Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 16 July 2017.
I am sure that we have all been in a state of total exhaustion in which the only thing we could were aware of was a state of hunger, cold or tiredness.
The only thing we could see was our own sense of need, and the only thing that could make sense was the relief of that need. No amount of intelligent conversation or art or even spiritual contemplation was going to have any traction with us at that point.
And this was perhaps the position in which Esau had staggered into the house just as his more home-loving but maybe more manipulative brother was preparing a vegetable stew. And so his hunger and exhaustion cried out, and he demanded a share in that stew, regardless of consequences.
And so he allowed himself to be manoeuvered out of that which was even more valuable than his state of hunger, or state of mind.
For Esau only saw his own sense of need, and did not – perhaps he could not – look beyond. Even in this state of hunger he might have been sufficiently aware of himself, of who and what and where he was, to be able to set limits. But no, personal need in the moment overcame all else and in a few words he abandoned that which was his as of right.
And his devious younger brother triumphed, no doubt with a smirk of satisfaction as he did so. For despite his own doubtful morals, Jacob was still aware of who he was and of what was to be treasured and safeguarded.
In writing to the church in Rome, Paul approached the same question, perhaps more theoretically. Certainly more methodically.
Who we are determines what are our priorities and our perspectives. This is not a matter of our name or age or sex or social background.
It is far more something of the spirit, that within which provides the mainspring to our lives. It is the thing that sets our values and gives direction to our daily living and sense of being.
And for a Christian it is defined by Jesus Christ and none other. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new
creation. Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.”
If we are in Christ Jesus, then everything about us is redefined and renewed. It may take a lifetime to bring them into focus and to put them all in order but the change is there.
So here, for a Christian the things that will pass away, which will break down or corrode or return to the earth, can have no lasting value beyond the utility of the moment.
What lasts is our new sense of being, the new priorities of our lives and the new power and desire to pursue them.
It is the spirit which gives life, and to be re-bom in Jesus Christ is also to be reborn in the power and the presence of His Spirit who continues to abide with us during the era of the church.
And if it is the Spirit of Jesus who is the mainspring of our lives then it is no longer the self-life, the life that demands that self be satisfied and pandered to, above and beyond all other considerations.
It is no longer the self that selects the good works we are to do and then evaluates them. That process no longer applies, and something that is tme for all of eternity comes into effect.
And this is where Jesus’ parable comes in. It is a story about how the sower released the seed which fell into different kinds of soil. And where the seed is the message of the Kingdom of God then the soil is the kind and quality of heart it fell into.
And that means each of us, and the things that may enhance or undermine our ability to receive and give growth to that seed.
For some it is a complete rejection of the message as being nonsense. For others it is a heart that receives and receives not only with joy but with fruitfulness. And then there are the hearts that lack depth of character or which are easily distracted by the competing interests and amusements of the time.
But if Esau was a man who could and would not see his own sense of being or belonging, then the Romans were being shown how being regenerated in Jesus Christ was going to release them from the condemnations and compulsions of their age.
Their faith would release them from condemnation and despair into lives of faith and hope and love which were empowered by the Spirit of Jesus Christ himself.
So yes the openings and the reassurances are all there for us. There is however room for a word of warning. Some years ago I was in a church situation and we were thinking about this parable.
I asked the group what kind of soil was present in that particular church fellowship.
The reply was “Clay”. Oh dear, Oh dear.
Please do not make that mistake here.