Commitments of Faith: Unique Presence

What sparks of memories in your mind?  Symbols, photographs, music – explainMy poor mother-in-law is often teased by her family because when she is trying to remember events, her helpful family always ask her what she was wearing.  This is her memory aid.  Some of us are great at remembering birthdays or where we hid the sellotape.  Nowadays when we are asked for phone numbers most of us can’t remember them because we have become so used to speed dial with modern phones. Today is a day of remembrance – for many of us we remember something that happened long before we were born, whilst others remember ration books, when bananas were impossible to get and when chocolate really was a treat.  Families up and down the land though are remembering those who have died in far more recent wars like Iraq or Afghanistan.  Remembering can be good fun but it can also be very poignant. 

However today we are thinking about what it means for Christians to have a unique presence in our world.  And that is where the other element of remembering comes in. 

 ‘Those who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat it’ – a phrase we often hear at this time – said by George Satayana.  However remembering it is not enough – we have to do something.  Something that we considered earlier in the video presentation we watched. It is not simply enough to have faith – we have to do something with it.  Faith that simply exists, that we remind ourselves about each Sunday morning is rather like remembering that people died in the name of freedom and then doing nothing to help those who are still not free. God made us all to enjoy life in all its fullness.  Humanity has worked hard at times to destroy that enjoyment but within the majority of us we actually try really hard to make life enjoyable.  We don’t like to see people suffering.  We rally round those in trouble – we search for the missing, we have high expectations of our helpers be they medical, educational, the police or government at all levels.  We gather in numbers to remember those who fight our physical battles on other people’s battlefields.  God has high expectations for Christians.  He knows that life is difficult.  He knows that often we deal with extremely unfortunate circumstances.  But God is present at all times.  Jesus is our earthly role model – a human being whose birth we celebrate next month.  He knew the pain of loss as well as the celebration of love.  He reached out to the unlikely, the unloved and the unwanted on a regular basis.  And through Jesus God reaches out to us.  We will not attain the perfection of Jesus here on earth though we are to strive for it.  Our humanness will always go against us.  We pray for peace today but we fight with our families, our friends, our colleagues, and even with those in church.

And that is why Paul describes us as clay jars with treasure hidden inside.  God’s great power is in within each of us who truly believe in him.  And it is when we let God’s power emerge that we become a unique presence in the world. Firstly we have a different outlook on life.  We don’t live as if this is all there is.  We live with the expectation that all of this will fade away and what will replace it will be amazing.  Can you imagine what that kind of living is like?  One way of looking at it might be thinking about the National Lottery – I know that many people buy lottery tickets and in that purchase there is a hope (however fragile) that you will win and your life will become better.  Take that feeling and magnify it – you buy your ticket knowing you will win.  That is the outlook on life that a Christian has.  Yes we face difficulties, yes our bodies get older and frailer but our spirit is being made new every day and we are gaining an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles.  We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see.  What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.

Having this different perspective on life will impact on how we deal with our troubles and concerns.  Peter writes we must always be able to explain the hope we have.  When you step back from being so caught up in believing that this difficult world with all its problems, and reflect on what is to come, you suddenly want to share that hope with other people.  You don’t want to keep it a secret.  You might want to keep it a secret that you won the lottery – but in the majority of cases I’m sure that you have a plan of what you would do with the money if you won.  You might want to treat yourselves, but most people would want to at least share their windfall with their family and close friends.  You want to enjoy what you have and share it with those who are important to you. And that is the second element to a unique presence. 

Being a Christian shouldn’t be a secret.  If you are truly caught with God you cannot help but share the good news.  If you meet God you want everyone to know.  Britishness and churchyness have done their damage over the years and made many Christians reticent in sharing.  However if you ever met a new Christian you will find they can’t help but share God with you.  Paul wants to share the Good News of God even though it may cost him his life. 

Thirdly we are freed from ourselves.  Now what do I mean by that.  None of us are perfect – we might try but we are not.  I dressed up as Mary Poppins for the Heroes party we held on Halloween.  She has always been one of my favourite role models and I love it when she pulls out the yardstick to measure the children.  When they ask her what she is – she measures herself and she is practically perfect in every way.  I wish.  I like to believe I am but I am not. Many people avoid getting to know God because they don’t think they are worthy enough.  Paul reminds us that Jesus paid the price for our sin and because of that we can have a relationship with God – no matter our past or even our present.  Yes we have to change our ways – but God’s way is a way of peace with him and that means he will help us with the elements of our lives we struggle with.  People who make a commitment to Jesus later in life often want help with a particular personality trait and realise that they need help.  And sometimes things that they did frequently become less important or stop altogether because having a relationship with God changes our priorities.  For example – Sunday mornings become about church and not long lies or shopping trips or football.  They thirst for knowledge and support from other Christians. I want to share with you another passage to help us reflect on this unique presence Christians are called to have:

Read Matthew 5:43-48

This is such a powerful wee passage and such a reminder about the unique presence Christians should have.  It is not enough to love the people that are easy to love.  We must love the people it is difficult to love.  We must be willing to stretch out the hand of friendship to our enemies.  We must be the first to build the bridges in damaged relationships.  And we certainly shouldn’t be undermining each other.  The biggest criticism levelled at Christians is that they don’t practice what they preach.  We preach an all-powerful God and then don’t trust him.  We preach forgiveness but maintain grudges.  We preach eternal life yet live like this is life is all there is.  The day of salvation is here – perhaps the time to grab hold of our faith – to make a commitment to look after our environment, to give generously of our time, talents and money to God and to make an effort to develop our relationship with God. Then we can be a unique presence in our world – a presence of peace, of justice, of reconciliation, of hope and of love.  God made the world – God saved the world, and through us God can restore the world until that time he calls time and we won’t remember pain, grief, death or sorrow.

We will live in perfect harmony and love with God and with each other. 

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