Sermon for trinity 9

Sermon For Trinity 9

Lerwick and Yell 2019

Proper 15

I must confess one of the first things that jumped out at me from today’s readings was the question raised by the prophet Jeremiah: what has straw in common with wheat?

At first I thought I was just being stupid but then after checking it out … Straw and wheat are directly related. They are the same plant…!

I wonder what Jeremiah was saying when he raised the question.

A lot of the rest of our readings have to do with faithfulness, so maybe there is a clue here?

The rather curious list of names mentioned in Hebrews, and I am not going to repeat them! Lists people of many walks of life, some of them more known than others probably, who have had what can be described as a chequered lives, some more or less successful than others. (some may even be described as failed) It would appear God worked with both success and failure measured on a human level.

So to run the race with perseverance that is set before us means more than we might first imagine…. Failure seems to matter too here!

The phrase “A leap of faith” may be meaningful to many people. You may have used the phrase yourself either for yourselves or others. When I left Cambridge to move to Shetland I heard this a lot “you are making a leap of faith”.

Part of the problem however with the phrase is that it is given a “positive spin”.

When you think harder about it, a leap more often than not involves falling down too… it is usually not a simple case of continuing up. So when considering a leap of faith we ought to bare in mind the sense of fall and fail too. God it seems can use either in the grand scheme of things.

But of course this is difficult to bare, because we always want to measure success.

Let us bare in mind Christians are being called to follow a servant, not a winner. Jesus lead by not being dominant, but by serving.  His triumph came about in sacrifice and his throne is seen through the cross. And it was by through a death that life was restored.

I am reminded of that image that Jesus spoke about with the seed dying in the ground to bring a harvest.

Of course the message in today’s gospel is equally uncomfortable because we lay so much store on peace and tranquillity that the thought of Jesus bring a sword and division even in a family is uncomfortable.

Hebrews goes on after the various characters have been mentioned to speak about being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, I have always found this part of the epistle to be helpful and encouraging, because as we look back we do see real people who have lived and often struggled in their faithfulness and in their faith to reach the rest of God.

If we are drawn to the being faithful part of our readings today we are reminded that faithful may not mean successful and faithful is not necessarily measured the way the world may want to measure it. Struggle is often part of faithful I feel.

So since we are indeed surrounded by so great a cloud of witness we run with perseverance looking to Jesus who is the pioneer and perfector who perfected us through a cross.

Prophets were often not popular and their words were often challenging. Jeremiah was no different and he spent many years in prison by his own people for being unpopular and speaking out word which they felt were simply wrong… we might want to add heretical.

Let us be reminded again today by Jeremiah that indeed God is close to us and not at all far away. He has drawn near to us and holds us close in our struggling faithfulness. In this we can rejoice.

When we leap in faith it may be to struggle but God is ever close and will not abandon us.

God is near not far away