This sermon was delivered by our Reader Christine on 12 March 2017.
I am sure there are quite a few of us that have relatives living abroad who have decided to start a new life in lands unknown and I know how difficult that first parting can be.
I can still remember the day my brother told us, as a family, that he was leaving the UK to live in Abu Dhabi (apart from anything else – I’d never heard of it), but I remember my mum’s first comment when we were alone. She turned to me and said, “I’ll never see him again”.
This, of course, was not true as he came home many times and always made a special effort to see my mum and I hope this is the same for those of you who have family or friends living abroad.
Of course, we now also have the added technology of Skype and other Social Networks where we can have video links, speak and see people across the other side of the world.
Obviously, during Abram’s time, this did not exist, but he made the decision to obey God. He left his father, his homeland, his friends and probably extended family and set out for lands unknown.
We are told he was 75 years old when he left Haran and began his journey, which actually makes it all the more incredible and it must have been very difficult for him to walk away from everything he knew.
Abram who of course, became Abraham, as we know became the father of a great nation and he is acknowledged as such by other religions as well.
To make that decision to answer God’s call and go where he leads without hesitation is truly remarkable.
Abram had to make an entirely new life and to that end, he gave up his old life to follow the path set before him through his faith in God.
Paul emphasises how Abraham’s obedience to God made him the father of many nations, not just by following the law, but also by righteousness of faith.
Paul himself had turned his back on his old life. He had given up his lifestyle and probably friends to become a disciple of Jesus and by faith established many churches. He too made a decision to answer God’s call to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles and to follow a new spiritual path and a new life.
The same spiritual path that Jesus was talking to Nicodemus about.
We can only assume this was because he was saw Jesus as someone special, he wanted to know more about him, but he also knew the dangers of letting others know his interest in Jesus’ teaching.
Nicodemus was a learned man and an intelligent believer who seems at first to misunderstand what Jesus is talking about, but we know that Jesus was speaking about a spiritual re-birth and about a new and deeper relationship with God and the beginnings of a new life. Nicodemus must have been considering turning his back on his old life to begin a new life and how best to answer God’s call.
All these people gave up something that was important to them, be it their families or their jobs.
During Lent, I’m sure there are many of us that have been asked what have we given up. It always amazes me that even people who don’t attend church are very quick to say what they have given up for Lent and I wonder, are these the lost sheep we should be reaching out to?, and that’s something we can contemplate.
Lent is more than just giving something up, it’s a time for us to re-evaluate our lives, our spiritual journey to take advantage of the special services, study groups and social gatherings.
It’s about looking deeply at the gifts we have to offer, about how our lives may be changed and how God is calling us.
We all have unique gifts that God has given to us and we never know what effects those gifts have on the people we meet every day. We may never know the effect of that word of encouragement, the caring hand on a shoulder, or that smile of friendship has had on an individual, but it may have changed a person’s life.
Thinking about these effects, it always reminds me of something I read that my father had sent to my mum during the war and some of you may have heard it before, it read, “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. (Anonymous quotation on a card, as quoted in A Memorial of a True Life: A Biography of Hugh McAllister Beaver (1898) by Robert Elliott Speer, p. 169)
We are not expected to totally change our lives like Abraham and Paul, or go on a long journey to find God, but giving something up for Lent is something we all try to do and most people give up chocolates, cakes and biscuits.
Jesus gave up more than anyone else when he died for us on the cross and those who followed him gave up their old way of living and began new lives. Their lives changed in many ways and they accepted the call of God as they began new and rewarding spiritual lives.
Lent should be a time when we too can draw closer to God through scripture, meditation, prayer and study.
A time to allow God to speak to us, to enhance our spiritual lives and deepen our faith.
The following quote I found whilst reading about Paul and preparing for today and I think it sums up what I’m trying to say;
“Follow Jesus today. Take one step at a time and leave the results and the destination up to the one you are following”.
Let us pray:
God of grace and glory give us the mind, the heart and the strength to live for you. Walk with us and work through us that we may be faithful in pray, grow in holiness and draw many to you. As we walk in the power of the Spirit transform us into the likeness of Christ, to the glory of your name.
Reader @ St. Margaret’s/St. George’s ©
- How Many Churches Did the Apostle Paul Start? by Neil Cole
- Peregrini Resource Book.