Sermon: The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (A) – 20th July 2014

St Alban’s Anglican Church Epping 7am, 8am and 10am

Readings: Genesis 28:10-19a    Psalm 139:1-11, 23-24   Romans 8:12-25   Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Tired, weary from travel, Jacob finds a spot where he can lie down for a few hours of sleep. For his “pillow” he uses a stone on which to place his head, and he falls asleep. In a dream he sees a ladder rising to the heavens, and the angels of God climbing up and down on it. Then the Lord speaks to him and offers him the land on which he lies and his “offspring shall spread to the east, north and south and all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” As well, God adds, “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.” Today as we read this story again, let’s think about our daily dramas as they unfold, and in them try to find the grace of God leading us to new hope and renewed faith.

hen did you last have such a dream as Jacob had? You may say never! However, haven’t there been times during your life when God spoke to you at very unusual times? Times that you might not have even realized it was God until events happened later in your life. God speaks to us in many and varied ways.

There is much good news in how God speaks to us. It is more than in this simple story of Jacob showing us the relationship between earth and heaven.

  • God speaks to us in moments of despair when we awaken to the hope that is shared with us from a stranger. Such as the disciples on the road to Emmaus having their eyes opened by the resurrected Jesus.
  • God speaks to us as we are nudged by a hymn that we have sung many times but really only mouthed the words, but then suddenly those words seem to be words written only for us to hear, to soothe us into the presence of Jesus. There is hope.
  • God speaks to us when we find we are unable to pray, but we can just sit and listen for that still small voice that brings volumes of love at a time that we may feel un-loveable. In times of winter in our lives, there is hope!
  • God speaks to us when we find ourselves breaking out of a time of uncertainty into the daylight of holy hope.
  • God speaks to us when we come to God’s table in thanksgiving for God’s blessing.

We can discover, just as Jacob did, that when we awaken from all the questioning that rumbles through our mind and we open our eyes and clear our ears and stretch our being we discover God is with us. We find healing, the blessing of God’s presence, the guidance of God’s spirit to help and to transform.

It is the same with Jesus as he tells one of his many parables. Today, this one about the Kingdom of Heaven and the contrast between good and evil, the good seeds in the field and the weeds among the wheat. The labourers want to go into the field and pull up the weeds, but Jesus says, “No; because in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them”. His disciples did not understand.

Jesus added, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of God. The weeds are the children of the evil one; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.”

We are talking about the battle of good and evil. None the less, there is hope in this battle, even more hope than we find in the story of Jacob’s Dream. Evil is in the process of being defeated. The end began on the first Easter Day. The great hope in this story is the life-changing experience of knowing Jesus Christ and being a living part of his body in this world the church.

We see the gentleness of Jesus’ wisdom as he talks about the angels culling out the evil of humankind, allowing humankind’s goodness to grow. For us it will take patience; patience on the part of those quick to condemn; patience for the redeeming power of Jesus to touch the lives of those who have lost their way. Consider the patience of God in using as God’s minister, Moses, a murderer; David, murder and manipulator; Paul, a religious parasite and encourager of persecution; Peter, a hypocrite and coward. God walked with each of these men. God loved them, God made them great. God forgave them. God granted them the blessings of God’s Kingdom. There is hope for the hopeless.

God can do that for us all. There is hope for us. God wants us to wait for the harvest. God wants us to be forgiving of those with whom we disagree. To be forgiving of ourselves. To be hopeful for a new tomorrow, to be hopeful that in diversity we can find the righteousness in all peoples and bring all to the same saving grace of Jesus Christ.

When that happens, then indeed we have heard with our ears the call of the Kingdom of God and we have found that surely the Lord is in this place.

The reading tells us that Jacob poured oil on the stone he used as a pillow and he named it Bethel; the House of God. He was inspired by his experience and said, “How awesome is this place! It is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Here as the church worshipping as the body of the risen Lord Jesus we make this world where we fear and long for comfort and think we have none; yet, it is the place in which the lost are found and the blind are given sight. We do not know what is coming next; but we find hope and prepare ourselves for the goodness of God as God reaps the harvest of the faithful, and changes the lives of the lost.

We let God do whatever it is that God does and trust in God’s unbounded goodness! We thank God for God’s infallible wisdom, for God’s infinite love, and for God’s forbearance that goes beyond our understanding. God is a god of surprises. God meets us with hope, compassion, concern, acceptance and guidance, even when we are not even looking for God. God even reaches out and touches the lives of those who do not seek God.

We need to awaken to God’s presence each and every day. It is then that we discover where we are: we are in the House of God, the body of Christ and we find that because of God’s son Jesus, we are at the gate of heaven. We find hope! 
 We need not sit in judgment upon others and for those who judge themselves with a judgment that is not our own. We need to trust in the judgment of God. We need to hear God when God asks us to pray for those who are disheartened by evil and for those who feel oppressed because the life they have known may be changing faster than they are emotionally or spiritually able to comprehend. We pray that God might work a healing in those lives. When this happens we find we are part of God’s plan in doing God’s work and growing the wheat of the harvest that leads us to God.

We do have hope and hope gives way to faith and faith gives us the presence of Christ and Christ forgives us and welcomes us to spend eternity in his presence. The Holy Spirit is working in us even this moment. We have an Easter experience of the resurrection and a Pentecost experience of the movement of the Holy Spirit. Let these experiences guide our next breath and fill us with a refreshing breeze of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

Though we are all different as children of God, let us build the gate of Heaven here in this place on the solid rock of Jesus Christ that makes us faithful to him, today, tomorrow and through eternity.

One of the ways we can build the Gate of Heaven here is to be aware God throughout all the seasons both of life and in everyday living, “God can speak to us through the Seasons”.

Each of the seasons is a classroom for the heart. If you sink your roots deep into the soil of a season’s truth, God can use it as a mentor for you. The four seasons are a universal archetype or model for the soul. They are metaphors for the cycles of our spiritual growth.

Winter is a barren time. There is little growth. We too can have barrenness in our lives. We can discover beauty in the midst of our barrenness. Imagine standing out there with the lonely trees, stripped of all our bright knowing. We are empty and we are lonely. Do not be afraid of loneliness. In the heart of that loneliness we will discover our great need for God and for others. Find a deciduous tree. Stand beside it in its winter watch. Keep it company. Discover its beauty. Listen to its wordless sermon. Put your ear to God’s dormant ground and listen to the seeds as they dream.

Snuggle up in your prayers and ponder these winter questions.

  • Where do I find silence in my life?

• When do I feel free from the pressure to produce?

• What are the most challenging aspects of winter for me?

• How is the prayer of contemplation a part of me life?

• What have I discovered during my barren seasons?

• What can I do to provide the creative space that I need for myself?

• If I were to choose a passage from scripture that speaks to me of winter, what would it be?[1]

 

[1] This sermon was prepared using the resources of www.dfms.org/worship-that-works/ (17 July 2005, 9th Sunday after Pentecost) and “God can speak to us through the seasons” from “The Circle of Life: The Heart’s Journey Through the Seasons” by Rupp and Wiederkehr, 2005, Ave Maria Press.