Sermon 24~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 4

“Ye are the salt of the earth. But if the salt hath lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
“Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house.
“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Matt. 5:13–16

God loves a pure heart more than all the outward ritual, so Wesley notes that many philosophers and theologians have over the centuries suggested that a solitary worship of the Lord was preferable to corporate worship. Wesley was a proponent of social religion so he does not concur with the hermit in a cave model.

However he does allow that there is a time for personal devotion and prayer, but there is a necessity to come together not only to do “church” but for the fruit of the Spirit to be seen in the way we do “good works.” How can we share the Good News if we sit on a mountaintop in solitary confinement.

To be in solitary worship, to spend our lives away from people means that our light cannot shine and we are called to shine not hide away. Wesley talks of not only of keeping together and talking only to godly men and women but that we are to converse with all kinds of people – even those we would rather airbrush out. And if we stay away from the world how can we be the salt. How can we challenge wishy washiness? How can we challenge our lawmakers and breakers? How can we challenge wrong thinking or behaviour? … if we are not beside or in front of those people and how can others season our lives and help keep us on track.

Father God, keep us meek, keep us humble, keep us loving & giving, patient & kind. Show us Lord where to go, who to link with, help us Lord see the needs in our communities and give us the courage to step up and out to share the gospel with all we encounter. We say this in the Name of Jesus, our Saviour, Amen


Sermon Twenty Three Light and money

john                                      audio clip

Wesley spends only a few paragraphs on light, although this is key to the rest. If we are light in the dark then we are no longer part of the world. So the things of the world like gaining wealth, ambition, opulence are no longer part of us.

He flew at the wealthy like a banshee in the night. His boy must have shook with emotion as he roared these words at the people in the congregation who pursued wealth at all cost.

We cannot help if we are born into a wealthy family or an academic family or a family living in a tent at the side of the road. But once we have matured into grown ups we can change our circumstances dramatically. Reg Dwight was born into a council house in Pinner and grew up listening to Bill Hailey and the Comets. At some point in the ‘90’s he danced with royalty to “Rock around the clock.” Now money was not the motivator in his life, fame and musical accolades were his thing but he became extremely wealthy. He gives money away but also leads an opulent lifestyle and gives excessive gifts to his friends. His upbringing and background possibly make him the way he is today.

Equally John Wesley’s thoughts on money must surely have come from his upbringing and background. His dad did time for debt. Wesley’s job as a minister in the C of E changed because of his views (can a vicar be sacked?) and he was attacked on all fronts. Many  people with power and wealth were against him and wrote and preached against his teachings. So this sermon can be seen as a rebuttal to their charges.

Part of the reason I stopped my career were my concerns of how my family were coming to use money. There was no saving, just ever more opulent spending that caused an enormous amount of debt. I believe in living simply but had somehow not managed to convey this in family life. In taking our family down from 80k to 20k in one month we learned lots of things about each other. We were able to pinpoint the places where money was leaking and we made attempts to shore up the damage.

I would never, in all honesty, be able to preach on money in the way John Wesley did without pricking my own conscience as he has done whilst I read it. Yes I live simply on a day to day basis but so I can technological advances regularly. I am a technophile and have inherited from my father the need to have the latest and best. I am working on it, there is less stuff. But it is a work in progress that backslides with each new lens for my camera and app purchased.

I have heard the defence of riches on earth within the Christian community, I suppose churches need rich people in them to maintain them. Our treasurer (the moneychanger I like to call him) and I have discussions on tithing, appropriate tithing, the need or not for tithing among other things. There’s a pastor in America who tithes 90% of his income, but if that was a million there would still be a hundred thou to live on so I don’t think that is a reality for most.

“How do people live like that,” a wealthy friend said of someone in a one bedroomed house “I need my things,” and on another occasion, “how poor is he, he is always well groomed, is he really poor?”

Holding onto our riches, whatever they are, is a barrier to the love of God, without a shadow of a doubt. So very slowly I am freeing myself of my worldly possessions, piece by piece I am giving away “my stuff” and I pray that I will healed of it so much I don’t fill the space with more “my stuff”

A friend told me that her pastor spoke about having a spring clean, physically and spiritually and that by decluttering their space they decluttered their minds and hearts too. So they banded together and decluttered each others homes and recluttered from the “stuff” of others. There was positive things in the process although the end was not what was asked. Fellowship among the congregation increased and people felt they had new stuff without buying it.

Money is a contentious issue in the world right now so it is bound to be contentious in church. We are all works in progress and help is needed.

Sermon Nineteen Salt and light

john                                                    audio clip

Don’t you love it when a sermon preached centuries ago speaks to you. Well this one did me. My default would be to be a hermit spending time with the Lord on my own. For the past eleven days whenever given the opportunity that is exactly what I have been doing, well to be honest I have been doing it since beginning of October.

Sometimes it is needed. Just you and God. Sometimes he is the only one we can turn to. But in the midst of this I still met in fellowship with other Christians and I attended services of worship and witnessed in the world. But I jealously guarded my time with him. Any interloping was curtailed and my primary focus was on the Living God.

Wesley quite rightly points out that Christianity is a social religion. I wonder how he would use Facebook? Would he be part of this revolution of social media? Would Jesus post on facebook? How many followers would he get?

There is a time for solitude with the Lord, we need that time, and he loves that time he gets to talk to us too. Wesley uses two traits of Christians, meekness and peacemaking, and puts forward the argument that we cannot hone these attributes without other people. How can a person be gentle and mild in their own company? We can’t help people know peace if we don’t interact with them.

There is a tendency among Christians to keep to their own, send their children to Christian schools, have only Christian friends, indeed at some points in history and in the world today there are those whose only contact with other people is in Christian circles. A bubble of Christianity.

But within that bubble stuff still happens, and people still react to the stuff in worldly ways. So the bubble is never quite as pure and holy as people would believe.

Jesus called us salt and light. Hermitage is keeping your saltiness by keeping out of the world. But true salt goes out into the world makes friends with the world without taking on the world. It is a tough task. To keep salty in this dark degenerate world is a feat. But we are not doing it on our own. We have the love of God with us, the Spirit guiding us and Jesus walking with us. We have other Christians for fellowship. Quite often when I am weary of the world and I feel like I am hitting a wall with my tender forehead I go seek fellowship with a close sister in Christ.

I sit in her chaos and feel peace

When we have emptied ourselves out, He fills us up. When we think we have loved all we can love, God gives us more love to share. When our heart breaks over the destruction of lives and we think we can’t be instruments anymore, of God’s peace, he gives us the strength to carry on.

When we are in the world and the distractions come at us thick and fast, our heads spinning with all the worldly things the Lord gently helps us through the quagmire and leads us to safety. There is a very present danger that we will lose our saltiness, because we stop being stepping stones to Christ but become full of our own importance, the focus goes on us rather than the Lord.

And we avoid places, we avoid witnessing in places. A very gentle and mild missionary I know has been commissioned to work with a section of our community but he can’t face them. They are so, the opposite of him, he cannot go and witness to them. I pray he overcomes this because he has a message for these people from the living God that he loves them.

Wesley says it is impossible to conceal Christianity. Yesterday I was around people I used to know, when I lived and worked somewhere else. They didn’t recognise me and I could’ve maintained that “not knowing” and was sorely wishing I could but that would have dissed the God who made me new. So I introduced myself and one person said, “have you had surgery or something,” God gave me the words (I know they weren’t mine) “transformed in Christ” and smiled widely.

Note: smiled widely, not wryly or shyly or any other adjective I usually use for how I smile. The conversation moved to people we had in common, the people who I no longer know because I am no longer on the margins of humanity.

So this sermon spoke to me, I need to go back to that world and witness to those people, not because my outside has changed but because my inside has changed. I cannot hide the light of God in me under a bushel.

Wesley is right, the only way to stop  a candle lighting the way is to put it out. Why would I want to do that? So then the balancing act of making sure all the glory and praise goes to God and that his light is seen in those particularly dark places.

Jonny Vegas, I know from John Wesley to him, talks about having the stage presence of Jonny Vegas but going home as Michael Pennington. As Jonny Vegas he is angry and controversial as Michael he is meek and mild and a Christian. I would see my life not in terms of when I am in the world and when I am in the Christian bubble. But that my life is authentically Christian in every place I am, in every thought, word and deed.

Wesley’s language is old, obviously but interestingly he uses the word religion a lot. We have sullied that word and made it something less than it is. When we say religion we are talking about the rituals, the pomp and ceremony. “I am not religious, I am a follower of Christ” for example. God wants every Christian to be visible to all around to show them the truth of the Lord.

The root of our faith is in the heart, but because of the love and mercy and grace given to us freely we have produced branches. The branches reach out into the world  revealing Him to the world through what we do and say. A tree can have many branches and little root and it can die. But a firmly rooted tree can stand steadfast, sharing the good news with all around producing fruit, good fruit.

We are called to be living sacrifices dedicated to his service and pleasing to him, as salt go out into the world and season it, as light be the beacon that brings people home to Christ. Hope is in him alone.

Your Light Must Shine

This world is too dark, Christians everywhere need to come out into the world and let their light shine so the world can see Christ, the light of the world.