Your task is onerous, generally thankless, and oftentimes personally depleting
Sermon Preached by Bishop Stuart Robinson at the
Opening of the 45th Session of Parliament – Ecumenical Service
August 30th 2016
Jeremiah 18:1-10; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; Matthew 5:1-12.
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Excellencies, honoured guests, elders and custodians, sisters and brothers in Christ:
Increasingly I wake to reports of events and geo-political ructions that leave me reeling and perplexed.
And I include in that, recent revelations pertaining to my own denomination wherein defenceless little ones and other vulnerable people have been treated with contempt and great disdain.
Such selfishness is reprehensible and inexcusable.
That said, I am sobered and heartened by the readings from Jeremiah and the Psalms that have been set down for today.
They recall the fact that God is sovereign; he is able to bring great good out of that which is confused and vile.
Further, God calls each of us, whom he has ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, – to align our wills with his ‘precious thoughts’ (to quote the Psalmist).
Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 are a fine starting point.
Now, this august gathering comprises busy people with responsibilities that influence and impact our nation and our world. Thank you for your willingness to serve and to lead – and to listen.
Your task is onerous, generally thankless, and oftentimes personally depleting. Right?
Hence, the value of Jesus’ famous ‘beatitudes’, from Matthew 5:
Those who are refreshed and restored in their relationship with God - the source of true happiness or blessing - are those who, in the first instance, recognise their own spiritual poverty and look to God for mercy and grace; they are those who mourn the true state of their hearts – and through God in Christ, they receive, as a gift, comfort and forgiveness.
And that is the fillip for meekness; not weakness, mind, but intentional submission to God’s design: meekness. Hence, a longing, or a hunger and a thirst, for righteousness – or Christ-likeness.
Evidence of such Christ-likeness is mercy and forgiveness.
It doesn’t come naturally, does it?
As Jesus forgave those who violently rejected and crushed him - the means by which our sin is forgiven - we are to be conduits of love and beneficence (and I have no doubt that this 45th Session of Parliament will afford a great many such opportunities!).
And that’s why purity of heart – or transparency and sincerity – is elevated as a virtue by Jesus.
It means our efforts to be reconcilers and peacemakers (in response to God’s making peace with us through Christ) will be seen for what they are – the marks or distinguishing characteristics of the children of God: image bearers of our Heavenly Father. Remarkable!
Last, discipleship and leadership after the pattern of Jesus, is costly.
Live in this counter-cultural way and you will be misunderstood.
Your motives will be questioned.
You may even be reviled and with the prophets of old and with believers who live this very day in oppressive regimes, persecution may be your lot.
Because, you’ve been called of God to be agents of transformation and hope.
Your reward is in heaven; rejoice and be glad that even though accolade and approbation may elude you; you are in fact advancing God’s kingdom.
Our task, and the Scriptures are quite insistent on this (I Timothy 2), is that we – with intent – offer prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving for you and all in authority; praying that together we might live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (And we’ll do that again, presently).
May God give you great wisdom in your decisions and ministrations this Session; may you know Christ’s grace and favour in this high and honourable calling.
The Lord be with you.