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- 31 Aug 2015
- St John's in the City
- Sermon by Rev Stuart Simpson on Sunday 9 August 2015
Readings were 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 and John 6:35, 41-51
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What are some ordinary things we have in life?
Air to breathe
Food, such as bread – bread that although ordinary is something used in Communion
In Communion we use something so ordinary and yet Communion is one of two Sacraments within the Presbyterian Church – there is something both ordinary and mysterious and sacred about Communion.
This is what I believe Jesus, is trying to get across to us this morning in the Gospel reading. That is, God, Holy, Majestic and Divine speaks and acts in the ordinary.
Let’s unpack this a little.
Jesus in the previous verses has carried out the miracle of feeding 5,000 people. And now that crowd is following him. Some because of what he did. Some simply because they wished to criticise him. They regarded him as a teacher, and witnessed his miracles.
But they also knew him as their own – that is, they knew his parents and his brothers and sisters, they watched him play and learn his trade, grow up and eventually leave home. In other words, they know him.
And if they know him how can this ordinary man be anything other than ordinary? Because he is like them; he is common – he can’t be all that special and he certainly can’t be the one God sent for redemption.
I like to think I follow Jesus out of faith. But there are times when I resonate with the crowd who complained – I mean, when I am hurt or afraid, when I am in need or in distress, I want to see a God who is strong and miraculous. I want to call upon a God who answers clearly and quickly, and I want to rely on a God is there, really there, when I need him.
Not a God who is like me! Common and ordinary.
No wonder some of the crowd are put off, offended, angered even by Jesus’ suggestion that he, a human just as they were, is the answer to their deepest longings and greatest needs. And why shouldn’t they be put off? Think of the daring claim Jesus is making. Whoever ever heard of a God having anything to do with the everyday, the ordinary, the mundane, the dirty?
Gods are for greatness not grime. They are supposed to live in the clouds, not down here with the commoners.
I mean who has ever heard of a God who is willing to suffer the pains and problems, the indecencies and embarrassment of human life? It’s crazy and laughable. No wonder the crowd grumbles against Jesus’ words, for his words seem to make fun of their understanding of God’s majesty, and, even worse, to mock their own deep need for a God who transcends the very life which is causing them so much difficulty.
No wonder they are upset! They know – first hand, of their own flaws and shortcomings, of their own faithlessness and failures. They know of their doubts and fears, of their betrayals and broken promises, their grudges and foolish prejudices. They know all the shame of disappointment and regret that each person carries around on their backs.
And so if Jesus is really like them then they are doomed. For how can someone who is like them save? So they grumble because they are angry. But even more because they are afraid, that just maybe, in the end they’re really not worth saving.
I wonder if it is the same for us –are we all that different? I know that I, at least, am not. For rarely does a day go by that I don’t think of just how fragile is the foundation upon which we base our faith.
I mean, can the words I speak in my sermon make much difference?
And the water used in Baptism: it’s not holy, or special or different. It’s from the same tap from which we drink and wash and brush our teeth.
Same with the bread and wine of communion – these aren’t special either. Same with helping someone – that’s not really that uncommon. Same with balancing the budget – this is normal practice. Same with managing, creating, fixing – that’s just business.
They’re ordinary, common, mundane. Hardly worthy of God’s attention, let alone God’s use.
And yet…and yet we are bold enough, audacious enough, perhaps even foolish enough, to confess that God does use such ordinary things, such common elements, to achieve God’s will and to bring to the world God’s salvation.
How? Why? We might ask. Because of this very one, Jesus, who was common, ordinary, mortal like you and me, and yet who was also uncommon, divine, the very Son of God.
This is the claim Jesus makes in the reading today. The claim which offended the crowd who followed him then. The claim that still offends any who take it seriously today.
For where we expect God to come in might, God comes in weakness.
When we look for God to come in power, God comes in vulnerability.
And when we seek God in justice and righteousness – which is, after all, what we all expect from a God – we find God (or rather we are found by God!) in forgiveness and mercy.
This is the claim and promise Jesus makes today: that God became flesh – became common, became just like us, so that God might save us and all people who come to faith by God’s word.
The God who does not despise the ordinary and common but rather who seeks such out by which to achieve God’s will…this is the promise that rests behinds the sacraments.
For as God does not despise water, bread or wine, such ordinary, common things, so we also know that God does not despise or abandon us, who are similarly such ordinary and common people.
And so in the sacraments we find God’s promise to take hold of us and make us God’s own, to remain with us and to never let us go.
But we also find in the sacraments another promise which God makes to us. It is the promise not only to redeem us, but also to use us – to make use of our skills and talents, inadequate or insufficient through they may seem.
To continue God’s work of creating, redeeming, and sustaining all that is. And that also, is an incredible promise!
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