Sermons

Sixth Sunday after Trinity

23 jul 2017

Evensong

Preacher: Canon Michael Rawson, Sub Dean & Pastor

 

podcast

Every minute, every day of lives we have to make decisions and judgements. Some of them are small and insignificant such as what am I going to wear today (that's always a problem for me, black or black), what to have for lunch, what will be my priorities for the working day. Then there might be larger issues to face - am I in the right job, how do I react to the people around me, is my life going in the right direction. Then as a nation we have had to weigh up the pros and cons of Brexit and the future direction of our country in a General Election and make momentous decisions which will affect the life of our country for generations to come. Making decisions is not easy. Sometimes we get it right and others we make the wrong call.

I'm relieved to say that I've never been in the position of Solomon in our first reading. Here he is faced with two women who ask him to make a decision as to who is the true mother of the surviving child in this heart-wrenching story. Both women present their maternity cases to the King and he listens intently. He then leads them into something of a trap to reveal their true feelings which will inform his decision. In this, Solomon demonstrates God's gift of 'an understanding mind', the wisdom he imparts to his servant.
This is a life and death situation. When he commands his servants to cut the child in two so that both mothers may have a share, it is the one who shows compassion for the child whom Solomon judges worthy to be the mother and to care for the child. The people knew that the wisdom of God was in him.

In the second reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear of the chief priests being in a similar position of judgement over the case of Peter and John and the apostles. They have been teaching the people about the passion and resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It was literally a life and death situation, or rather a death and life situation. We learn that 'a notable sign was done through the apostles in curing a man.' Peter is further emboldened by the Holy Spirit to testify to the works done through faith in Jesus. And as a result 5,000 came to a personal decision to become believers.

The apostles and those who subsequently became believers do not do so for an easy life. For Jesus makes trouble for his followers, many of whom end up in prison and at odds with both the religious and political authorities. The guardians of the faith and of the Temple are threatened for they believe themselves to be charged with administering God's law and justice, just as Solomon before them. Peter and John's preaching of the resurrection is both radical and revolutionary and strikes at the very heart of the religious establishment. Peter talks about 'the stone which the builders rejected becoming the cornerstone,' and it challenges his hearers and us as readers to make a judgement and decision. The apostles spoke with passion from first hand experience of their encounter with Jesus. Very ordinary people challenged the wisdom of the religious rulers and found them wanting. Those rulers knew that they were beaten and were at a loss of what to do, so they simply  sought to silence the apostles and forbid them to teach. It was all too little and too late. For the Spirit had been released and was transforming people's lives.

As we listen to these two scripture readings about the importance of making judgements, we too are challenged to make our own decision. Is Christ to be a stumbling block to us or do we place Christ as the cornerstone of our lives, the foundation on which we build our relationships, our values and our very way of being? The decision is ours, and our alone.