Sermon preached by
The Reverend Charles Royden
20 February 2000
2 Corinthians Chapter 2:17-22
When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, "Yes, yes" and "No, no"? But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not "Yes" and "No," but in him it has always been "Yes." For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
You probably all have seen the advertisement of the man who comes out of a casino or something in the early hours of the morning, his girlfriend or wife has left his, he has lost his money, his everything has evaporated and he walks down the road destitute. The caption then reads,
'if only everything in life was as reliable as a
If there was one word which I was looking for to describe what this passage today was on about, it would be reliability. I have never been embarrassed to say that I was a Christian. I have never been ashamed to say that I was a Christian. I have most certainly never felt intellectually embarrassed to say that I was a Christian. As a Vicar, once or twice I have felt sorry for other people because they are not quite sure what to say or how to act, usually because they have a misunderstanding or a guilty conscience or something. But it gives me great pleasure to be in the employment of God, because I know God to be reliable. Working in the service of the One who created heaven and earth is undoubtedly good employment. Actually you may know that I am not really employed. According to the Inland Revenue I am self-employed and I have to fill I tax form every year to say how much I have spent and how much I have been paid etc. etc. Strictly speaking I am paid a stipend which is a sum of money given so that I do not have to work. Try explaining that to the IR!
But like it or not I actually feel that I am directly engaged in working front line for God. That is very satisfying. The reason why no clergyman to my knowledge has ever gone on strike in this Diocese is because there is an understanding that you work with a heavenly employer, and when we see what the boss went through for us, there are no complaints about conditions of service. We know that he proved himself to be reliable. I can fully recommend working in the ministry and I do frequently. I am supposed to be showing posters around this month to encourage others, so please do be encouraged.
But actually it's not just the paid clergy, but all of us who call ourselves Christians, who are engaged in the work of the Lord. And there is not one of us who can claim that we have a complaint against the management, God is reliable. That is what the reading from 2 Corinthians today tells us.
God is faithful to his promises, we have a God who will not
let us down.
In every situation of life God is reliable and the guarantee of that is the life of Jesus.
As a father I often let my children down. Normally I simply forget, 'Daddy will you do this for me' or 'that for me' and I forget. Or 'Daddy will you do this' and I say that old familiar line 'wait and see'. The Bible passage today says that God is not a 'wait and see' God. God has fulfilled his promises, continues to fulfil his promises and will never let us down.
I wonder if you have heard children speaking these days. One of their frequent expressions, often when they win something, or when something comes together, when they make something happen, or if they are on the side that scores the goal. You may see a tennis player doing it after a great shot as they walk back across the court. It very unsporting and it means that they have just scored a brilliant shot and stuffed their opponent. At these times the word said is YESSSSSS. Usually it is accompanied by a triumphant pulling up of the forearm towards the shoulder.
Well that is very much the expression which is being made by the writer of the letter to the Corinthians today - YES. It is an expression of supreme confidence that God is faithful and to be trusted and if you like we are on the winning side. You have nothing to fear because God is reliable. Now it might not seem at times as though we are on the winning side. The early Christians who were thrown to the lions probably never felt that they were on the winning side. But they were and they knew it and that is why they were prepared to lay down their lives.
Early Christians martyrs prayed for those who were killing them, why! Because they were assured in their own minds that they were doing the will of God and that ultimately the battle belonged to God. And so today we need to hear afresh that message which resounds across the centuries and encourages and assures us. Jesus is God' s proof of his faithfulness and commitment to us. Jesus as the Son of God promises us that God is faithful and does not give to us false promises.
Today we must be confident of those promises in all the situations of life—
1. When we ask for forgiveness and have weight upon our hearts we must have confidence that our sins are forgiven. We may feel guilt but we must hear that promise that we are forgiven. Week by week we say our confession and a minister says the words of confession. Its not the minister offering forgiveness, that is the minister speaking Gods words of forgiveness, because we know that God is faithful to his promises.
2. When we seek to obey Gods call, whatever that may be and do the right things with our lives, then we must be confident of God's promises that he will be with us always and give us the strength that we need.
3. When we have lost somebody dear to us, when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, when we are so low that we feel alone and afraid. Then we must be confident that God honours his promise that he walks with us, at the very worst crises in our lives.
In all of these things Jesus is God's assurance of his Yes to our needs, whatever those needs might be. Paul uses some words which have a legal and contractual nature, and the significance is to show that God is reliable, he will do what he has promised. His spirit is a down payment, it is a guarantee that God will do as he says.