Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 13 November 2022.
• First Reading: Isaiah 65: 17-25 ()
• Psalm 98
• Epistle: 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13 (Warning against idleness: keep away from idle and disruptive believers)
• Gospel: Luke 21: 5-19 (Do not be deceived, many will come in His Name: do not follow them)
We have all heard the word ‘apocalyptic’ in describing natural catastrophes or human-induced disasters.
I wonder how many know where the word comes from or what it really means? Here is a clue: look at the last book of the bible, entitled ‘Revelation.’ That is the Latin translation of the Greek word, ‘apocalypse.’ And while the book tells, using all sorts of strange visions and symbols, of many worldwide disasters, the pollution of freshwaters and sea waters, the death of fisheries and land-based life, the destruction is never total. There is always a remnant.
But the second point here is that God is always in control, limiting what might otherwise be total devastation.
And yes, these are all forms of judgment on the human race for its deliberate abandonment of God’s intentions for our lives and relationships.
Many will ask then, why all the suffering if God is all-loving and all-powerful? Surely God must be ultimately responsible?
There are two points to be made here.
First, the agency for all this suffering is human action, neglect and abuse of the physical environment and of relations within the community as a whole. It is people who cause the wars and the pollution and who allow communities to be vulnerable to natural disaster.
But second, God has already taken the blame for all this. When Jesus died on the cross, He was bearing the sins of the whole of human history, from every insult and lie to every murder and massacre. In the sight of God, Jesus was not only taking the blame for these things – He was becoming them and personally bearing the judgment and rejection of God.
He was doing this so that we would not have to – He was doing it on our behalf – and for any and all who would repent of their sins and receive the forgiveness of God as He gives it.
If anyone was to take the blame for the wars and human disasters, then in Jesus, God has already done it.
As we commemorate Remembrance today, we are thinking about those killed and injured in the 1st and 2nd World Wars, and in wars since then.
It applies to those who were killed and physically or mentally injured in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
They made the supreme sacrifice, but many continue to be sacrificed in their memories of the past and in their relationships today.
We are also deeply aware of the war in Ukraine today, which started some three months after our Remembrance commemorations last year.
But we are also being drawn into these battles as we face the economic and social effects of that invasion. Often it is the least capable in our land who are most affected by the increase in poverty and its effects of the war on our homes and family life.
And so we also are facing challenges in the economy, health provision, while having to think about replenishing our munitions and rebuild our armed forces.
For our part, this is the time to renew our lives of prayer, and to look again at the things of our faith.
It is time to pray for those who already serve in our forces and civilian first responders, and for those who will serve or be called to other service for the nation. That may include some of you here today.
But there is something more for as Scouts you will be continuing in your badge-work and you will be gaining skills in dealing with what may be difficult times ahead.
And so I would urge you:
- Continue to work on your badges and skills.
- Continue to work together for the common good.
- Above all, continue to pray, to look for how you may serve God, and deepen your faith in Him.
And if anyone wants to discuss the last of these, I am here for you.