Sermon podcast: 4 before Lent30 Jan 2017 By Sermon Podcasts
Richard Clark, Team Rector of Redditch, 5 February 2017
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So we come to the fourth Sunday before Lent. We’ve got past Candlemas and it’s a slightly different time of year. We had an early Easter last year; this is a late one and so we get more Sundays in the run up to Lent. And for this particular one the gospel reading has two prongs to it and there is quite a lot of challenge in a small number of verses.
Verses 13-16 encourage us to make people aware of how important the Christian faith is by deed and word, so that we might truly shine in the world. We are warned not to hide Jesus, the light of the world, but tell others about Him and about what we do in His name. There is a warning, though; we mustn’t give up and lose our saltiness, but persevere in the faith. So each one of us is not just responsible for living a Christian life and being a witness to the truth about Jesus, but is also responsible for our own spiritual refreshment so that we keep our Godly flavour in a sceptical society.
It has been a virtual taboo to discuss religion in some circles, but that is pretty much the opposite of what the New Testament tells us to do. Let us be proud about Jesus and all the wonderful things that he has done.
Jesus came to fulfil the Law and the Prophets, but he also taught us to keep the commandments of the Law. Well, how do we understand that? Article 7 of the Book of Common Prayer tells us that:
“although the law is given from God by Moses as touching ceremonies and rites do not bind Christians – which means that we don’t have to do any of the sacrificial bits - yet notwithstanding no one whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral”.
In other words, Jesus wants His Church to obey His commands; but one of His commands is to obey all the moral commands of the Old Testament. That is why it says in verse 19:
"Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the Kingdom of heaven."
So, that leads us to three quite challenging questions.
Firstly, how can we be more righteous than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as Jesus wants us to be? I think it’s got something to do with the reason that Jesus came to earth.
Secondly, what are the commands that we might find most difficult to teach to young people today?
And linked to that - if a moral command of the Bible is something that others might not want to hear, is that a reason not to talk about it?
Jesus doesn’t always make life comfortable for us, but he does want the best for us.