Sermon for 5th February 2023

Readings; Matthew 5, 13-20, 1 Corinthians 2, 1-16, Isaiah 58, 1-14

I shall add very little to our readings today, because, taken together, the three lectionary readings we’ve heard today are a sermon in themselves. Isaiah, Jesus in Matthew’s gospel and Paul were speaking directly to the faithful of their day, and they didn’t mince their words. There are words of praise for those who are truly faithful- the salt of the earth, the light on the hill, the spiritual who discern, those who truly honour the sabbath, those who do work amongst the poor and oppressed.

But for those who are not faithful, or pretend to be, or just go through the motions of attending worship on the Sabbath, the condemnation is uncompromising. Salt that’s lost its taste, a lamp hid under a bushel, the unspiritual who will not receive God’s gifts of the Spirit, those who claim to be Godly but fail to feed the poor or let the oppressed go free.

When we read these words, it’s very easy for us to distance ourselves from the words. We contextualise and think they of course were being written to the people of the times, unfaithful Israel, the early church, the early disciples, lessons learnt that have led to the church as it is today.

But the truth is, if we believe the scriptures to be “God breathed”, if we are willing to use extracts of the word of God to otherwise justify our actions, our views, our beliefs or even our doctrines, then these words ring true for us, as much as they did for the readers or listeners of the times.

And they were written to the faithful.

And they were uncompromising to those who claimed to be faithful, but did not live out their faith, those who claimed to be spiritual, but in truth showed no gifts of the Spirit, those who attended the Sabbath, but their lives belied a self-interest and ignoring of the demands of God to live out his social good news.

Indeed, such words echo the criticism of much of the world, particularly of young people, that is cast on churchgoers. I’m sure you hear it, I certainly do- “The church is full of hypocrites” people say, or “They claim to be Christian but look at how they argue”. Indeed, sadly here in Sark, many look at the churches and openly ridicule those who attend, and you know it, and I know it.

And unless we are truthful with ourselves and recognise and take heed of words such as those in the readings today, individually, and as a church, then I’m afraid the chastising of these readings will be far more relevant than the praise, and the criticisms cast by society will stick, and the gospel will go unheard.

So all I’m going to say is, which would you prefer to be- the salty salt, the light on the hill, the spiritual who receive gifts of the Spirt, the ones who receive God’s wisdom, the faithful who do God’s work amongst the poor and oppressed, or  would you prefer to be amongst the hypocrites.

Strong words, but not mine. They are right there in black and white on the pages of the Bible we read and should revere.

So let’s change people’s view of us. Individually, and as a church. Let’s make the right choice of what sort of faithful people we are.

Let’s choose to be truly faithful.