Sermon – 24th May 2020

John 17 1-11

We’re about to enter our 10th week of lockdown. Each of us will have had a different experience of this season. 

For some it will have dragged by, the days stretching out endlessly with very little to distract us as we miss all of those things which we took for granted. For others life has been frantic, continuing to go out to work, working from home, home schooling alongside trying to keep up with the latest directives about what we should or should not be doing. 

For others it has actually been a very pleasant interlude, the weather has been good, there has been time to get all those jobs done that we’ve been putting off for months if not years and we have been able to spend quality time with those with whom we live.

Over the last week some of the restrictions that we have been dealing with have started to ease which has brought mixed blessings. On the one hand it’s been lovely to travel a little further afield for exercise and to have socially distanced conversations with family members and friends that we haven’t seen for what feels like an eternity. 

Yet there is also that nagging fear that some will take these freedoms too far, that their lack of self control will result in a further wave of Covid 19 sweeping the country, putting our health and social care services under even more pressure and causing even more people to suffer from this unpredictable illness  and others left mourning the loss of loved ones.

Throughout these past few weeks and as we go forward we are required to be obedient to the measures that have been  put in place for the protection of our society.

It’s a funny word obedient – quite old fashioned. For some reason it always makes me think of dog obedience classes where owners who are their wits end with their wilful canine pals desperately try to instill some sort of discipline in them. And for every success story there is always at least one dog for whom no amount of instruction is even going to make a blind bit of difference. Some dogs it would seem are unable ever to be obedient and over the last few weeks I have noticed that this is a growing tendency in some humans as well – with what could potentially be devastating consequences not just for individuals but for communities, countries and indeed the whole world. 

Disobedience can alter the whole course of history . What, for example would have happened Jesus had been disobedient to God? If He had succumbed to the temptations placed in front go Him by the devil during those 40 days in the desert?

Fortunately this is purely an academic question as Jesus was totally obedient to His Father in God. He may not have wanted the suffering that He knew was His destiny and indeed as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane He did call out to God 

Matthew 26 :39 “ My Father if it is possible may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will”   

Despite His longing for it to be another way Jesus always submitted to God’s will. He knew what HIs purpose on earth was and He never once tried to avoid it “ the time has come” He says in the first verse of our Gospel reading today. 

Over two thousand years ago God longed for His people to be restored to Him. That is why He sent His Son – that through His obedience and suffering, there might be a new covenant between God and humanity. It was an act borne out of love, it was an act of sacrifice, it was an act that required courage and it was a necessary act because without it what would have become of us, what would the world be like know if God had simply let us get on with it. It doesn’t bear thinking about  does it? 

Jesus taught us not only how to love God but how to love each other. And He taught us that if we wanted to follow Him, if we longed to be more Christ like, then we needed to be obedient to His commandants. To be all the things that God longs for us, we need self discipline. 

It’s at this point that some people being to question our faith. Self discipline and obedience don’t sound like much fun. Christianity sounds like a very restrictive way of life. But of course we know that it is through our obedience to God, through our constant striving to be more Christ like and to grow His Kingdom on earth that we find freedom! 

Freedom may sound like a strange word to use at a time when we are so restricted in what we can do . But we need to see this time as a period of growth, an opportunity for us to be obedient to God and by keeping HIs commandments, there will be a positive outcome for our world. By maintaining the requirements of lockdown we will see a gradual decrease in the spread of the virus, fewer people will become sick and fewer people will die. 

It sounds very obvious doesn’t it and for the majority of the population they accept that this has to be our way of life. They might not like it but they accept it, in the knowledge that through our combined efforts we will see a positive outcome.

And the same principles apply for the building of the Kingdom. We all have a part of play. All of our actions are worthwhile and God values every thing we do to bring glory to His name. 

In our Gospel reading Jesus speaks of the glory that He knows will be God’s as a result of His sacrifice. “ Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify You” He prays. Jesus has been obedient to God and through His teaching and example others have grown in their obedience to God . Jesus used the words that God had given Him to encourage His followers to turn to God. Through the gifts that Jesus bestowed on the disciples they in turn were able to glorify God through their encouragement of others and so fruit of Jesus’s teaching grew evermore abundant. 

As we approach Pentecost we reflect on the gift of the Holy Spirit not just to those who were gathered in that room in Jerusalem, but to the millions of faithful people who have received that same gift over the past two thousand years.  

The spread of Christianity has been a long and, in many places, a difficult journey.  It has taken courage, determination and endurance to continue God’s mission for the world. It has taken obedience to the commandments that Jesus gave us, that we should love God and  one another as God loves us. 

If we hold on to those commandments and we enact them in everything we do we will see transformation. In this season our faith has become an even greater foundation on which we are able not only to endure the challenges that we face but to use this time to glorify God.  Every prayer, every act of kindness, every sacrifice we make furthers the building of His kingdom. This time will end, it may take longer than we would like, but it will end and we need to be ready to take forward God’s work. 

I am sure that many of you are familiar with the words of the Covenant Prayer. I find myself turning to this prayer more and more at this time as it focuses me on my relationship with God and reminds me that it is to Him that I am obedient and through this obedience I am able to bring glory to Him.

The prayer sums up more eloquently than I ever could what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. I hope you find the words as encouraging and affirming as I do, especially as we journey through this season of uncertainty. 

I am no longer my own, but Thine.

Put me to what Thou wilt, rank me with whom Thou wilt;

Put me to doing, put me to suffering

Let me be employed for Thee or lad aside for Thee;

Let me be exalted for Thee or brought low for Thee

Let me be full, let me empty;

Let me have all things, let me have nothing;

I freely and heartily yield all things to Thy pleasure and disposal

And now glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Thou art mine and and I am thine 

So be it

And the convenient which I have made on earth

let it be ratified in heaven  Amen

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