Sunday, 16 September 2012

Serenity and wholeness in life with God Step 5

Pentecost 16 year B Sermon 12 
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In the presence of the living God…Isaiah and Paul
are only too aware of their frailties…

You might say they see themselves clearly
in the metaphorical the dazzling light
of God’s loving presence…God with us…Emmanuel

Encountering the glory of God…Isaiah and Paul
work through the first four steps we’ve been learning…
very very quickly indeed.

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The first four steps of twelve... toward serenity and life with God. Twelve spiritual tools
which come from the life and teachings of Jesus…
Emmanuel…………..God with us [pause]

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In taking the first step…we gain the wisdom to discern …
what we can and can’t control.

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Taking the second...we seek restoration to wholeness…only God can bring

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And in step three in faith… we surrender and…
begin the life long process…of turning our will and our lives over to the care of God…revealed in Jesus Christ
praying every day…in every situation
to be open to God’s guidance
And last week after learning… the first three steps
we had the faith and the courage to take the fourth

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And begin to reflect honestly… and fearlessly…
on our own behaviour and motives... past and present.
Good and bad.

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Gaining Wisdom seeking Restoration
Surrendering our will… Reflecting on our lives

Each new step of faith…
building on the spiritual foundation of the previous one…

And once we complete… this searching and fearless inventory of our lives…well then we’re well equipped…

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to take today’s step…the fifth step…and bring the truth about ourselves into the light…we’re ready for Confession.

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Ready… to admit to ourselves…to God… and to at least one person we can trust…the exact nature of our wrongs

In taking the fifth step…we pick up the spiritual tool
Martin Luther never intended us to lay down…in the Protestant Reformation. The baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The sacrament of holy confession.

And we remember when Jesus’ said ‘…go and learn what this means:

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‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I haven’t come
to call the righteous…but to call sinners.’

Emmanuel God with us Jesus… calls sinners to himself …calls us …and if we aspire to be pure in heart
well then we have only one option

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To humbly place our shortcomings… before Jesus
that we might receive…the grace and and forgiveness already offered freely and with love…
how else can we receive it!

By our presence in the Christian Community
we commit ourselves…to break the unhealthy patterns
which cause us to turn away from God…
and God’s way of love…  revealed in Jesus. In the company
of other broken and fallen people… we begin to heal
we’re not alone…we even begin to feel better about ourselves

When Jesus said… let the one who is without sin…
cast the first stone…every one of those self-righteous religious terrorists…bent on punishing the woman caught in adultery …every one of them… were stopped in their tracks at Jesus’ rebuke…every one…lay down their murderous intent
and turned away in shame
from the evil they were about to commit.

Jesus opened their corporate eyes. Jesus shone the fierce light of love into the darkness of their… judgementalism…and self-righteousness. Jesus rebuked the inner demons…
which seduced the mob into viewing the woman…
as an undesirable object…to be destroyed…
not a person made in the image of God

and when they see her humanity…her frailty…her nature alongside their own…the scales fall from their eyes…
and it makes all the difference in the world.
The difference… between life and death.

As the rioting and chaos in the news this week… shows……
we can yield… to the demons of violence and revenge…
and do our level best to make this earth a living Hell

or we can forgive those who sin against us…
and call other sinners like ourselves…to join us at the table with Jesus.

For as it says in 1 John… when we claim to be without sin,
we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

Now you might be asking uh…excuse me Diane
I can understand why it’s a good thing to confess our sins to God…but why does step five encourage us…to confess to another person we can trust? [pause………]

Well, it’s because sometimes we need help from another sinner…to break through our denial and self-deception…
They could be a minister…but they don’t have to be…
they could be a trusted prayer partner...

but it’s not a good idea…to ask someone in your family or your workplace …because you might hurt them…or yourself by exposing what you’ve done… and that’s not the objective.

Taking this step is like lancing the boil of your heart…cleaning it out…and cauterising the wound. And it’s with a pure heart that we desire to approach the Table of our Lord…
where we receive and share…
the concrete sign of Emmanuel… God with us…
That’s why we confess our sins…before sharing the bread and the wine… are made clean by the grace of God. [pause]

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And so before we gather at this table…
I want you to imagine yourself as the prophet Isaiah…
as he places his inventory… before the Glory of God. [pause]

In the year that King Uzziah died,

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I saw the Lord…high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple…Above him were seraphim, each with six wings…With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet…and with the other two …they flew. And were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I’m a man of unclean lips, and I live among people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” [pause]

Then one of the seraphim flew to me
with a live coal in his hand, he’d taken with tongs from the altar. And with it he touched my mouth and said,
“See…this has touched your lips;
your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned.”

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My friend Lee Kearon imagines the scene this way.

Don’t look… said the cowering man with the unclean lips
Too late; he is already seen

‘keep me silent,’ said the man with the unclean lips
Too late; God’s already heard you

‘But’ I’ll not blacken your presence with my polluted mouth,’ said the man with the unclean lips…..Too late;

the brand of the Lord has left its scorch. The flames licked clean his words and deeds.

‘Don’t consider this worthless frame!’ says the man with the scalded lips as he gathers his singed clothing around him.

‘Much too late!’ said the Lord like a voice which had spoken long before, and only the echo remained.

‘My grace has stripped you bare!’ Your guilt is cast aside;
your sin is atoned for – see, how it lies on the floor, discarded, like a pile of burnt and blackened rags. It’s just you and me, Isaiah.

‘Now…who shall I send? Who’ll go for us?’
And the man with the scalded lips stands naked and pure before his God…

and says ‘Here I am. Send me.’[i]
And as sinners gathered together…seeking pureness of heart …let us accept the gracious invitation of God
as we sing together In Christ Alone.

[i] The Grace of the Calling Part 1 Isaiah 6:1-8 Isaiah’s Lament by Lee Kearon of Gore