Sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship
Sunday 17th November 2013
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 and Luke 21:5-19
The tragedy in the Philippines is occupying many of our prayers and minds as media headlines tell the story of peoples lives lost and caught up in a world which, for them, has been turned up side down.
Yet one assumes that the events reported in our media, as many others like it in our past, will be consumed to the headline bin in favour of other headlines to take its place. Will this mean we lose interest? Does compassion fatigue play a role in how quickly we move on from tragedies such as these?
Paul writes we must not become ‘weary in doing what is right’ (2 Thess 3:13). The huge demands placed upon us to give, to pray, to work for justice, to live for the Kingdom can make us feel like giving up. In a society which can move on from one thing to another within a blink of an eyelid, a sense of weariness can overcome us, as as we process vast amounts of information, hear panic words being mentioned.
Paul is writing in the context of some believers who have seemed to have resigned themselves to a world gone wrong and fallen back on a hope that Jesus will return to make it all better. They have become ‘idle’, withdrawing from the real world into a misdirected and misconceived hope.
For Paul the hope of Jesus’ return was a spur into right living and right relationships. Not an excuse to disengage from the world. It is about watching and waiting, serving and living lives of a new creation within the old.
And so to the Gospel this week where, Jesus tells the disciples that when the world feels like everything has been turned up side down, including their own lives, they are not to take notice of the doomsayers and charlatan prophets. The chaos of the world both in natural disaster and in rising world conflicts should not frighten or scaremonger believers. We should not be surprised that these things happen in a creation that is out of sync, in a world that is full of sin.
What it does not do however is make us withdraw and fall into fateful world views. The spirituality of the disciple is one that engages and sacrifices; that works and gives; that calls out for hope in a broken and wounded world. That perseveres and does not give up. “By your endurance you will gain you souls’. (Luke 21.19) Notice the word used by Jesus. He did not say ‘body’, or ‘spirit’ or ‘life’ - but a word that in Greek is psuche (ψυχﾮ) - most often translated as soul, or the inward person. Our souls, that which is within us, our things which sum us up.
Discipleship in the world is not about giving up but giving out. Persevering in a world that seems chaotic will bring a sense of wholeness and remind us of our true humanity. This is living out the hope that Jesus brings amidst a world that suffers and weeps
John is the Vicar of St Paul’s, Tupsley and St Andrews, Hampton Bishop in Hereford Diocese. He’s also currently doing Doctoral Studies at Kings College London.