I love God-incidences aka coincidence/serendipity

This half page of my prayer and art journal, done on Tuesday, became my sermon for Sunday. If you want to watch me preach watch it on YouTube – the sermon starts at 18:40 on the video of our church service. click here.

The text is as follows:

3rd Sunday before Lent (proper 1)

1 Corinthians 2:1-12[13-16] and Matthew 5:13-20

Prayer before preaching: Lord, let your light shine into our hearts and minds as we think about what today’s readings mean for us today. Amen

Do you believe in co-incidences, or as I like to call them, God-incidences or serendipity? We were talking about it on Wednesday at bible group and agreed that we often see God at work in the small things in life. We don’t necessarily get big encounters with God. He usually speaks to us through the little things. 

Well, today’s sermon is coming to you curtesy of such a God-incidence.  Early in the week – Monday or Tuesday – I try to look at the coming Sunday’s readings to start thinking about the sermon. I didn’t have time this week. But I did have a good quiet time over my first cup of tea. As many of you know, I’ve been prayerfully reading the bible sort of chronologically since January last year. I had intended to do it within the year but didn’t manage it. I’m well into the New Testament now.

Tuesday morning, I started to read 1 Corinthians. And would you believe that when I got around to sermon preparation on Thursday that I discovered that I had done some sermon prep on Tuesday – I just didn’t know it. (Show image)

You can see here what I picked out from the first 4 chapters of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. It will help you get the context for today’s section from the second chapter.

The church was divided – some said they followed Paul, some Apollos and some Cephas. It’s a bit like us saying, I’m CofE, or Methodist, or Catholic.  Or I follow this preacher or that teacher, or belong to this group or that as being the most important aspect of being a Christian, whereas Paul is saying what matters is that we belong to Christ.

And we all know that when you try to tell people about Jesus and his death and resurrection, they often just don’t get it in the way that we do.  It is foolishness to them. However, for those of us who believe, the cross is central to our faith.  Jesus’ death, forgiveness of sins, AND his resurrection and knowing him through the power of the Holy Spirit are what enables us to be salt and light in our lives, sharing and showing God’s love by the way we live.

The other well-known verses in those early chapters are: the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  And in the section of the letter we have just heard Paul is telling his readers that when he came to them to preach he was nervous, he was perhaps not a very good preacher. We don’t know.  He certainly wrote powerfully – although sometimes a bit confusing to us at least. I wonder what sort of preacher he was?

I don’t get the impression he entertained the crowds. He wasn’t a crowd pleaser because that isn’t the purpose of preaching.

When in All Saints school last week explaining about communion, and going through the different parts of the service, I used this cartoon to explain the sermon.  https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/media/5623196/dave-walker-cartoon-2-5.jpg

I said that if they sat with their eyes closed in lesson the teacher would have something to say about it. 

But when I preach if you have your eyes closed it could be that you’ve fallen asleep, or mind wandering thinking about what you might be doing, and did you turn the gas off… or you could be deep in conversation with God, concentrating on something that caught your attention, as if God himself were speaking to you. Or as if I know what you’re going through and the words of the sermon just hit the right spot.   That’s the power of God at work. And if you go off with a conversation with God and miss the rest of the sermon, that’s great…. You’ve taken the nugget that was for you.

This sermon is prepared for you…. Each of you individually matters to God. And so I pray when I prepare a sermon that it will do what God intends. I hope my wisdom, my thinking, is in line with what God intends. He has the power to touch your spirit with his spirit.

A sermon is a three way conversation between the preacher, the listener and God. As it says:

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

This comes from the book of Isaiah chapter 64.  Paul has possibly slightly misquoted at the end .  Waiting for God and loving God.  I suppose if you love God you will wait on him.  And what God has prepared isn’t quite the same as acting for us… but again, I’m knit picking.

We were looking at Isaiah chapter 38 and 39 at Bible group on Wednesday.  Another coincidence????

Before we started, I showed a short video over-view of Isaiah 1-39. This image is from the end of the second video from chapter 40. The Bible Project give a great over view of every book in the bible. (The Isaiah ones are here and here)

On Wednesday we learnt that Isaiah’s message is about God’s judgement on a people whose religion had gone off the rails and the hope of things being renewed and better.  And of course we know that Jesus is the way that God has made it better.

In using that small quotation Paul’s Jewish readers would have known where it came from and they would have called to mind the greatness of God in bringing people out of slavery and then again out of exile.

Right at the end of Isaiah – an image of the renewed Jerusalem. No eye has seen, nor ear heard, mind conceived, the things God has prepared for those who love him….. that’s you and me.  What has God prepared for us?

What is in store this year for us as a church?

What is God’s spirit saying to your spirit?  What are you discerning?  Each of us has a task.  This is where Paul goes next in his letter to Corinth. There are no passengers in the church.  It isn’t a bus or cruise ship where you  just come and sit and let others do the driving, the serving, preparing the meals and steering the ship.

We all have a different part to play. We are all fellow workers in God’s field.  And it is God who makes the church grow.  Not me, not you.  But God.  However, we all do have to play our part.

And that will vary according to our time, our talents (and don’t say you don’t have any talents) We all have something we can do.  Just be yourself.  And let God guide you in how you can do your bit…. Prayer is essential.  We can all pray. And I am sure you all do pray.

But as Jesus says, being a follower of him is more than about prayer. Being a Christian means letting our light shine – or I should say God’s light shine – through what we do, what we say and who we are.  That’s true of us as individuals in our daily lives at work, at home, in our social lives, wherever we spend time. 

It’s also true of us as a church. The reading we had at morning prayer on Thursday was very apt. From Romans 12

 12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. …..  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 

After reading that we prayed for the benefice churches. Let us continue to pray for one another, for the church here in Rocester, Denstone, Croxden and Hollington to shine with God’s light.  All different sizes, shapes and colours, but together bringing glory to God and drawing people to himself.

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