Sermons & services

Sermon for Trinity III

Published Sunday 3rd July 2022, at 12:55 p.m.

You may have noticed that for the third week in a row, our Gospel is a parable. Trinity 1 was the parable of Dives and Lazarus with its warnings about the dangers of indifference. Last week was the parable of the wedding banquet and its lesson of the extravagant, gratuitous, generosity of God. This week’s parable is that of the Lost Sheep and the woman who’d lost some money in their home. And there is a sort of link. Firstly, that God is never indifferent to us and our needs. Secondly, that God is extravagantly generous with us. And today’s Gospel rounds off these thoughts. You may remember that last week I mentioned some of the lame excuses made by the people who were invited to the wedding banquet. And the point about God’s attitude towards us in that parable is reflected in this weeks’, and the lesson is simple. God never gives up on us. This is about the love of a God who never throws in the towel despite – going back to last week’s sermon – the often lame excuses we come up for our lack of love and devotion to God. It’s worth reminding ourselves of them. One said he couldn’t come to the banquet because they had to go and check out some land they’d just bought. I mean: who does that? Buys land without going to check it out first? Or a house? Or a car? It’s a lame excuse. Or the farmer who had similarly forked out a load of money on some oxen without checking them out first: checking to see if they were healthy or not, young or not. I mean: you just wouldn’t do it. And then there was the newly married couple who were ‘too busy’: which may have been the best and most understandable of the excuses but even so .. if you got an invite to Buckingham Palace for dinner with the Queen, would you make excuses for reasons not to go? Even if you had just got married? I don’t think so. So the first thing to notice here is that God allows us to make these excuses. Free will means God can never compel us to love him: compelled love is not love. God must allow us to walk away. He doesn’t want us to but love compels him to. But you could read last week’s Gospel and conclude that God allows us to walk away and then doesn’t care anymore. He just sends out the invitation to the banquet to a wider audience and forgets those he’d invited but who had rejected the offer. That’s why we need today’s Gospel. Today’s Gospel teaches us that though we may walk away from God, God can never walk away from us. No matter how often we fail, how often we fall, how often we seem to spurn God’s extravagant and generous love for us .. God never walks away. We walk away. We walk away from God through sin: we literally turn our backs on him. We walk away from our devotion to God, putting him down the list of our life priorities. We walk away from God when God doesn’t seem to give us what we think is best for us. When he doesn’t do what we want him to do. We walk away when we think God doesn’t love us, or care for us. Or even exists. We walk away from our neighbours when we do not love them as God loves them. And by all this walking away, we end up walking away from being the people God intended us to be. But God never gives up. Which is why today’s Gospel is so important. It teaches us that even when we wander, God comes looking for us. Now I’ve never been a shepherd but it strikes me as a bit foolish to lose one sheep, then leave the other 99 all their own to go looking for the lost one. I mean the sensible thing would be to say: shame about the one but I need to keep an eye on the other 99 to make sure they keep safe. Wandering off after the one seems foolish. But that is what God’s love for us is like: in the eyes of the world, foolish, reckless. So here are three things to remember about why God never gives up on us. First, that we were chosen. S.Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus that God chose us before the foundation of the world. Before there was anything, you and I were in the mind of God. God chose to create us and sustain in existence. We are here because God wants us to be here. To enjoy the good things of this Good Earth and then share in his divine life for all eternity. Second, that he saved us. So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, as we will hear in a few moments in the Comfortable Words that begin the liturgy of the Eucharist. He loved us so much that he became one like us in all things but sin and died for us on the Cross so that death and sin might be defeated. God has called you, God has saved you, and finally, God has plans for you. As God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11). And as St Paul again tells the Ephesians, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10).
St John Henry Newman expressed this very beautifully in one of his prayers in which he says this: God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about. Brothers and sisters, learning to trust in the God we cannot see has to be one of the hardest things asked of us as believers. And yet that is what we must do. Trust in him and his promises. Believing that God chose me, created me, saved me, wants something of me. And however much I struggle, however much I fail or fall, however much I may walk away, God will never discard me. Never desert me. Never reject me. For I am his. You are his. And he is ours.