Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 29 October 2017.
One aspect of my work in planning was that it was always concerned with the future: how would a proposed development affect its surroundings? Could it, and if so, how should a derelict site or building be restored? What form should a policy take and how should it be expressed?
All of these questions remained valid even 1 was not going to be there to see the final effect of the way they had been answered.
But then this was not a work of fortune-telling but of reasoned anticipation of events and effects which was open to challenge and had to be explained and justified.
In a way both Moses and Paul could not see the final effect of their work, even if they could see firm foundations being established for the people of Israel and for the church. And yet both died before their final hopes were realized.
Moses was banned from entering the Promised Land, even if he was allowed to see what the work of his last 40 years had all been about.
And Paul also ended up being executed in Rome and was not to see the evangelization of Spain, which was left to the apostle James – St Iago.
In one sense both of these lives ended up in failure, although strangely Moses did in fact set foot in the Promised Land when he and Elijah met Jesus on the Mount of the Transfiguration.
And that was to speak about a far greater realization of their lives’ work than either Moses or Elijah could ever have imagined.
So here we have a paradox: lives spent extravagantly in the service of the God, and yet meeting only partial visible success.
So there must have been something else leading them. O yes, we say – it must have been the power of God, which in Paul’s case was more fully understood as the power of the Holy Spirit in sustaining his ministry, even when tired, alone, assaulted by almost every power imaginable and let down by colleagues.
But in the event it was not the overt and evident success of their tasks that sustained either Moses or Paul but indeed the ongoing fellowship of God, and a real commitment to that mission come what may – even for themselves.
This was a fellowship that sustained them when they were indeed being challenged, opposed, obstructed, sometimes by those who were closest to them.
Perhaps this is the context to look at Jesus’ approach to the Pharisees concerning the Messiah.
Who was He? Oh yes, the son of David.
But David already knew Him in the sense that David called the Messiah ‘Lord’ – one who had a being that stood before that of David both in time and in significance.
The Messiah already existed in the counsels of God, so that David could refer to Him as a real being and a real person. For David the Messiah was not just a promise for the future but a reality in the present whose revelation was still to be achieved, but whose being was already a reality.
And so for David the Messiah, the Son of David, even preexisted himself.
In this sense, Jesus knew exactly who He was, where He was going and How. In His humanity, He was not going to second- guess every move made by the Pharisees and their supporters, but He was still in control of events and certainly not discouraged by them.
In drawing all this together, what counts is not the immediate results or success of our endeavours. Rather it is in our commitment of our time and energies into the Lord’s keeping and dedicating them to His service.
It means what whatever happens to us and however events lead us, the task is the Lord’s, and His is its completion and fulfilment.
It’s a thought worth holding onto.