2 Kgs 4:8-16
Matt 11: 16-19, 25-30
by Adam North – Lay Reader-St Peters Hall Green, Diocese of Birmingham, Church of England and USPG Volunteer
NOTES ON THE READINGS
Old Testament – Genesis 22:1-14
The story of the near sacrifice of Isaac. What does this violent story of attempted filicide have to tell us? For me on first reading this story I feel horror. This is because I am reading it in the present with the perspective of the past. How I need to read it is with the perspective of the past, present and future.
It is in this story of Abraham attempting to sacrifice Isaac that God gives us the ability to see a little bit farther as God sees. God requires trust from us; sometimes we will be asked to go to places and do things that we are not sure of. It is in the journey that God’s will is revealed because we have feared and trusted God. Because of this trust, just like with Abraham and Isaac, when the will of God is revealed to us it will be as if we have always known it.
Abraham calls this place ‘the Lord will provide’. We have to Journey to this mountain in our hearts and minds wherever we find ourselves: office, workplace, park or home. It is an eternal promise – the Lord will provide.
Thirteen is supposedly an unlucky number. I have lost track of the number of times I have prayed with this psalm. Suffering as I do from Depression, Anxiety and PTSD, there are times when this world feels very dark and full of pain. This Psalm is an anchor to hold onto and can return me to the knowledge of God’s unfailing love and grace and makes me able to praise God in the darkest of times. When I pray with this Psalm I am full of pity and pain, but this psalm reminds me that I have known God’s presence in my life and that all is not sleep or death.
In the Old Testament times the concept of afterlife was not what we have now as Christians. The people of the Old Testament felt that when sleep happened that was as if we had died. Our Christian faith tells us when we fall asleep for the final time we are met by Christ and will share in eternal life and resurrection.
So pray this psalm when you are feeling at your lowest ebb. It will bring you hope and make you able to offer any situation to God in praise. It will remind you that God has, and will again, bring light into your life.
Epistle – Romans 6: 12-23
Sin. It always comes down to Sin. Many people believe that Paul is obsessed with sin, and so what if he is? If anyone should know the consequence of sin it is Paul. But what is Paul saying? In this passage Paul is reminding us that as Christians sin has died. It died with Christ in the crucifixion, which was a sufficient sacrifice. We still have the ability to sin, but the sins of our past are already reconciled through our Baptism whenever that may take place.
It doesn’t mean however that the consequence of those sins is erased. We have to be very careful, an abuser may have abused many in the past and the consequences of that sinning lives on in the abused lives and the sin must never be repeated again. Paul murdered many followers of Christ in his time as Saul, the consequences of those actions continued to haunt him. But grace from God was his saving and that enabled him to preach Christ crucified, dead, risen and ascended. God gave him that grace and gives it to us as well. The structural sins in our society still have consequences so we must stop those sins.
Gospel – Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
“Look a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.
In this passage Jesus is revealing that the generation which were there at that time were guilty of not listening to him preferring instead the burdensome structural religious legality of the day. First they rejected John, now they reject Jesus.
We can to be guilty of this in our denominations, as churches looking at that which separates rather than unites us. In Verses 25-30 Jesus is reminding us that however learned we are human wisdom is insufficient in understanding God. Those who were wise and learned were blinded by that knowledge maybe unable or unwilling to receive knowledge of God.
Instead Jesus calls to himself those on the margins of society, those who have little understanding of the societal structures which have enslaved them. Jesus frees them from structural Injustice, with Jesus rest is available. Not being condemned or exploited but grace, mercy, hope, peace and love.
DRAFT SERMON/SERMON OUTLINE
When I think on how peaceful the Black Live Matter protests have been, even after the brutal murder of George Floyd, it reminds me that simple peaceful actions can be born in response.
There is violence in the Abraham story – a Father prepared to brutally murder his own son. Isaac, after not being sacrificed, having known what his father had intended to do could quite easily have felt justified in taking that knife and killing Abraham. But he doesn’t. As we have seen with these protests, the best response to the atrocities that has caused them is peaceful; but it would be understandable if they were not.
Our Psalm offers us time and space to get perspective on life. It finds us at our lowest and ends with taking us to praise of the almighty God. Finding God’s light and peace.
In the epistle from Romans, Paul is reminding us that the consequence of sin lives on far after the sin was committed. That there is forgiveness and reconciliation from sin. But that sin remains in society and its unjust structures. Paul reminds us that we must be prepared to stand up against injustice and structural sin. The saying at the moment is that “silence is violence” and it’s true. We must confront sin head on, even -and especially- if we have ourselves been guilty of or contributed to that sin.
In our gospel reading Jesus is reminding us that human knowledge is written by human minds. If we really want to understand and be released from the oppression of structural injustice, we must be prepared to find the real and simple truths that are to be found in plain sight.
In conclusion we must remember those words of Nelson Mandela on his release from prison. “If I did not leave all the anger, hatred and bitterness behind, I would still be in prison”
Isaac did not take the knife against his father in revenge. Even when we feel like all hope is lost in the darkest of times, we can always turn to God and be found.
Sin of all kinds must be confronted but be carefully! These sins are complex and are found in our societal structures.
Truth is often to be found in plain sight – trust in God. Not blindly following those who are filled with human knowledge, but rather to seek the knowledge of God. That way Structural sin, social injustice and the status quo can be challenged and overturned in a peaceful way. This offers learning and understanding for the guilty, peace and reconciliation for the oppressed and ultimately grace, mercy, hope, peace and love.
As churches we must find a way to become more inclusive not exclusive and question leadership rather than blindly follow where God does not want us to go.
by Adam North, Diocese of Birmingham, UK