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Sermon for Ordinary 13 Year A

The Reverend Canon Charles Royden

Sermon Matthew 10:40

I was reading Romans 6 about those parts of the body which cause us to sin and I couldn't but help think of teeth. Specifically Louis Suarez and his teeth. I don’t think that this is what Paul meant in Romans this morning when he spoke of parts of the body causing us to sin. Paul is thinking about the whole problem of the fact that Christians know forgiveness of sin, but that does not necessarily mean freedom from sin. We are saints and sinners, and Paul encourages his readers to try and live changed lives, the theological word which describes this is 'sanctification', the process of change.

What Paul is saying is that Christianity isn’t about spiritual experiences it is about a way of life, choosing to live differently. It is OK to feel uplifted as we sing hymns together, but this must be the start of a commitment to be changed in our daily lives.

The problem is that sin can be all around us even when we are seemingly living extremely righteous lives.

  • Sin is not just about not doing bad things it is about not doing good things. There are sins of commission and omission.
  • Sin is not just about me not doing bad things it is about me feeling good about myself because I don’t do bad things like those dreadful people who do. It is about me feeling I am better than others, perhaps people who I have not tried to understand and am quick to condemn.
  • Sin is about me thinking that what I do is the good way to behave and what others do is the bad way to behave, and perhaps trying to prove God is on my side by quoting the bible

It’s all so complicated and hard !

How do we live better in a world which is so complex ? I wonder if you read the story this week of shoppers who were shocked after discovering "call for help" labels from workers stitched inside dresses bought at Primark in Swansea and Belfast ?

One note was from a Chinese prisoner claiming inmates were working 15 hours per day making garments. The messages are believed to have been attached by workers at the fashion chain's overseas factories. All refer to "sweatshop conditions" and being forced to work "exhausting hours." Rebecca from Porthcawl said
"I used to shop a lot at Primark but not so much now. The label has made me think about how my clothes are made,… To be honest I've never really thought much about how the clothes are made. But this really made me think about how we get our cheap fashion,"

It’s not just the global market and economics. There are some really big sins going on as we look around the world and we see displaced peoples. There are nations where everything seems to be going so dreadfully wrong and whether you believe that we should have been involved in wars in the Middle East or whether you believe we should not have been involved, either way we have been involved and now we are stopping being involved and we have a corporate share in the disaster that is going on.

We are watching the world cup in Brazil and very good it is too. But whilst we enjoy the football we are reminded that whilst Brazil is one of the world’s top 10 economies, it remains among the most unequal countries on the planet. While the mega-rich thrive, the desperately poor struggle to survive. Some 16 million people live in abject poverty in Brazil. In Brazil 3% of the population own more than two thirds of all arable land which has trapped rural labourers in poverty.

So how can we seek to be the kinds of people that God calls us to be in this very complex world in which my choices of shirt in my local clothing store impacts so profoundly on the lives of others who are in abject poverty or slavery in another part of the world? We can become disillusioned that the challenges around us seem to be so great and our influence so small.

A few weeks ago I know that some of you became involved in the campaign to save Meriam, that is a good thing and clearly public involvement changed opinion and caused that Christian to be freed. It was just a letter or an email or an online petition but it made a difference.

In Matthew 10 today, Jesus gives us more hope.

We are told that the act of giving a cup of water is recognised by God. What a small thing to give a cup of cold water ! Jesus emphasizes the same by his use of the word “even.”

We often imagine discipleship as requiring huge sacrifice or entailing great feats, and sometimes that is exactly what discipleship comes to. But here Jesus says, it’s nothing more than giving a cup of cold water to one in need.

We could expand it then couldn't we ?

  • It is an act of kindness - a hug to someone who is grieving.
  • A listening ear to someone in need of a friend.
  • Or offering a ride to someone without a car.
  • Or volunteering at Story Box or Open House
  • Or making a donation to Christian Aid

Discipleship doesn’t have to be heroic in the sense of going to a hostile country.

The life of faith is composed of a thousand small gestures. Except that, according to Jesus, there is no such things as a small gesture. Anything done in faith and love has eternal significance for the ones involved and, indeed, for the world God loves so much.

It is not our task to save the world, that is for Jesus, but we are encouraged to make a huge difference to the part of the world where we are and the people we meet . And so yes even a cup of cold water can make a huge and unexpected difference to those to whom we give it and, according to Jesus, such acts have eternal and consequences.

So many of you are already doing this in so many ways
You are already helping make making this world God loves so much a little better, a little more trustworthy, a little more joyful through their gestures of love, mercy, and compassion.

There is no small gesture,

  • hugs
  • helping hands
  • listening ears

These are all ways of caring for the world God loves so much.

There is also a little more going on here. Jesus knew that giving sustenance and support to the disciples would have been seen by many in the community as collaboration. They would have been making a sacrifice in support of mission, being prepared to stand up for their faith in Jesus. Are we willing to take risks and make sacrifices for our faith?