Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Sermon: Luke 6: 27-49 Following Jesus
Last week in the children's talk I brought along something. Does anyone remember what it was? It was a football shirt. We thought about how Jesus wants us on his team. Well today, we're looking at the next passage in Luke's gospel. Who is it a football team need to listen to? It's the manager, isn't it? Manchester United aren't doing very well at the minute, but we're not sure if it's the players or the manager. But before the team go out onto the pitch, the manager will give a team talk. He'll tell the players how he wants them to play. In our reading today, Jesus is giving the team talk - how we should live, because we are on his team.
There's a question we need to answer first of all, though, and it's this: Why do we need to listen to Jesus? I need a volunteer. When I put this blindfold on you, you'll have a problem. What is it? He won't be able to see. He would be blind. He doesn't know where he is going. He couldn't make it back to his seat. He might fall over. What does he need? He needs a guide. Another volunteer. Except, there's a problem. His guide is also blind. Another blindfolded person. How do you think this would work? He is blind, he needs a guide. But so is she! Would they be able to make it to the seat? No, they would be in bigger danger than before. Jesus says that the blind leading the blind will fall into a pit, a hole in the ground. If you follow someone who can't see, it won't help you. And there are people who try to tell us what to do, how to live, but they are blind themselves. They don't know what life is all about. They can't see where they should go. It would be silly to listen to them.
Other people can't help us. Imagine that you were helping your dad cut some wood when suddenly you got a little tiny bit in your eye. Just a tiny little speck, a splinter. It's really sore, you can't see very well. You would need to go to the hospital, to A&E. Now imagine that you go into the doctor and they're getting ready to take out the little speck and they turn around and look - they have a big bit of log in their eye. They have half a tree blocking their vision! Would you be happy for them to try to take out the speck? Would they be able to find it as they went poking around in your eye? No! It would be dangerous. So we don't want to follow the people who can't see, who have something big wrong with them, trying to correct a little something. Can we be like this at times as well? We miss our own big problem while trying to diagnose and fix someone else with a minor issue? [For this I had a couple of volunteers again, one holding a speck, the other a log]
The problem with listening to people is that we can't see what they're really like. People on the outside look nice and good. But look at these two tubes. They look the same. They both have shiny Christmas paper on them. But when we squeeze them, we see that what's on the inside comes out. One is nice - toothpaste. The other is nasty - garlic puree. We couldn't tell until we see what came out. That's like our words and our deeds. They show what's on the inside. And we discover that all of us are bad. We're all in need of God's mercy. We need help to change.
So, then, what does Jesus say when we listen to him? Have you ever had someone say that you get on a bit like your mum or dad? That the way you say something, or the way you look, or your expression is just like your parents? Well here, in the passage, Jesus tells us to be like our dad: our heavenly dad:
you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36)
God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. We were these things. Imagine that you did something nice for someone - maybe made them a cake or weeded their garden or looked after their dog or whatever it might be. You did something nice for them, and they never said thank you. How would you feel? That wouldn't be very nice! Yet that is what we have done with God. He has given us life, and breath, and health and everything else, yet we refuse to say thank you. We are instead wicked. Yet God in his kindness sent Jesus to take away our sins, to bring us to God. God is still kind, even when people are ungrateful - he sends sunshine and rain and everything good.
We are to be kind like God our Father is kind. I give a volunteer five little tiny chocolate bars. They don't deserve them, they didn't do anything for them. I ask them do they want to give one away, after all, they've got five. It continues until they have one. Are they going to hold on to that chocolate bar for themselves? After all, they didn't deserve it, they got it for nothing. And when they give it away, they receive a massive bar of chocolate - the point is that God gives us much more mercy than we ever will show to anyone else around us.
This is the team talk for Jesus' team. We're to be merciful to those around us because God has been merciful to us. Even to those people who don't like us; those who hate us; those who have done bad things to us. God has shown us mercy. We must do the same to others.
At the very end, Jesus says that anyone who hears his words and does them is like a man who builds a house on the rock. It has strong foundations. It won't fall when the floods come. But to hear as we have done today and to not do what he says is to be foolish. To build without foundations. The house will fall.
Let's pray that as we have heard, so we will do what Jesus says, as we follow him on his team. Amen.
This sermon was preached at the Church Family Service in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 19th January 2014.