Lectionary Reading: Acts 7v55-60; Psalm 31v1-5 & 15-16; 1Peter 2v2-10; John14v1-14
Let us pray: Dear God, may we hear what you are saying to us today. Amen
A sermon from Lucy: Today’s readings make me feel uncomfortable about God’s plans and purposes for me.
In the first reading from the Book of Acts we hear about the murder of Stephen, a deacon of the Church. The high priest and council were not happy so they were interrogating Stephen. I find it really disturbing that when Stephen said he saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right-hand side of God; the spiritual leaders of God’s people dragged Stephen out and stoned him for saying what he saw. I think that Stephen knew he was going to die because we heard that he prayed for God to receive his spirit. I find this reading astonishing because even though the attack against him was vicious, Stephen asked God to forgive his attackers. This account leaves me feeling, what a brave and Godly person Stephen was. But, it also makes me feel alarmed because I do not want God to ask me to be martyr. I am too frightened of what that may mean and I do not want to suffer or get hurt.
Then we had the psalm. Now usually I love to read the psalms because I find in them all sorts of feeling and words that I need to use to express myself honestly with God. But today, I find the Psalm uncomfortable because the psalmist is asking God for help in a time of persecution alongside entrusting their spirit to God. This psalm makes me feel uncomfortable because I do not want to be persecuted and I do not want to die at the hands of persecutors..
Then, in the letter of Peter, I am asked to look at what God really wants of us. First, we are to mature by longing for spiritual nourishment and growing into salvation. Then we are to come to the living stone – the cornerstone precious to God. Then we are to be built into a spiritual house and become a holy priesthood. Then we are to offer acceptable sacrifices to God – as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, a people sent to proclaim the mighty acts of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light. But even though this is a really upbeat message, in the light of the earlier readings, I find myself thinking “What sort of sacrifices does God really want me to offer?” and in response I know that I do not want to do more than I feel ready for or comfortable with.
Finally, in the Gospel according to John, we hear that Jesus asked his disciples to trust and believe that he was going to his Father’s house, where there are many dwelling-places, to prepare a place for them and then he was going to return to collect them and take them there. In the past, this reading has always been one of reassurance, but again in the light of the earlier readings, I feel uncomfortable because this is not only a message about Jesus’ death but one about ours too. And, I find myself thinking, “Am I ready to die and face my maker”.
After a little while of thinking, it occurred to me that the real reason for my discomfort is not about being scared of being martyred or dying at the hands of persecutors. I simply am not ready to die just yet; even though, I truly believe and trust Jesus words (Gospel of John), that he is “the way, the truth and the life” and that he will return for us. I feel this way for a really deep and profound reason: for I want to be able to go to Church and worship God with others before I die.
So today, as I realise my own deepest desire, I pray for those who will die today without being able to make their confession before God, I pray for those who will die today alone, and I pray for those who will die today without being able to worship God with others. May God have mercy upon them, and you and me and all we pray for, Amen.
Let us pray: Jesus, you are the way, the truth and the life, you have opened the gate of everlasting life, fill our minds with good desires and help us to bring them to good effect so we walk in the way of Jesus, rejoice in his truth and share in his risen life. Amen