Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!

Trinity 11
August 11, 2013, 3:57 pm
Filed under: Sermons

A sermon preached at AllHallows, Easton, Sunday 11th August 2013

I have been reading a book on the New Testament by one of the great scholars and teachers currently in the Church of England, Bishop Tom Wright. In order to introduce the place of Jesus, he outlines how the Jews of our Lord’s time thought about the world and their own place in God’s scheme.

In the beginning- the beginning of the Bible, as well as the beginning of all things- God creates the world, and creates human beings as his agents and stewards in developing the world as his garden and bringing him its fruits. Humanity is represented in the figure of Adam, who tends the garden in partnership with his wife Eve.

But things go wrong. Adam and Eve think they know better than God, and go badly astray. This is the “problem of evil”. What can God do about it? How can he put things right, and show that he is stronger than evil? The Bible first shows God calling Abraham, and promising him that through him and his descendants the world will be blessed. Abraham, says Bishop Wright, and Israel which descends from him, is going to be a sort of “Adam Mark II” to start again.

The rest of the Old Testament shows that “Adam Mark II” doesn’t do any better than “Adam Mark I”. Israel is always going astray, forgetting God or following false gods. But although Israel is unfaithful, God is not. God is always faithful to the promise he made to Abraham, God does not simply discard his children but finds ways to restore them.

The New Testament lesson (which we did not read, but which is on your pew-sheet) sees Abraham as a supreme example of the faith or trust which puts us in the right relationship with God. Faith and obedience go together. Adam disobeyed because he disbelieved God. He did not believe God’s warning, which was meant to protect him, not to condemn him. Abraham did believe God’s call, though he was (spiritually and geographically) in a far country, and had a long journey ahead of him.

St Paul tells us in several places that the real Adam- the ideal human being- is neither the original Adam nor the historic Abraham or Israel. It is Jesus the Messiah, whose obedience to God was absolute, even when it meant death. Jesus (along with Mary who is the New Eve) as it were re-creates the human race. We are in a right relationship with the Creator, we begin to tend God’s garden properly and bring forth its fruit, when we follow and model ourselves on Jesus.

That is why, in today’s Gospel, Jesus himself tells us not to be afraid. God is not grudging of his blessings. He wants to give us his kingdom. He wants us to be members of his family. Jesus tells us to sell our possessions- not literally, but in the sense of not clinging onto material things at all costs- and share what we have. The word “alms” means “works of mercy”. We are meant to use what we have in love and compassion for those who are in need. We exchange material goods for spiritual treasure: the approval of our heavenly Father.

At this stage of history, Jesus is (from a visible point of view) absent. By faith, of course, we should know that he is never really absent, always with us; but if we are too much in love with this world, we can forget that. Jesus tells us that we are like servants waiting for their master to return: a picture we may understand better if we relate it to some great house in the last century- Downton Abbey, perhaps. The master and mistress are away, but the butler and maidservants have to sit up and be ready for their return.

But there is a twist: when the master returns, and finds that the servants are all awake and alert, he makes them all sit down to a meal, and waits on them himself. He is not the least concerned for his own dignity, he treats his servants as if they were his own family.

And just as we are all relaxing again, and thinking, “Well, in that case he won’t really mind if he finds us dozing off,” Jesus changes the picture again. It is not the master coming back from an evening out, it is Burglar Bill breaking in when everyone is asleep.

Failure to listen, failure to keep awake: God wants us to be happy, but to bring this about he needs at least some co-operation from us. Abraham had to believe; but he also had to get up and go. It’s no use just listening to Jesus, if we don’t act on his words.


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Comment by licensedlayminister

sorry – I meant this to go under the article below

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