Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 11 August 2019.
I think that we can all recall moments we would prefer to forget. That silly remark, the social occasion when our outfit was completely wrong, that display of profound and even unspeakable ignorance, that brush-off or put-down, or whatever.
We all have those cringing memories which make us turn away from ourselves in disgust or profound embarrassment. How can we erase these memories and how can they possibly be forgiven?
In their way, these things not only plumb our guilt but they also challenge our faith. Can this thing be forgiven? Was it not so gross as to be beyond forgiveness?
Jesus has an answer to this, for there was only one unforgiveable sin, and in its way it is the sin of unbelief that we commit not only against God but also against ourselves.
He describes it as the sin against the Holy Spirit and He spoke of it in the context of people who had seen His works and miracles, and who had heard His teaching but who were determined to reject Him anyway. They would not even accept the evidence of their own eyes and ears.
And in persisting in it to the end then they had out themselves beyond relationship with God and certainly beyond His forgiveness. And they never had to do it. It was a self-inflicted judgment as they put themselves beyond His mercy.
Yet our Faith is in the effectiveness of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. There is no other sin that God cannot and will not forgive, when we bring it before Him in sorrow and faith – even if, or when it is a besetting sin or habit.
This is when our eyes are drawn away from ourselves and towards the face of God, where they should be focused anyway.
For if Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world then it is those sins that He looks to us to bring before Him, at the cross.
For this reason, nothing is beyond forgiveness and there is nothing that we dare not admit to God as a fault or sin.
As I said, the only unforgivable sin is the one in which we put ourselves beyond forgiveness by our unbelief.
This is where we meet the lesson from Hebrews for Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
It is the promise of God that life is never for no purpose and that there is always a reason and an aim. It is the promise of life beyond measuring or comprehending in His presence, where vision is perfect and understanding is complete.
It is here that the paradoxes and riddles of life are revealed and how the sorrows and rejections and confusions of life are reconciled with and in His love. In the economy of God, nothing is ever wasted.
And yet the evidence is that which we find in our own lives as we commit to Him and find that this commitment is never in vain. Those strange answers to prayer, those coincidences, those encounters or chance words of comfort or illumination which proved to be turning points in our lives.
Faith is that which leads us onwards, despite all circumstances and fashions. The group or interest or fashionable obsession will also pass, and what seems to be so well-established in fashionable opinion will also pass away.
But where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
It is the thing that commands our greatest attention which will be most important in our lives.
For some it will be family, to others a hobby or pastime, to others a loyalty to an interest or group or campaign.
Yet if smothered with obsessive demands, then children can at the first opportunity move away, and may need to in order to establish their own lives and personalities.
As you know I have loved sailing since my early teens and there is nothing to compare with the way a boat settles itself into the wind and waves and makes its passage through the water. But a boat demands time and effort, not to mention money and can become all-consuming, to the neglect of other and more important aspects of life.
The things that lead out thoughts, our actions – and our emotional responses can easily take first place in our lives so that relationships and faith, commitment and service to others and the Lord are reduced to second place.
This is where we need to bring them before the Lord so that He can resettle and reassert the priorities of our lives.
For He warns us to stand in readiness at all times and all circumstances, especially when it all seems so hopeless and pointless, when confusion reigns and when moral and spiritual direction seem to be at their weakest, their least fashionable and most easily mocked.
Yet this is the time when our alertness is most needed, when all others have lost theirs and when we are most discouraged.
But this is the time when the Lord is also looking forward to His return among us. It is when He also looks forward to personally serving us at His table.