notre dame montreal

Sermon for Ordinary 11 Year A

By The Rev Dr Sam Cappleman

Since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God

The reading from Romans contains one of the central tenets of our Christian faith, ‘Since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into the grace into which we now stand’.

It emphasises the great theme of Romans, that faith in the death and resurrection of Christ is the only grounds for acceptance by God – a God who treats all alike. For Paul, it’s nothing to do with the adherence to the old Jewish law but a living faith in the Christ who was crucified and rose from the dead for each one of us.

What Paul focuses on in this particular section of Romans is peace with God and what that means. In the previous chapter, Paul has just given a lengthy explanation of justification by faith means in theory; he now begins to discuss what that really means for the believers in their lives.

And in this context peace is not just the absence of noise, peace and quiet, as pleasant as that might be sometimes, but peace in the sense of completeness and unity with God. Our lives seamlessly meshed with His.

All the ancient promises (of the law) are now coming true and we have peace and access to the Father through faith and can enjoy a restored relationship with Him and hope in an eternal future.

That access and connectedness is open to all, whoever they are: another great theme of Paul.

And as we look at ourselves the same is true. The peace that we have to go out to love and serve the Lord in is linked to our connectedness and unity with God

God wants to be connected to us and through us to the world. Working in partnership with Him, enlisted in His service

At the end of the communion service this morning we will pray that we will go out in peace to love and serve the Lord.

The disciples and early believers soon found out that although preaching and teaching were essential in spreading the Good News of the Kingdom, so was putting that Good News into action.

We need to know the word of God, but we need to put it into action too.

Before Jesus sent the disciples out he gave them authority to do the things which He was asking them to do. For us we are empowered by the Holy Spirit who He left with us so that we too could share in that task.

But for both Paul and for Matthew, being at peace with God, united and connected to Him was a pre-requisite to serving Him. As we enjoy our relationship with God so we are called to serve Him so that others too can have that same life, peace and hope

Not only do we need to be at peace with God, we need to be active in His service too. But we also need to be at peace with Him if we are to serve Him effectively. We can do things on our own. We need to be sure we keep things in the right order in our lives.

It’s a matter of keeping close to God and stepping out with Him in faith. We can’t act without connecting and we can’t connect without acting if our faith is to be living and vibrant.

As Jesus closes the Sermon on the Mount He does so with the words about the houses built on sand and on rock. Those who hear His words and put them into action are building on a firm foundation. Those that just hear the words are on shifting sand, there is nothing to support their faith and after a while the edifice of their faith will collapse.

It’s the same sentiment here, understanding what our relationship with God means and then living that out in our daily lives.

Serving those in our community as we serve God.

Matthew also gives an interesting perspective on who we should serve. In the ‘great commission’ at the end of his gospel Matthew instructs the believers to make disciples of ‘all nations’ whereas in Matthew 10 the commission is clearly for the disciples to go to, ‘the lost sheep of Israel’

We don’t really understand how these verses quite fit together. But given that Matthew was a Jew, it’s possible he wanted to stress the importance of the House of Israel hearing the message of Jesus.

Perhaps he was saying that the disciples should serve those who have been let down and misled by the society and structures they believed in, in the same way that Mathew perhaps understood that the Jews had been misled by the Jewish authorities and Pharisees

As we seek to serve those around us perhaps our priority should be to those who have been let down or misled by society, those who are less fortunate than ourselves, those who expected that those in authority would have done netter for them

Jesus’ great commission is to all, but perhaps today’s gospel reading sets our priorities

To connect with God in peace and unity, to join with him in the service of others and to make our priority those who have been let down by a society with its eyes on other priorities than Christ Himself.

And even if we think we are too old for all this, remember Sarah from our first reading. She laughed at what she thought God wanted for her and how he wanted her to serve him. It seemed absurd at her age, but despite her scepticism, God worked through her in a manner which changed the world.