|Published on Thu, 3 Mar 2016 13:11|
|Lent 2016 Congregational Sermons|
May I speak in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit
We continue with the theme ‘What lifts me Up.'
Every morning I have my quiet time which starts with meditation for about 20 minutes and then bible reading and prayers. This has been my routine for the past few years and I find that it sustains me through the day followed by short periods of silence when I feel the need to.
During meditation, I observe complete silence, TV turned off and phones on silent and most times when everyone is still in bed. As well as the physical silence there is a need for inner silence which is often more difficult to archive - silencing the different thoughts about what to do, distraction of the past and concerns about the future, giving total dependence to being in present eternal moment in prayer; unified as a whole person – body and spirit, and unity with the whole creation. Meditation gives me the courage to be myself in my uniqueness and helps me appreciate that each one of us is unique but made in the image of God.
Worshipping at St John’s where everyone is welcome, is a privilege as we get a glimpse into God’s Kingdom. I find a lot of support and sustenance in the fellowship with the church family especially through the prayers and in particular, The Lord’s prayer normally said after the declaration of our belief. Thus:-
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
Calling him ‘Our Father’ brings to mind that he is the father of all beings. This fatherhood extends to those people we do not get on with or care for; people towards whom we may feel resistance or whom we just happen to be in discord. These people are also children of God, just as we are; and being a child of God is only justified if we acknowledge that the people who bring the unpleasant feelings in us are also God’s children. This awareness brings a change of attitude and freedom to value these people. In this prayer we invite God’s Kingdom to come. We do not ask for an overthrow of the earthly kingdom but a kingdom within us; a kingdom of happiness and no suffering; where everyone is fed and clothed and no abuse or destruction of resources. We ask for his will to be done through our work and influence to our fellow human beings. We also ask to be guided to obtain both earthly and spiritual bread; recognising him as the source of all provisions. We ask for forgiveness for all human beings including those who might have hurt us and whom we might still have negative feelings. We pray that God will lead us when temptation comes to us to be able to resist it, giving us strength and vision to be victorious and fruitful.
Our gospel reading this morning from Luke, refers to the parable of the fig tree in a vineyard. The master went several times looking for fruits from the fig tree and found none. Though there were other fruit trees in the vineyard, the master checked on an individual tree for fruits – dealing with the tree on its own merit. And, when he did not find any he suggested cutting it down. But, the garden attendant asked for it to be spared so that he could care for it for another year in case it could bear fruit
As I read this passage I began to think of reasons why the fig tree would not bear any fruit. I found some answers in verse 8, where it says that the gardener asked the master to leave the tree for another year so that he could pay specific attention to it so that it might bear fruits. The fig tree needed care and nourishment. There were probably weeds round it depriving it of the full nourishment it needed or the soil round it was too dry and hard that it needed turning and stirring up to loosen. There might have been some overgrown branches that needed pruning and some dry branches that needed cutting away.
This made me mindful of the individual expected response to the Christian living and also of the availability of an advocate who would nourish and encourage us to bear the accepted fruits.
In our spiritual life, each one of us is “called” individually to bear fruits - fruits to love and serve others, fruits to share the gospel and fruits to glorify God. But, we might have issues round us that are preventing us from experiencing the full benefit of the Christian life, habits and interests that take up most of our time and energy. In order to be able to bear fruits we need to be nurtured - developed, supported and encouraged.
Lent is a season for spiritual nurturing through repentance, to turn from our ways to God’s ways, through daily prayers to acknowledge that we are weak and helpless, but full of trust and hope that the Lord will strengthen us and sustain us. It is also a time of surrendering our lives to Christ and turn away from that which does not please God. It is impossible for us to do it on our own but just as the gardener with the fig tree, we have the Holy Spirit who is always pleading on our behalf to the Father. He reminds us of where we have fallen short of the Christian living for repentance; encourages us in searching God’s word and supports us in our prayer life.
During my daily meditation, I get great joy from experiencing the freely given grace and the presence of God ‘through the breath’. It’s abundance and ever availability. It’s immense value yet priceless. This is his unreservedly grace given to everyone within the body of Christ. By his grace he always gives us a second chance of forgiveness when we fail.
It is always ‘work in progress’ as we progress on this journey of Christian living. God’s grace is always freely available. And, let us remember that there is always a time for both repentance and renewal; and time to look at our own inner disunity and the disunity we experience between our faith and our actions and come to Christ in prayer knowing that he is ever ready to welcome us.