Third Sunday before Lent
Introduction and Call to Worship
Today we have a choice. We choose life when we are faithful to God, and learn to love our neighbour as ourselves.
Today’s Bible Readings
First Reading Deuteronomy 30:15-end When we obey God’s commands we will be blessed with peace. Each day God gives us a choice between good and evil, life and death.
Or Ecclesiasticus 15:15-end We have the choice to keep God’s commandments and act faithfully. Stretch out your hand to make your choice.
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 We are simply God’s servant’s – each doing work for the Lord. There is no difference, as we are all working together for God’s glory.
Gospel Matthew 5:21-37 We judge others when they commit murder, although we daily perform the equivalent when we mistreat and hate one another. We are told to go and make peace with one another.
HOMILY “First be reconciled to your brother or sister.” (Matthew 5:24)
Last Christmas Day, the world lost the talented singer, George Michael. George had many hits but one of my favourite songs was called ‘Freedom’.
Freedom, as our readings show, can be a difficult gift to appreciate. For as St Paul reminds us in our second reading, God has given us the freedom to put up or break down rules and barriers that either help or prevent us from having a relationship with him.
Thankfully, here in Guildford, our Diocese has launched the thought provoking “Transforming Church, Transforming Lives” initiative, which gives us the opportunity to examine and focus on the future spiritual growth and mission of God’s kingdom here in Thorpe.
Picking up the gauntlet, last month the PCC held a vision morning. During the conversation, there was a general feeling that hospitality and a devotion to the Sacraments were our strong points here at St Mary’s. At the same time, it was felt that it would be good to inspire spiritual hunger and equip our faithful.
Bearing this in mind, the picture language that St Paul uses in our second reading of a community feeding upon a mixed diet of milk and solid foods feels really appropriate for our current situation here at St Mary’s. For if we think about it, we are all at different stages of our journey with God. Some have been coming here for as long as they can remember and are clearly munching on solid food, while others may have just popped their heads around the door for the first time and as a result find themselves wondering about all the delights being offered on the menu. Now, although I haven’t personally brought a baby up, I know, as we all do, that loving parents don’t stand back and watch their child struggle with the transition from milk to solid foods; rather they automatically put their own needs to one side, roll up their sleeves and give their child manageable size bites to digest. And the outcome of this is both sides develop a much stronger mutual bond of love.
We know that Lent is just around the corner, and once again we will be running our study groups on a Wednesday morning and a Thursday evening. We all know time is precious, but we also know that many of our fellow brothers and sisters around the world would just love to have the freedom to meet and theologically grow together as family.
The idea of studying and enjoying fellowship together, as a family, is a great way to enhance our relationship with God. However, as verse twenty-four of our Gospel: ‘First be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come offer your gift’, reminds us, sometimes we can place obstacles between God and ourselves. Thankfully, through the Sacrament of Confession, help is at hand. For through this marvellous and generous gift God gives each one of us the freedom to experience his healing grace and love.
Now, given our theme of Freedom, the Church knows that the Sacrament of Confession isn’t for everyone. Nevertheless, we can still all encounter God’s forgiveness: At the beginning of each Eucharist we are invited and encouraged to come together as a family, to publicly acknowledge and share our shortcomings, and then God lovingly pours out his forgiveness upon each and every one of us.
All the same, as we know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Once we have received the freedom and deliverance of God’s forgiveness we are then charged with the challenging task of showing the same level of kindness towards those who may have wronged or misunderstood us.
Yes, at times, offering others freedom through forgiveness will be stressful and difficult. However, I would like to suggest that, by embarking upon this journey together, not only will we witness the life of this Church community being transformed but our own lives and those on the receiving end of our love will be transformed, too. For as the book of Acts reminds us: it’s more blesséd to give than to receive.
In our relationships, Christ’s practical advice is that we behave with integrity and arrive at truth.
We go to great lengths to avoid putting our relationships with one another right, but with God’s guidance there is always a way.