Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 13 October 2019.
When we hear or play a piano or violin, the music comes from the tension of the string and the way it is struck or scraped. A slack string does provide any kind of note and it is the tension of the strings which, when struck or scraped, yields the notes.
It is this very tension that is necessary for the music to be heard.
And in today’s lessons there is no connection between them at all – instead it is a tension between them that draws our attention.
In Jeremiah, we have his instruction to the exiles to make the best of their situation and plan for a long stay. They are to live within the chastisement of God which is their exile. There will be no immediate return home so that should build houses, plant gardens, have families and pray for the place of their exile.
They are not giving in or lying down under the burden, but they are to come to an acceptance of that exile and trusting that God was still in control.
It is very difficult to maintain faith when hit by adversity – dangers of loss of faith and falling into defeatism and cynicism. Yet that is exactly the task and the challenge facing the exiled people from Jerusalem.
In the Gospel we have the account of Jesus’ healing of the 10 lepers.
The Old Testament law instructed that a leper be excluded from the community and to be readmitted to the community required certification by the High Priest.
To heal a leper was a sign of the messiah, so if the high priest was visited by a person claiming to be healed of leprosy, then he would have to investigate. Was this person Jewish, had he been a leper and had he been healed?
One leper had already sent to the high priest – see Luke 5: 12-16. This was a kind of visiting card but it had no great effect and certainly no sense of faith in Israel.
To send 9 to the High Priest was not so much a visiting card as a firework.
In this Jesus announced His presence and His mission – this was the Messiah and He was coming to town. He was inviting them to receive His as the promised Messiah, before anything else happened.
Our situation is in the tension between the 2 lessons: living in the reality of a world that largely rejects the gospel and keeping faith in the situation – and the promise of His return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
We are all living in a time of tension between what was already achieved in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the final climax of His ministry with His coming again.
Some may recall the sense of the Go-between God who lives and ministers within this sense of the already but not yet. This is the time of the Holy Spirit leading the church during this time of achievement and yet not of complete fulfilment.
Each of us is different like the different strings of a piano or harpsichord or violin, cello, double-bass.
Each has a different story and a different set of challenges and disappointments in life. Each of us has had to confront a different set of failures and setbacks in life, and yet it is these very challenges that mark us out as different, and able to resonate and yield a different kind of note.
Yet it is God who is the composer and conductor of the music and who seeks to bring forth that harmony of His people.
As we resonate in this tension then the sound will become discernible: a harmony composed and orchestrated and conducted by God.
This is what the world needs to see and hear.