Weekly sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship based on two RCL lectionary readings
Sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship
by John Watson
Sunday 15th September 2013
1 Timothy 1:12-17 and Luke 15:1-10
Jesus encounters some grumbling from the leaders of the day about his message of welcome to sinners and tax collectors and about his action of sharing space, eating, showing hospitality to all. The aim of these parables is to unfold the reality of joy in the restoration of the ‘sinner’ but also the challenge to us as we live with the work of God is seeing people come to him.
The two parables are spoken against the ‘holy men’ of the day. The joy that comes will test their own prejudices and hopefully convert them. This joy of heaven is in direct contrast of the grumbling they mutter. The joy that is spoken of is not just the joy of the ‘sinner’ as they discover new life in Jesus, but also the joy of those among whom they are welcomed. The community of heaven, and the new community of the church, God’s foretaste of the new heavens and new earth to come, shares in the joy of people coming to find new life in Jesus. People coming to Jesus to hear him, to be near him, to learn from him, to be fed by him. The sense of welcome the Church gives to those who search for Christ will reveal the depth of security that exists in their own lives and faith in God. The welcome Jesus offers to people outside of the Church will test our own sense of security and faith and generosity.
Some may say ‘If these people come to change us, we should change them’ so the appropriate level of welcome is given - be like us first. To which Jesus may respond - “they may change you - but all are called to be like me.”
There is not a them and us phase of existence of the Church - sinner then saint - we all know the reality of sin in our lives. We all I pray, know the reality of the joy of heaven in our lives as we know the welcome of God. Do we also know the joy of the community as we become part of it. That joy of acceptance? That joy of welcome? That joy in knowing we are part of a body of people trying so hard to be like Jesus? Sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. Do we show that Joy and welcome to others as they take their place in the body of Christ? Never let our churches be places of grumbling and muttering, of judging and criticizing. What a gift to the world if our churches were places of joy and patience and hope.
In 1 Timothy Paul shares of his sense of welcome and ‘patience’ shown by Christ in making him a disciple revealing to us just how much we can never judge or exclude others from God’s Kingdom- no matter where they have come from in life. It is an unusual thought to think of Jesus being patient with us as we grow, change and mature. How patient are we with others? How much of an example of God’s grace are we that we can then invite others to share it. We can never demand change in others. Only Jesus has that role. We can but walk and share and live and welcome. Creating the environment where God does the shaping and creating. All we need to do is be his Body.
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.