, that hope comes only through the grace of God, and comes because we are justified through our faith alone.
The prophet Daniel, writing during his exile in Babylon some 500 years before our Lord Jesus, also made a reference to what God had shown him with regard to eternal life and of his hope in the resurrection. He wrote, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to shame and contempt.”
And earlier in his gospel Saint John had some stern words to say (3v36), “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to believe in the Son, will not see life instead the wrath of God remains on him.” Words that many may prefer not to hear, but words of great promise for us who believe, but also of grave significance for those who refuse to believe. The ‘wrath of God’, whatever form that may take, is a phrase describing an aspect of our loving and righteous God, that seems to have passed out of our vocabulary and theology in this post modern world, but can it really be ignored?
So what should we do with such a great hope and promise of eternal life? A transforming hope that has been given to us who as Christians believe in Jesus, our Lord and our Saviour? We are to seek to live out our lives as God’s ambassadors, as God witnesses to this world, and to live out that life as God intended. And then, being concerned for those we long to see come to share with us in that great hope and joy of the new wine of the kingdom, we are to be persistent in our prayers for them that they also may come and believe.
Let us pray: The shorter Collect for this 10th Sunday after Trinity:
Lord of heaven and earth, as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer, give us patience and courage never to lose hope, but always to bring our prayers before you; through Jesus Christ out Lord.Amen