Christ our Saviour Lent 2 2017

March 16, 2017

I want to begin by setting you a small challenge. Can you remember what the first Bible verse was that you were asked to remember, knowing it so well that you could say it when asked. For some of us memory is no longer as clear and I don't mean just oh yes I remember that passage of scripture we have just heard, it is familiar. I mean actually knowing a verse or indeed several as being very special. Assuming of course you have had that challenge at any point in the past. I will come back to it and see if we have any volunteers to share it. 

 

One of the biggest frustrations I have working in a large firm is the corporate blame culture. No one is ever really wanting to take accountability and if something is not right it has to be someone else's fault. Indeed at my more cynical moments I reckon that sometimes we create layers of control so there is someone else to disperse the blame. And the biggest problem of this culture is that it stifles initiative and risk, everyone plays safe, does what is minimal in order not to be exposed. And you then end up with people at the end of chain who bear the responsibility for everything more than they rightly do have some  responsibility 

 

In the firm I  work for that is usually the drivers that feel the brunt although there are occasions that all too often that the controllers who are empowered to make decisions are then seen as the target. In a live dynamic situation, they have to make often very rapid and multitudinous decisions and it depends on the outcome of a whole series of actions whether that was a best action, a reasonable action or perhaps a poor action. If may even be a case of no action being taken. And if the balloon goes up, the enquiry and investigation follows along with an assumption that this is then a disciplinary process and the outcome is a sanction or in other words a punishment. When this process becomes too regular, a culture creeps in of avoiding decisions to avoid being blamed and so no progress is made.

 

When cultures are immersed in blame and retribution, of any lack of power to act for themselves, they become resistant, act minimally and are oppressed.  The response is usually then to regulate every little movement, to prescribe set formula for control and reduce levels of the business to an automonon level, drudgery, getting by. The law now stifles and oppresses instead of being just a reasonable arbiter by which to have a framework of acceptability. And those higher up the chain become very adept about using the power of argument to gain the position of absolution they require regardless of the wider outcome. 

 

You might see this to a certain point if you closely watch court proceedings. There are some people who have done a wrong but they may have a lawyer who can manipulate the written law and case history in order that they escape sanction, it almost feels like a debating chamber only between prosecutor and defence and your success stands on whether you can afford to secure a defender of sufficient skill. Your survival is costly. 

 

As anyone got a verse to share yet? If so hear it and discuss for a moment. Maybe we can think a little more. 

Chris R shared the passage citing Lords Prayer.

 

The people of Israel were Gods chosen people, full of promise yet as the years wore on, they lost their way somewhat, for sure they were law abiding for the most part but the structures of law had become such a burden that they were perpetually condemned by sin and regulation was extreme.  As a race they had erred many times and saw the times in exile as a form of God initiated punishment.  Even now at the time Jesus was in the world in human form, they were subjugated by foreign rule but in their own land and in the need to survive there were layers of exclusion and a lost people at the bottom of their chain. Society functioned but was it really as wholesome as God intended, was the Kingdom of God in place? There was no escape from past sins, a sense of hopelessness despite a society that did function on many levels. There was plenty of opportunity to live better and fertile ground for preachers such as John who called on people to repent of their sin and to be baptised so claiming the promise visibly of being in chance of knowing they were redeemable by God. 

Jesus is now at the early stage of his ministry, shortly to be baptised and validated publicly and in the Gospel of John which often recounts more with a theological than narrative basis, we have the visit of Nicodemus, by night, in secret, not openly and the discourse about earthly things which if not understood would mean no comprehension of heavenly things, today's Gospel reading. 

 

Anyone got a verse to share?

Martin shared Psalm 23

 

Maybe I will tell you mine.  At the age of about 7 onward till 16 I was in the campaigner youth movement, a uniformed Christian based gathering for young people not too dissimilar to Boys Brigade.  To formally enrol at that young age you had to recite John 3:16. One verse, one absolute mind blowing verse that in a few words tells the whole of the Gospel. God acting on the promise of salvation. God on earth not in a terrifying blaze of glory but in humility does ultimately take on suffering. Verse 17 which was part of having to learn 14-18 later in another age group is God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. In fact by the time I was about 13 I came once to London to Royal Albert Hall for a recitation competition where on stage I recited from memory the whole of John 3 1-18.  I cannot of the top of my head give that 18th verse today. I did not win the prize, that went to a girl from Northern Ireland whose accent made it almost seem like a song as well as being accurate. I loved the experience though and it still featured these two verses 16 and 17.  for God so loved the world ..... that the world through him might be saved.

 

Christ our Saviour. 

 

I read about this verse the other day, though I cannot remember the source now. I think it started with some bash the asylum seekers thread in the Daily Mail that then went onto ridicule that there are many people come to Britain that are active members of churches and in fact there are whole Iranian based fellowships and congregations particularly up north where part of the service will be read in Farsi as well as in English. The thread assumed that the only reason people came to Christ was to avoid deportation.   A more enlightened comment in the same subject was in the guardian which explored that many of these new christians had started in the journey of faith in Iran, in dangerous conditions and one account in particular said that the first verse learnt was John 3 16, the verse of hope and in fact it was only the later freedoms to associate in Britain that provided a growing church. I will stop there before I get tangled in condemning our Immigration Tribunals who now seem to think that Christianity and level of faith is perfectly able to be measured.

 

The first thing so many learn is this simple reason of why God in Jesus was amongst us, to make the ultimate sacrifice to end the history of built up sin, to free people from an inbuilt blame culture, to give everyone life before death and to know that we have life everlasting on offer through Christ.   We remember this every week as we share in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, coming together to take bread and wine or a blessing, as a community remembering Christ as he commanded before going on to the sacrifice, humbling ourselves and earnestly looking to accept the promise of the fullness of life always on offer from God.  We are not perfect by any means but we are not condemned. We have the opportunity.

 

As we progress through this lent season building up to the annual visible celebration of the wondrous sacrifice and redemption of us by God in Jesus at Easter, we consider all that the cross meant, in sacrifice, in Christ being our Saviour and more. 

 

  I hope in one of the weeks ahead that we have the hymn to sing Man of Sorrows What a Name, as this expresses Christ as Saviour so well

 

“Man of Sorrows,” what a name

For the Son of God who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim!

  Hallelujah! what a Savior!

2

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned He stood;

Sealed my pardon with His blood;

  Hallelujah! what a Savior!

3

Guilty, vile, and helpless, we,

Spotless Lamb of God was He;

Full redemption—can it be?

  Hallelujah! what a Savior!

4

Lifted up was He to die,

“It is finished!” was His cry;

Now in heaven exalted high;

  Hallelujah! what a Savior!

5

When He comes, our glorious King,

To His kingdom us to bring,

Then anew this song we’ll sing

  Hallelujah! what a Savior!

 

So one final verse to share that we as a church should consider as a mission statement 

 

2 Corinthians 5:20

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

 

amen 

 

 

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