Sermon – 2 October 2005

One of the things that we are being asked as Christian people more and more, is to tell people how to live. We used to be the ones who were there to tell people how to come close to God, and many of us still want to do that. The trouble is, people think that they can get close to God without the church, and they just might be right. However, we are still being asked to say something about how to live.

This morning, we have heard three very different readings, and they each answer the question ?How shall we live? in different ways, as we should expect, for they were written at different times for different people.

And I am going to ask you to do some digging with me, going just a little deeper into each one.

So, what did the Old Testament reading tell us.

More or less, it told us this: We have good things, they come from God and don?t forget it.

There was a beautiful list of the things that God had provided ? land first, fine land that produced fine crops ? grapes and figs and olives. Not just essentials, but extras too. It was a wonderful list of abundance. Everything was laid on by God. It was wonderful. Anyone would want to live there.

And that is the problem ? different people did want to live there and the fighting over that same land is still going on.

The way of that Deuteronomy was written suggests a God like a king, with a royal decree who can say from a high position who will be blessed. It is as though God mulls things over and then chooses who will receive the land and the crops and all the good things.

And it is a very seductive way of looking at the world ? so long as things are going well.

So long as things are going well, we can fool ourselves that God is on our side.
So long as we have the food to eat, we can fool ourselves that God must love us more than the people whom we killed in order to take the land.

So long as our bellies are full, we need not worry.

It would be very easy to work out how to live if this really were the case, but it isn?t and we know it isn?t.

So, why do we read this sort of thing, is there just a kernel of truth that we can get out of it before we move on to the new testament ? Yes, of course. It is a reminder to be a thankful people. A grateful people. For grateful people share their gifts.

And that takes us onto Corinthians. This reading can be summed up in this way:

You get what you deserve, If you sow sparingly you will reap sparingly [which is more or less what the old testament told us] but, As we work, so God blesses us.

In this scheme of things, we find that God is a participant. God is no longer being thought of here as a distant monarch but as someone who works with us. Someone who joins in with our sowing and our reaping. Someone who shares our joys as well as our sorrows. God has changed from someone who directed the lives of God?s people to one who is involved in the lives of God?s people.

And, even more than this, the writer gives us some advice on how to live: We are to be a people who give. And, when we give we will be enriched. It is one of those biblical paradoxes which we are so used to that it doesn?t shock us any more. But it is odd. And it is true. When we give something, we come away richer.

Now, I want to say something about the gospel.

The encounter with the one man who came back to say thank you to Jesus is one that stings a little. For we all know what it is to go unthanked.

But within that story, there is more going on than mere ingratitude. This is a story about expectations being upset and overturned.

For the one who came back to say thank you was the one whom no-one would have expected to be a good man, because he was a Samaritan.

The story tells us that recognising the basic humanity of someone and living well towards others is a part of gospel living and expressing thanks is a part of that.

The longer I live in Scotland, the more I know that part of our gospel story is to say no to sectarianism. The bigoted assumptions of the people for whom the gospel was written are written large across our land two.

This little story has two themes ? challenging sectarian assumptions and looking out for chances to say thank you. And these themes are intertwined.

I think that this says something quite profound to us today, here and now. The basic tone of the service that we share week by week is Thanksgiving ? that is what Eucharist means. And I am convinced that thanksgiving to God has to be entwined around an attitude to life which says no to the things which divide us.

Thanksgiving and challenging prejudice. Giving thanks to Jesus, to God in our hearts. Making the world a more inclusive and embracing place to all of God?s people.

These are themes to live by. Ways of thinking that can become a good way of life. Essentials on our journey with God. And they come to the fore in this our service of communion, the very sacrament of God?s inclusive welcome itself.

So, what do we bring to God on this our harvest Sunday? Not only the things that we have gathered from the fields (or the supermarket). We bring our collective wisdom and offer it to God. And we ask God to bless us ? all that we have and all that we are.



  1. Anonymous says

    Re: Sermon – 2 October 2005
    I always enjoy reading  your sermons, but would really appreciate a listing of the scripture readings you're using each Sunday as well.

  2. Anonymous says

    Re: Sermon – 2 October 2005
    Your wish is my command – I’ve added the readings as a note at the bottom of the sermon.

  3. Anonymous says

    Re: Sermon – 2 October 2005
    Thank you!

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