Monday, 18 February 2019

Blessing or woe; yes or no: a decision to be made

A sermon preached at St Andrew's Church, South Croydon

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

I wonder how good you are at making decisions.

Decisions aren’t always easy to make.

We might want more information or better information to make a decision. Sometimes we feel we have too much information.

Or, perhaps, we just don’t like making decisions because once we have decided on one thing other options are lost. When I decided to marry my wife, I couldn’t then go around getting married to other people!

Are we like the old joke “I used to be incredibly indecisive. But now I'm not that sure...”

It seems our MPs aren’t very good at making decisions at the moment. They show us the problem when we want everything and every possible outcome, but, when push comes to shove, can’t decide which one we really want! It’s called having your cake and eating it!

Our patron saint, St Andrew, had to make a decision. Jesus said to him, ‘come, follow me’. What a decision. Would he decide to rely on his expertise of being a fisherman and have the security of a steady income, or would he decide to follow Jesus Christ, not knowing where that would take him? He decided on Christ, a decision that would lead ultimately to sharing in a death like Christ’s, dying on a cross, albeit of a different shape, but a decision that led him to abundance of life, blessings not woes.

Another big decision that had to be made was by Mary, the Mother of the Lord. When the archangel came to her would she say ‘yes’ or ‘no’? Her ‘yes’ meant that Christ would be born into the world to teach, to heal the sick, to suffer for us, to die and to be raised from the dead to bring us life.

Mary’s ‘yes’, Andrew’s ‘yes’ to be the Mother of the Lord and to ‘come, follow me’ were strong decisions.

In the Christian life there is a moment known as The Decision. It comes in the Liturgy of Baptism Service: do you turn to Christ? Do you repent of your sins? Do you renounce evil? To which the answer is either ‘no’, and that’s that, or ‘yes’: I turn to Christ; I repent of my sins; I renounce evil.

Once we’ve made that decision, then every morning and every moment of every day we seek to put it into practice.

The questions for each of us are these: what does my decision to follow Jesus Christ look like day by day in my life? How is my life different for having chosen to follow Jesus Christ? How does that big decision affect all my other life decisions?

In the gospel reading this morning Jesus speaks of blessings and woes. He blesses those who are poor, hungry, weeping and hated; he utters woes to those who are rich, full up, smugly laughing and wanting praise.

It’s like Mary’s song, the Magnificat proclaims,

The Holy One has scattered the proud
     in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
     and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
     and sent the rich away empty.(Luke 1.51b-53)

In other words deciding to follow Christ, saying ‘yes’ to him and not ‘no’, means living  life with values that are very different from what normally counts as success in life. The poor receive a kingdom; the rich get nothing more. The hungry are fed; the full up go hungry. The weeping will laugh; the smug will weep. The excluded rejoice in heaven; the successful find their celebrity is empty.

What a decision to make: we decide on life not death, blessing not curse.

In all our decisions as individuals, as a church community, may we be just like the tree with deep roots that Jeremiah describes in our first reading:

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
   whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
   sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
   and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
   and it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17.7,8)

Having placed our trust in the Lord, may we draw on his life and be faithful as he is faithful. May we know him now in the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup to be strengthened to say our ‘yes’ to him. Amen.

© Andrew Bishop, 2019

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