Sunday Sermon 21st February - Lent 1 The problem with Life
The chosen hymns for this week, O Lord that wilt not let me go, In Christ alone and There Once Was A Man can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
Lent 1 The problem with Life
Genesis 9: 8-17
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 21st February.
This is the first week of Lent.
Just as Advent is the preparation time for Christmas. Lent is the preparation time for Easter; the time when we reflect of what Easter is meant to be about.
And over this time we will be looking at some Old Testament passages where God is preparing the world for Easter and its meaning.
Today we come to the finish of a very famous passage in the Old Testament, Noah and the flood.
The world has been decimated by a flood and only
Noah and his family have survived. And as they leave the ark to start a new normal on dry land
God speaks to them about the way forward.
John will lead us in the reading and prayer and then we will reflect on the passage.
Genesis 9: 8-17.
Humanity has a problem.
And to illustrate it I want to show you a small part of the recording of one of our children’s addresses.
It was from a few weeks back and in this part I have to say something to someone on the balcony, then I reply from the pulpit.
But here’s the thing. To get that reply shot the camera has to be on the balcony. So I have to go up to the balcony, set up the camera, start the play button, then run down the stairs and go into the pulpit, say my piece and then return to the balcony to switch off the camera.
It is only when I review the piece I see that the shot has junk from another take that I haven’t cleared up. So I then need to switch the camera back on, run down the stairs, move all the rubbish out of shot, then come back off the scene so I can come back on again and go up in the pulpit and do the scene again.
Here’s humanity’s problem.
We don’t get retakes.
We don’t get the option of reviewing what we have done at the end of the day and deciding that it isn’t good enough and we have to redo the day making better decisions.
I wish we could.
Imagine that we could go back in time a year, and the government decided that we would have total lockdown the way New Zealand did. Or that they decided to put in a real protect and trace system the way South Korea did. That instead of 100,000 deaths there was so many fewer.
Imagine instead of that time you were letting someone know exactly what you thought of them and it ended up in a destroyed relationship
that instead you just held your breath, counted to ten and then calmly told them how hurt you were and how you wanted it to be different.
Instead of a divorce or a child that refused to talk to you; you had a great relationship.
Imagine that time you had a niggling doubt about someone
but instead of listening to your internal warnings
you let them into your life and you ended up with a whole lot of hurt.
Imagine you could redo that moment and just walk away and your life would have been so much better.
But we don’t get a rewind button. We don’t get to do retakes and choose the better option.
That is our problem.
Once we make a mess of things, we end up with the mess, and we have to live with it.
Have you ever watched a child in that situation?
Let’s say that they are working on a jigsaw. And they just can’t get the pieces to fit together.
What is worse they have the right piece; they know it should go in that place, but they can’t work out the way it should turn to fit in properly.
You see them getting more and more frustrated and they try to force the piece in but it just won’t go. They may even try it the right way but for some reason it just doesn’t click and so they move on to another way and of course that doesn’t work.
There is a moment when they just let their frustration get the better of them.
And they get so angry that they just want to give up, they may even start flinging all the pieces away.
It’s a waste of time, nothing good will come of it, why bother?
This is fine if you are three and it is only a jigsaw.
But how devastating is it when you are not three and we are not talking about a jigsaw but our life?
That we can’t get those pieces of our life to fit the way we want to, and in the end we just want to scream and give up.
That is certainly an option. And it is an option that many take.
Instead of following a path that may be our path of life, we just try to create a life worth living . But how do you do that when you don’t know what life should look like?
Well... we do know what life should look like because every advert shows us. It should be a life with this car, no that car, no this house, no that dress, no that boyfriend, no this job, no that holiday.
And once we get the right house, job, car, spouse, child, education, retirement package, funeral insurance, then we will be content. Only we never are, we always seem to be chasing that thing that will complete our life.
But what if there was another way?
That is what our Old Testament passages will be trying to tell us, through a thing called covenant.
Sounds a bit like contract and when they are described it is easy to see why.
It sometimes feels like God is saying, ‘I will make your life better, if you do this.’
And many have looked at it that way.
They have tried to live up to the type of life they think that God would want them to live, and they then expect that God gives them the life that they would want to have.
And it all goes fine for a while, until something goes wrong.
Maybe mum dies, and then they are angry at God, how could God do that to me? What have I done to God to deserve this? I did my bit, why isn’t God doing his?’
It reminds me of a prayer I once read by a five year old boy called Peter.
It just said, ‘Ok God, I did my bit, where’s the bike?’
I still find that funny all these years after reading it for the first time.
Yet how often I find myself thinking along much the same lines, and it doesn’t seem so innocent or funny then.
So if covenant isn’t a contract, then what is it?
It is God giving us another option.
Because the main option we have is to just give up on life when we make a muck up of things.
We have destroyed our life so what is the point? It isn’t going to get any better.
That was what happened with the flood.
Everything was destroyed. The world that had been so good was now gone.
It wasn’t coming back.
All those chances, all those opportunities, gone.
And it would have been easy for Noah and his family just to give up.
But what if there was another option. What if God was giving us another chance to create a life worth living?
So instead of every time it rained they thought of how pointless life was,
that every time it rained they remembered that we muck things up,
every time it rained they remembered that the end of life was destruction and pointlessness,
that instead they saw the rainbow and had hope that life could be better,
that with God’s help they could learn from the past?
That is what covenant is, a visible sign from God that things can get better,
that if we trust in him and follow his ways we can do things differently.
But what sign do we have?
In the past this church sent out nurses to South Africa to help some of the most ill and poor people there and the one thing they always came back telling us was how happy the people were.
That was the weird thing; the people had so little but seemed so much more content.
I think it was because when they had food on their table they knew they would get through the day. That they had what they needed. The food they had to eat was a sign that God was still watching over them.
Maybe we have had such a generous life that we take all that stuff for granted.
So this next week that can be our spiritual exercise...
Instead of taking stuff for granted and complaining about what we don’t have...
Anytime we have a meal, we give thanks for what it means, God has supplied our needs.
Any time we feel a twinge of cold and put up the heating, or put on an extra jumper...we give thanks that God has given us a roof over our head and the ability to keep warm.
Any time we are struggling and someone helps us we give thanks that God has supplied the people in our lives to help us.
The signs are there, all we need to do is see them.
To realise that life doesn’t need to be a disaster, we can do better with God’s guidance and strength.
That isn’t God’s contract...that is God’s promise that is God’s covenant.
Let us pray
There are signs all around of your care.
There are signs all around that life can change, and change for the better.
From the snow drops and daffodils rising through the snow and the frost,
to the ever increasing numbers of people being vaccinated.
Life does not need to stay where it is,
it can move on,
it can change,
it can change for the better if we have the wisdom to follow your path for us.
Help us to see the signs of your presence in our everyday life.
Help us to see the signs of your care in the ordinary things that are given.
And in those signs may we have belief and trust, that things can change,
that our life can be a partnership where we can be your agents of hope.
This we ask in Jesus name.
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May the playfulness of God bless you,
the wonder of God fill you, the discovery of God enliven you,
the word of God shape you and through you shape the world for the better.