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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Providence, Brexit and the Gospel

It is pertinent before saying anything else this morning to pass some comments on our referendum results and the resulting Brexit reality which has thrown our country and our continent into turmoil. There is uncertainty, fear, division, (along country lines in the Union, division along generational lines, division along racial lines), there is anger and a degree hopelessness regarding any quick resolution. While none of us would wish for these things ... we must see them for what they are. And what are they: they are fertile soil for the gospel of hope, the gospel of peace, for the gospel of reconciliation, for the gospel of perfect love which drives out all fear. Brexit turmoil is an opportunity for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God to take root and grow and we, the church, we, Meadow Way Chapel, need to seize this opportunity with everything we have. It cannot be business as usual if we truly believe we are the bearers of Good News.

So, we continue our series The Nature of God and today we look at Providence and we have 3 readings to focus our attention: Genesis 22:1-19 Exodus 16:1-35 and Matthew 6:9-13, 6: 25-34 and the title of my sermon is: Providence, Brexit and the Gospel




So ... what is providence?
If we asked our senior school pupils to use providence in a sentence, how would they fare? I have an idea that like many "religious" words we use, many folk might not know what providence actually means. At the root of the word providence is provide and of course, provision.
So ... the providence of God is the provision of God.

A dictionary definition is thus:
Providence:  (often initial capital letter) the foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth; a manifestation of divine care or direction.

In our first reading, Genesis 22:1-19 , we have the story of Abraham and Isaac going to Mt Zion to offer a sacrifice which it would seem is Isaac himself, until the LORD provides a lamb:

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’ 

The Hebrew for The Lord Will Provide is Jehovah Jireh, which is the name of a well known song of worship. 



In our second reading,Exodus 16:1-35, we have the story of the miraculous provision in the desert of manna which the people had to collect each morning, but only enough for each day. When they collected more than they needed, in other words when they collected what they wanted rather than what they needed, it went rotten. God was establishing here the Divine economics of daily bread, daily provision of what we need ... and so Jesus will later teach us to pray: Give us this day our daily bread in our third reading which is from Matthew 6:9-13, 6: 25-34.

This is all God's providence and we find it on display throughout the Scriptures, God's provision for His creation. David discovered this:


The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want ... better translated into English as The Lord is my Shepherd I have everything I need (Ps 23:1)

The Providence of God: Our God is Jehovah Jireh, our provider; He gives us daily bread; in Him we have absolutely everything we need.
The question is:

Is this true? Because if it is ... it is really good news, isn't it?


 Have we forgotten that we are the bearers of good news. The Greek word
 
means "good news" and it wasn't a religious word. We translate it as "good news" or "gospel" and from the Greek we get the word evangelical and evangelist, but the word just means good news. "Did you hear the euangelion, the good news, the gospel?" "No, tell me." "Ireland got into the last 16 of the Euros." "WOW!!! What good news, what euangelion, what gospel. Ireland into the last 16!"

Have we forgotten that, because of the providence of God, God's divine care for us, that we have good news.

Still in Matthew 6, hear the words of the Lord Jesus Christ:

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

‘And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


Our country is worried, people in Hellesdon are worried. Britons who get their pension paid to them on the continent will get 20% less this month end; petrol is going up; etc, etc. Does Jesus say to us and can we say to others:

‘Therefore I tell you, (in the light of the referendum) do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying (about the consequences of the referendum) add a single hour to your life? 
‘And (in the light of the referendum) why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So (in the light of the referendum) do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” (or "Will interest rates go up and if they do, how will I afford my mortgage? or "Will the drop in the FTSE index affect my pension?") For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore (in the light of the referendum) do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

or is Jesus lying, or being economical with the truth. NO !!! Because of the providence which flows from the love and the grace of God WE HAVE A MESSAGE OF GOD'S PROVISION FOR ALL OUR NEEDS. He can, if you let Him and trust Him, provide for your every need. He did for Christ in His life, He did for Christ in His suffering and death. As we have seen in the life of Paul as we've journeyed through Acts, God provided what he needed, whether it was shelter, or God's presence and comfort while being whipped within an inch of his life, God provided what he needed (not what he wanted, that's not God's promise, so he had to suffer dreadfully throughout his ministry with the thorn in his side), but he had everything he needed, even the grace and strength  to continue when he didn't get what he wanted ... because his God and our God is the God who provides.

We have so much more to offer people than the forgiveness of sins and life after death. We have good news in these times of bad news, we have abundant life for those just scraping by in life, we have good news.

Brothers and sisters these times are an opportunity to show the world around us in Hellesdon and beyond, that we have good news ... let's spread the good news.

Quite possibly as you hear all this you are thinking to yourself: "I don't have what he's asking me to share with the world around us. My testimony is really only about the forgiveness of my sins. I don't know God as Provider and so .... I worry, ... I worry a lot. I don't have deep inner peace even though I worship the Prince of Peace, so ... I find myself worrying ... and ... the worry steals, like a thief, what little joy permeates my life."


To you Jesus says: ... seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Paul tells us that: "the kingdom of God is about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit," (Rom 14:17). If you are saved God provides, through the work of Christ, righteousness, peace and joy... for you. If you are missing these in your life, you know it, and I'm going to close this teaching on the Providence of God by asking God to open your eyes and heart to the provision He has for you and to pour these afresh into you. If perhaps you've not yet sought God at all, I invite you to consider taking that step today as well.

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