Sunday, November 28, 2010

Preparing and waiting ...

Preparing and waiting

In the name of God, Father Son and Spirit amen

On this Advent Sunday - the colours in the church again change from Green to purple. Advent has always been a time of preparation, a time when we prepare again to hear the story of Christmas.

It is also is a time when our readings focus on the future, and look forward to Jesus coming again.

In our gospel reading this morning we read - “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Back in my student days, I have lived in various halls of residence, one of the legal obligations for those halls were that there would be fire drills,checking that systems were in place to make sure that all the people would be out and checking who was there and who wasn’t.

Down in the Church of Ireland college we had a system of fire marshalls on each of the floors of the accomodation block. Late one evening I got tipped off that there was going to be a drill early next morning. My alarm was set to go off 30 mins before - so that I had enough time to be up, showered, dressed, coat on and in the dinning room getting a cup of coffee. I distinctly remember that morning - One of the staff members came in looking perplexed seeing me in my coat and scarf ... so early in the morning. but I was prepared!

Others who weren’t so well prepared were out in the slippers, their dressing gowns. You certainly could tell who were prepared and who were not.

Prepared and Waiting.

Our readings this morning call us to preparation - preparation necessary to be ready for the future.

At this time of year there is much preparation being made for this Christmas.

Just yesterday, I popped round to st. Moula’s for their christmas fayre and came away with a bag full of christmas cards, wrapping paper, treats to have in the cuppboard, just in case visitor pop round... lots of preparation being made. Shops are geared up for us making preparations.

We all are making preparations to celebrate Christmas this year and rightly so

However our readings today prompt us to a different kind of preparation

when we think about the church’s year

Christmas tells us of the incarnation Christ was born

Good Friday tells us that Christ Died

Easter Day tells us that Christ is Risen

Advent points us towards the fact that Christ will come again

We as Christians are living in the in-between period between the resurrection and the fulfilment of the kingdom. We are waiting for him to return.

We don’t know when he will return (people have tried to predict it but to no avail) but the good news we proclaim is that he will come back and establish his kingdom. The question is are we ready to greet him at the unexpected hour?

The Epistle reading outlines some of the preparations we need to make

This is not pie in the sky thinking, but sensible kingdom living. All of us have some preparations we can make- to get our lives in order, to cut out some things, to take up some things, to re-order priorities.

This advent as we prepare for the coming of Christmas again this year are we prepared to make a list of the things in our walk with God which we need to sort out, take up or find out about.

What would be top of your list?

Perhaps prayer, Bible Study, sorting out a relationship, reading a christian book, taking a step out of your comfort zone, to go somewhere for God.

In the busy-ness of this December, at the beginning of a new year for the church - I would encourage you to take a note book to a coffee shop by yourself and ask yourself a couple of questions - What thing(s) would I like to change in my Christian walk? What preparations do I need to make to make that change?

As we wait for Jesus to return we can prepare.

Let’s do something!

At the end of the third eucharistic prayer in the Holy Communion service we proclaim 3 truths

Christ has died

Christ has risen

Christ will come again

It is that truth which we consentrate on today - are we prepared and waiting?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

“Render Unto Caesar, the things that are Caesar, and unto God The things that are God’s”

A sermon preached in St. Columba’s on Sunday 8th Novemeber 2010 at Evening prayer.

Let us pray, Heavenly Father - May my words, and our thoughts be always be guided by your Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.

The Scene from tonight’s Gospel Reading is one of conflict, of Jesus’ opponents trying to catch him out. Someone once said ... If your enemies are being nice to you - you have got to worry!

Two Groups the Pharisees and the Herodians came to Jesus saying Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.

What are they looking? - Jesus did indeed know what they were up to. When they asked the question - which was indeed a common discussion point in 1st Century Palestine.
The Jews looked upon the Romans as the occupying force, they were waiting for someone who would come and overthrow Rome so that they might live ruled by their own king. At this point they only saw a Yes or No solution to the question

Should Jews pay taxes? ... a straight forward question

If Jesus said yes - well then, he would loose face, he couldn’t be the great revolutionary, the messiah - the expected one

If Jesus said no - then the Romans could get him for tax evasion!

Jesus asks for someone to get him a roman coin (as an aside - it is interesting to note that Jesus gets one of his opponent to show that they do carry these roman coins

On the coin, there was, historians tell us, the inscription - Caesar is Lord - Jesus asks them

Questions about the coin and then makes one of his great statements which amazed his opponents

Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ 21They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to

God the things that are God’s.’ 22
That incident left them confused
did he really tell them to pay taxes?
did he not?

As in so many of Jesus’ dialogues - he made people think!

In this passage we are reminded that we have to give to God the things that are God’s, and to the emperor the things that are his.

Yes the romans were the temporal power of the day but Jesus was reminding those listening that everything ultimately belonged to God. All power, all authority, all of creation.

What about us today? Well our coins here remind us about who is really in charge - Take any uk coin - each of these you will see

the letters D G REG F D:
Deo Gratia Regina Fidei Defensor – 
By the grace of God Queen Defender of the faith.

The Roman Coins had Caesar is Lord, our coins point to the Christian faith, they point to the head of state not as Lord but rather as defender of our faith.

We are called to pray for, called to submit our selves to authority. Render to our rulers respect and submission but render everything to God that is God’s and that is the challenge.

What do we fail to give to the rulers, to the tax man, to government? One just has to look at the amount of money not passed to the HMRC in the news today!

And what do we fail to give to God?

Money after all is how we limit scarce resources of the earth, all things come from God - all resources, all time, all good things we enjoy. How can we use these more effectively?

It is a serious challenge as to what we do with the resources we have today especially in these difficult economic times - are we living as people of God? are we ready to give account for our use of time talents and money?

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars and to God the things that are his!

Let us pray