Sermon – 20 February 2006

It is inevitable that I am beginning to reflect on what my time here in St Saviour’s has been all about.

Indeed, I am pondering what it is that that I have been trying to communicate as I have stood here in this pulpit in this beautiful church on Sunday mornings, for almost three years.

It seems to me:

·        We are made in the image and likeness of God

·        God loves us

·        Everybody is welcome

It almost seems as though the Old Testament reading was written for someone turning a corner or making a transition. It starts like this:

"Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.   I am about to do a new thing; "

I thought, when I read that, that I had found the answer of how to preach today.  "I am  about to do a new thing."  How appropriate.  Eagerly, I read on, and found,

"I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with incense."

Oh dear, that sort of sentiment will not do at all.

However, there are sentiments that are worth their weight in gold, buried in this reading.

However, there are sentiments that are worth their weight in gold, buried in this reading.

See, Says the Lord, "I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins."

It is the truth.  The Lord made us to delight in us.  The Lord made us in his image.  The Lord made us for love.  He made us to delight in us, not to hate us.

If ever you are tempted by a mealy-mouthed moralising religion, then take up your bible and look at it again.  For God made us in his image and delights in us.  And, he no more desires us to concentrate on lists of sins than we do.

No, God has made us and loved us and plans good things for us.

I must move on, to the Epistle.

St Paul teaches us, that in Jesus, every one of God’s promises is a "Yes." For this reason it is through him that we say the "Amen," to the glory of God. 

Yes, here we find the very heart of living a good life within the love of God.

Every one of God’s promises is a "Yes".  Yes, God really does love us.  And it is tempting to go on about it in sermon after sermon.  Every one of God’s promises is a "Yes".  God really loves us.

However, Paul, the writer tells us what comes next.  It is not a sermon, it is saying only one word – "Amen".  It is God’s delight to say "Yes" to us, and our delight to say "Amen" in return, and as often as we do so we will find that God finds a new way of telling us that we are beloved and precious.  And that is the essential part of our Christian life.  God’s Yes and our Amen.

And if you don’t know what that means, just try it out.  Stop and think about it.  Stop listening to me, and listen to God for a moment.  Stop thinking about whatever is on your mind and remember that God says Yes.  God says Yes, I love you.  God says Yes you are my child.  God says yes.  Every one of God’s promises is a Yes.  And as you hear that yes, try saying "Amen".

Jesus says "Yes"

Now, briefly, on to the Gospel.

For in the Gospel, we find the flesh and blood that tells us that what Paul was saying is true.

Not only does God say yes, but God came and walked among us to say Yes to us.

God said Yes to humanity through the person of Jesus, and here we find him in the gospel reading, sitting in a crowded house, teaching the people.  Perhaps he was thinking that it might be his last sermon.  Perhaps he was wondering what the most important thing that he could tell them.

And, here, through a hole in the roof comes his opportunity to stop preaching and to show them.

And in here, I find the third of my points, that everyone is welcome.  Even when the people were pressing in around Jesus, there had to be room for just one more – a man let down from the roof.

Everyone is welcome.  If there is one word which summarizes what I think my life in ministry is about, it is "Welcome".  Trying to find ways, little ways of improving the welcome that we can give people so that just one more can hear the good news, that God says "Yes".

The gospel reading this morning tells us to make extravagant gestures in order to bring people into the presence of Jesus. We are to carry them in, if need be.  And, it tells us one of the most important messages that God has for the modern church, that people are more important than buildings.

So, there we have it.

If I had just one sermon to preach, now you know what it would be.

·        Firstly, we are made in the image and likeness of God.

·        Secondly, we are loved by God. Loved to distraction.  Loved to death.

And thirdly, everyone is welcome to know that love.  AMEN

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