17th Per Annum 2019 SMC
In today`s three scripture readings we see, very clearly, three aspects of the Love and Mercy of God and St. Paul, in chapter 2 (verses 12-14) of his remarkable letter to the Christian group and church at Colossae brings them all together in that wonderful description of what takes place at the moment of Baptism for Christians, dare I say it,`whether infant or adult` bearing in mind that infants were not baptised until the reign of Constantine the Great for until that time Chrsitians were under persecution and it seemed wrong that infants should undergo the possibility of torture and even death! We like to believe that Constantine did embrace the Christian faith through the prayer of his mother, St. Helena but there is still no certainly. What certainty there is allows that Constantine as Roman Emperor accepted Christianity as one of the religions of the Roman Empire of the day and forbade persecution of the Christians.
I digress, to go back to St. Paul he declares, as Christian teaching has, ever since, that in baptism we were both buried with Christ and have been raised up with Him in the new and resurrection life of Christ through belief in the power of God, who by the power of the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead! We were , as it were, drowned to death with him by reason of our sin and yet brought to the new and resurrection life with him, , in the waters of baptism, through which he has forgiven us all our sins, whether the original sins of our humanity as infants or the combination of original sin through fallen humanity and our own deliberate, or even accidental and indeliberate sin as adults prior to the moment of baptism.. That wonderful sentence at verse 14 explains it all: `He has overridden the Law, and cancelled every record of the debt that we had to pay; he has done away with it by nailing it to the cross.
To return to that wonderful passage from Genesis 18: 20 – 32 where Abraham intercedes for the people of the condemned town of Sodom for their apostasy and turning from the Lord. Beseeching the Lord, firstly, to spare Sodom for sake of fifty righteous persons, then forty-five, then forty until he beseeches the Lord for just ten righteous souls. The Lord God, even for ten, agrees to spare Sodom – but they are not found. There appears to be both a deep sense of complete trust in the Love and Mercy of God and an almost child-like arm-twisting of the Almighty. The Father agrees to spare the city even for ten – but are they to be found ?
Of course, with readings such as they are today there is food for half-a-dozen sermons so I will now turn to the Gospel Luke 11, 1 – 13 which has, very much to do with trust in God. Jesus relays the story of a man who calls on a fiend in the middle of the night to scrounge three loaves of breaed that he may feed another friend whom has arrive in the middle of the night unexpected. Of course, the man has nothing in – `the cupboard is bare` as we might say. To simplify the situation Jesus says that although the friend doesn`t want to get out of bed to come to his mate`s aid yet the very persistence will make him give in – you can hear, `How much longer is this going on – I`d better get up and give him the loaves then I and the kids can have a bit of peace!`. As Jesus says, `…if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship`s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants. Yes, of course, there is a touch of the divine humour of Jesus in the story!
Following the bit of nonsense and humour there come three injunctions from the Lord Himself:
Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him.
The abundance of God`s mercy is such that prayer is always answered but, in spite of what we request, will not always be answered as we expect but rather as we need! It has also to do with the way in which we ask Have we the grace to ask, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is your will take this cup of suffering from me but not my will but yours be done !” Or is it, simply: “I want….?” I never forget Lydia Gertrude, my part Jewish maternal Grandmother who used to say whenever I pestered. “Grannie, can I have sixpence?” or rather more naughtily, and tugging on her skirt “Gertie, can I have an ice-cream ?”: ”Remember Boy, “I want never gets!” I think we sometimes forget that our Loving Heavenly Father is always prepared to meet our needs but NOT, necessarily, our “wants”! We need to have that humility which acknowledges that he knows what is best for us and that He is ready to meet our every need! He will find for us what we are truly needful of and, indeed, will open countless doors to us if we seek His will for us! Never mind snakes instead of a fish or scorpions instead of an egg simply let us remember the Lord`s saying: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
There it is is! It is simply a case of trusting and having real faith and perseverance in the One who does NOT let us down.