4 after Trinity Sermon


Trinity 4 Our readings today are all interesting but perhaps not immediately linked. Well it is my job [ not Job] to try, so let’s give it a go The famous scene of the disciples on the boat being terrified by a storm is famous. Odd really as most of them had loved their lives on or near Lake Galilee, and would have known it as well if not better than a carpenter’s son. For any who have seen it, Galilee is a very shallow lake, not unlike the Wash, and so when wind gets up quickly the shallow-bottomed boats are vulnerable to capsizing, and so there was some reason for caution. Jesus’s point is wider though, they turn not to their own knowledge of the water, nor their sailing skills, but instantly want Him to put things right. Where is their faith, their trust, is Jesus’s point. If as we believe God has given us skills and talents – in their case many pertinent to the situation they were in; and further gave us free will in a world that indeed has dangers and challenges, why aren’t they using what they have been given as free and loved children of God and instead turn to Jesus to save them. Jesus calms the winds as asked, but the deeper point here is without faith and the willingness to live your life as created free and with talents, where will they be? Job is a different conundrum. Job was a happy man, he was living a good life, with all he needed and more. He was a good man too, but out of nowhere it was all taken away, and Job went through years of challenge and chaos in his life, feeling God had abandoned him and wondering how someone who had led the good life could be treated in such a way? I think the issue here is slightly different, could it be that Job wasn’t aware deep down that his life was so good and in many ways one of privilege, at least not until it was taken away? Could it be the disciples trusted in Jesus but when they thought they were in danger their trust faltered? Or might it be that we cannot, or ought not to expect a trouble-free life, being born free means that like any other parent, God knows that without letting go free do cannot happen, people like children ultimately learn by their mistakes as much as their successes. And like any parent God no doubts worries and fears and thinks about every single person and the choices they may make, and the wickedness of others that may crash into their lives without them expecting it? I can only imagine the worry of a parent who having paid for driving lessons knows that one day they will go out on their own for the first time, and well there is nothing you can do. The same when they go to college, or leave home, of find a partner, you did what you could do, and the only option other than letting them go is to cloister them and make them permanent children, freedom doesn’t come with risks and dangers, but you have faith, you trust that they have listened to what you said, what you counselled and what you showed by your own example – much the same if true of God the Father. And St Paul writing to the Corinthians, well he knew a lot about parenting early churches, who generally when he was with them behaved slightly better towards each other, well not always but more so. And when he travelled to his other churches, he often had to write saying he was coming back because of the arguments and problems that had broken out in his absence. I don’t know if Paul truly believed each time he left they would have improved and learned – let’s face it he had some very awkward ‘children’ to deal with, but I am sure he trusted that they could change, indeed he prayed for it regularly, the rest of course was up to them. And like children who leave home and make a mess of it, or something goes wrong, they can come home, Paul returned not always wanting to scold but to teach, to support, to lay down new ways of helping them live up to their calling. And in this lesson Paul uses one of the most powerful of all rhetoric devices – example. Paul led a long and very challenging ministry, he travelled widely, he worked to support himself making tents – not our kind but grand leather ones of the kind the perpatetic peoples use. This was time when the early churches were often but not always in people’s homes, where Paul was in danger from the Jews as he was seen as a pharisee who had become an apostate. Paul was also a Roman citizen, the only Apostle to be so, so even though this ought to have been a real bonus, as it gave hi higher status and more freedoms, it marked him out once again as a person not behaving as they should – this time getting caught up in a growing sect called the Way, and one that the Romans as well as the Jews found, but its sheer popularity, threatening. Few ministers of the Gospel can have had better reason to offer their life and sufferings as evidence of the authenticity and forbearance of their life and witness. Paul and those close to him suffered every imaginable punishment and mishap, and must like Job have wondered why, why them, after all they were doing God’s work? Paul concludes this idea in a different way, one that Job could not really have understood. For Paul whatever the scale of his own pains and sufferings, they can be as nothing compared to those of Jesus, who innocent as the paschal lamb was betrayed to death by those who knew him best, and on the Cross of shame forgave then, and in his resurrection called them to continue his work. Taking on when needed some of the suffering of Christ, the rejection, scorn and possibly worse, shouldn’t surprise those who follow Jesus, it didn’t surprise Paul, who understood full well what was going on. So Paul and Job have very different answers to basically similar dilemmas, unjust things happening to righteous people? Job was baffled and struggled, Paul sees it as accepting the fullness of the calling to follow Jesus, not just in the good times but the bad times too. God willing we will be up to the task if we are asked to follow suit. Amen