Sermon Based on Amos 7:7-15, Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29
“The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”
One of my previous pastors had a great talent in bringing to life, or of hitting the point of the weekly message within our lives. Two come to mind clearly, one a public sermon and one just for me. I’ll talk of the second first. It was the football season, and there’s only one way to play footy-hard. You’re not just playing with your team mates, you’re playing for them. You stick by them, through thick and thin-on and off the field. Due largely to this attitude, not consciously-but doing it all the same-I was rocking up to church a little too tired and dazed from what in country footy circles, would be considered the appropriate form of recovery the night before. On one such Sunday, upon being greeted by my pastor at the end of the service-with a big smile, his outreached hand and the other around my shoulders, he joyously said “It’s always great to see you on Sundays looking so good”. I knew what he meant, he knew that I knew what he meant-but how it was done, with tact, humour and in good natured love-strengthened our relationship.
The second was in a public sermon. I think there might have been some scobling within the ranks (or something but that is not the point). He went through the truth-the Gospel but then finished with “you know what you are doing that is wrong, so stop it, and stop it today”. It is an unusual end to a sermon and whether it hit his desired point I’m not sure-but it certainly did with me. That is not the recommended way of finishing a sermon, but he was right. He was not preaching to those who knew no better, he was preaching to the converted-we who should know better.
But as we also know, the truth can hurt, and the truth is what is in play in all three readings today.
In Amos, after the death of King Solomon the land of Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the south and the north-the north of which had gone off track. The prophet Amos is given a vision by God that shows this kingdom is totally out of line, both politically and religiously. So off Amos goes to tell the king this truth. Only to receive back biting, being caused of stirring trouble and so forth, and the response-if that’s the truth we don’t want it-so rack of, get out of here.
In the Gospel of Mark, again the truth gets in the way of things. John the Baptist, as outlined in Leviticus tells the King that he is committing adultery by being married to his own brother’s wife while his brother is still alive. This charge infuriated his wife Herodias and she nurtured a sustained against John and bided her time to silence him. Yet ironically, the King was at least on the right track so to speak as we hear in verse 19 and 20: “And Herodias set herself against him, and desired to kill him; and she could not; for King Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. And when he heard him he was much perplexed, yet he heard him gladly.
We see some hope here for John. In fact he had only put John in jail to try and appease his wife. Essentially to protect him from a worse fate by imprisoning him. Is this not the same scene in which we see in Pontius Pilate with Jesus being put up for his death by the Jewish authorities-for his telling the truth?
(and) like Pilate, knowing the man is innocent, knowing it wrong-but not having the strength of his convictions, the king falls meekly to those offended by the truth, and lets them have their way.
Amos, John the Baptist and Jesus-scorned, convicted and punished for what? Because they brought before their societies the truth of God.
And we ask ourselves what has changed?
The church preaches the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. That we bring our sins before him, we give them to him and he sets us free-forgiven. How could anyone not think that is good? Simply because of that word itself, sin. Because sin tells us we are doing something wrong, and that doesn’t quite fit into the “if it’s right by me, then its right” mentality.
We preach salvation in Jesus, we don’t preach damnation. We don’t preach God hates you, we preach he loves you. But in the “if it’s right by me, then its right” society it has become our right to sin-and if that’s the case there’s nothing to forgive and anyone that tells me otherwise is a bigoted judgemental fool. Well that part I’m not arguing with, because I am a sinner. I sin all the time-but that does not make it my right to sin, unfortunately its part of our human condition.
That’s why we need Jesus, because we sin. We do what’s not right. Like Paul said: “I don’t do what I want to do, and do what I don’t want to do”. That’s why we need Jesus, that’s why God gave his own son and why Jesus gave himself-that although what we are-in him we are saved.
There’s the truth. But the truth that unfortunately cannot be understood when the need for it cannot be seen.
One author whose name does not come to mind gave a scenario showing this plight:
“A man in in a burning house, but he doesn’t know it. So when the fireman turns up, he says he doesn’t need him. When he asks him to leave the house he resents it and resists. Eventually the fireman takes him kicking and screaming against his will from the building, which only after getting out-does he realise that the house was on fire and that he was in peril”.
So what to do? We hang in there. We don’t preach the law; we preach the truth by showing the need for Jesus the Saviour. We don’t interpret the truth of God according to society; we interpret society according to God.
We live in the world, but not of the world. We live with our own faults and those of others. We put our arm around those who ridicule us and allow Jesus to put his around us.
We are all care and no responsibility. We were not responsible for our own salvation-Christ brought that, and we are not for others-God will bring that as he sees fit.
Jesus, who as we heard in Ephesians “God has chosen for us to be holy and blameless before his sight by being adopted as his sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, that in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding, and made known to us”.
There’s the truth and we care by telling the truth-that like in Amos day, John the Baptists day and the when days Jesus walked on this earth-that now-today, we all need Jesus-Jesus who brings life-today and for evermore. Amen.