This sermon was given by our Reader Christine on Sunday 12 February 2017.
If we have to go on a journey somewhere today, there are many different ways of finding our way.
If you’re technologically minded you can go on the Internet and go on Google maps. It doesn’t only give you directions, it can tell you where the likely traffic jams will be, how long it will take you to go by car, public transport and even by foot (956 hrs from Manchester to Jerusalem without stops!). The amount of information you get can be a bit overloading.
Another alternative is to use an electronic navigating device like a Tom Tom for which you can have different voices telling you when to turn and when you have reached your destination. It even has different types of maps, day and nighttimes and different car images or you can just do what some may consider the old-fashioned method and use an ordinance survey map.
I would imagine that for some of us, whatever method we use, we sometimes lose our way, I know I have often, but we usually find where we are going to and end our journeys safely.
In Deuteronomy, Moses is speaking to the Israelites in the land of Moab before they cross the Jordan after wandering in the wilderness, he knows it’s one of his last chances to advise them about how they should live their lives when they have entered the Promised Land, as they have again been disobedient. “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live – loving the Lord your God”. Basically, choose the right path to righteousness and beware of following the wrong path and getting lost. The Israelites relied on their leaders, in this case Moses, to guide them along the right path to the Promised Land and spiritually.
In those days, finding the right path spiritually or even practically was a very different story than it is today. There would be no road signs or even a road in some areas and spiritually the Israelites could be quite a rebellious – Moses had seen it so many times. They seem to have needed constant reminders about how to observe the laws they had been given by Moses and he knew he would not be entering the Promised Land with them and they would have to listen to Joshua for future spiritual guidance. He is speaking to them like a father giving his children independence for the first time and warning them of the dangers they may face. He is trusting them to the guidance and leadership of Joshua.
Paul speaking to the Corinthians is carrying on the theme of choosing the right path.
Paul appointed leaders in the churches he started at Corinth and Ephesus and now he has heard of the problems in Corinth so he is remonstrating against them because they have been quarrelling. They have allowed their human faults, jealousy and envy to interfere with their spiritual journey. Put simply he is speaking to them as if they are children, “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready…….. Even now you are still not ready.”
They are not choosing the right spiritual path of forgiveness and peace they are letting their human inclinations interfere with their spiritual journey.
Which is possibly best described by a story told by an old Cherokee, and I apologise to those of you who heard Rev. Deborah tell this story on Wednesday, but I think it’s worth telling again and we must both have been on the same wavelength.
The old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life, but I want us to think about it as being a spiritual journey.
He tells the boy, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” (Native American Cherokee Story)
Going back to Paul, he had planted the seeds of faith and Apollos had watered them, fed them, he had led them on their spiritual journey, but they were continuing to argue and take sides. So Paul reminds them that they are God’s servants and it is only God who can give growth to the seeds.
We are the fields that God needs to plant his seeds and the church family, wherever we are, at work, at home is the place to water them so God can give growth.
Jesus in Matthew is reiterating how we should live our lives spiritually, some of which seems a bit extreme, but in all this God has to be at work within us all through his Spirit and Jesus.
God was with the Israelites in their journey with Moses, he was with Paul as he established the churches and of course, God was incarnate in Jesus.
So, we may well ask ourselves where is God today in our world when we consider all the violence, despair and neglect.
We may be fairly happy with our own spiritual journey, especially with the wide selection of services that can be experienced here at St. Margaret’s.
We may be considering exploring about vocations or different paths to spirituality, like mediation, Peregrini, especially in our year of growth.
How ever we look at it I firmly believe that God is very present in our world today and I feel he is guiding people on their journey. The people he is using may not even be religious, they may not yet have discovered Jesus, but some of the examples I’m thinking about lead me to believe that God is certainly working his purpose out.
There have been many stories on social media and through the papers describing how people are helping others, for example in Manchester a young woman took her sons and friends to a location where spikes had been put in place to stop people sleeping rough. The young woman, her sons and friends, laid cushions, pillows and left sandwiches for homeless people with a sign “Take a seat and have a bite to eat”. I’m sure it was very welcomed. These spikes have since been removed.
Another story of a young girl in California who was about to eat a meal in a restaurant with her father and as she sat down she saw a homeless man sat on a bench outside. She then asked her father if she could take her meal out to him, I can only imagine that man’s face.
In Canada, people put clothing and other things in bags so the weather wouldn’t get to them and pegged the bags up for the homeless and those in need.
And again, closer to home in Rochdale a Cafe owner tied coats and other winter clothing to lampposts and others followed her example on the same street for the homeless there. She was also looking into setting up a suspended coffee system in her café. The idea is that when you buy a coffee, you buy an extra one so when a street dweller goes in they can ask if there is any suspended coffee, some cafés that do this will sometimes give them food as well. An idea that has spread far and wide throughout the world.
It only takes one person to make a difference to the lives of many as we see with Moses, Paul and Jesus.
Choosing the right path and allowing God to work through us is not always easy, the journey can sometimes put obstacles in our way, but God’s work is happening in our world, whether people realise it or not, because I feel he is using those people to sow his seeds of faith, hope and love.
So, when we think about our journey of faith and consider how growth can begin let us remember that it only needs one person to plant the seed in our field and for all of us to feed it with faith, hope and love and with God’s help through Jesus Christ our Lord, we will. Amen.
Christine Hardy © Reader.
- Google maps
- Manchester Evening News online