Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 11 June 2023.
• First Reading: Genesis 12: 1–9 (God’s call to Abram – Promises of a Great Nation)
• Epistle: Romans 4: 13–25 (The promise to Abraham received though faith)
• Gospel: Matthew 9: 9–13, 18–26 (The call of Matthew)
He was 75 years old – ready to retire if not already retired, and evidently pondering the things of life.
Perhaps he looked up at night and thought about the stars, or looked into the far distance and wondered what lay beyond that horizon. Perhaps he had been asking what it was all for.
And then it came – a compelling inner voice. A voice that would not stop until it had received an answer. He might have tried putting it off. Oh yes, I’ll think about it. Maybe tomorrow – next week – the next new or full moon. After lambing – or the first fruits or mid-summer.
Whatever it was, it would not go away. And finally it said: Abram, I want an answer. By sunset tomorrow.
And so he said yes. He would pack up immediately and take to the road, with his wife, servants, flocks and moveable possessions.
I’ll go where you want. Just tell me when and where to stop.
And that was the beginning of a real and long term conversation. It was a relationship like none other. It may have been in the mind, but it followed through into actions and decisions. When to move, what direction. Whom to trust, what commitments to make. Did that smile reach the eyes, or was it just too knowing?
Abram had a lot of pondering to do – and he was doing it in the presence of that strange and yet comforting voice. A voice that knew right from wrong, true from false, wisdom from folly. A voice that had a strange authority and authenticity about it.
In the midst of so many local deities and their priests and cults, Abram knew that this one was not just different but it was true, real beyond reality itself. Holy and righteous, penetrating but calm.
And so he worshipped it. It would name itself in good time. He built an altar and sacrificed on it. And the One whom he worshipped gave him peace and plenty, security and wisdom. So Abram would continue to serve it.
And then the voice said stop here and look around. All that you see will be yours – for you will live in the descendants of your own body and that of your lawful wife. As many as the stars, and out to and beyond the distant horizons.
And Abram believed and trusted.
When others might have rationalized it or reduced it to ridicule and absurdity, Abram lived for it and within it. This was faith or a completely new order. It was new and yet all embracing, without being confused or disordered or psychologically unbalanced.
But here was life – life in a different order and purpose.
Now move forward some 1800 or 1900 years. One of his sons, Jesus sent rather than called by God. Not a man of the establishment – more a persistent commentator on it. He knew the scriptures and people were listening to Him, especially when He was pointing to the substance of life rather than its form, the content rather than its presentation. Function before status.
Calling on one of the collaborator tax officials to follow Him. NOW. And he did, getting up and leaving that comfortable living behind and again taking to the road with Jesus.
Yes, he would be allowed to throw a final party – Jesus and the other followers coming along. So also other tax collectors, outcasts and other undesirables.
And the critics were looking on. How can a teacher of righteousness and holiness be consorting with people like this? Well, you can tell a man by the company we keeps, whatever he says.
But then Jesus reply was withering. I came for the sick not the healthy. It is sinners who need to hear the call, not the righteous.
And so the story skips a paragraph but comes back with one of the establishment also pleading with Jesus for his daughter. Clearly not too important to approach Jesus in public and beg His mercy for his little girl.
Not a problem, apart from the crowd and the woman with a 12 year haemorrhage, also a social outcast and risking life and limb by approaching Jesus in the crowd.
Again, in the place of her need, Jesus’ mercy was active and generous.
For us there are two aspects of these lessons for both were about people who believed in God and were willing to trust Him with their lives and their futures.
They were willing to step out of the ordinary and live by what they believed and trusted.
It is one thing to profess a faith and then to get comfortable in it. To allow it to become routine and predictable.
But the challenges here were about believing and trusting. Believing in the truth of the things of God and then entrusting them with life and livelihood, with loyalties and commitments, with that sense of being and belonging that comes before all other loyalties.
Even with our settled and even predictable lifestyles, it is willing to step out in faith in the Lord. And then it is willing to be surprised when he really is there to meet us.