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There's no discouragement...

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sermon for the second Sunday after Epiphany (Mattins)
Do you get the impression that no-one is listening to you?

Getting yourself heard these days is getting harder and harder. There is a lot of noise in our society. If you have a message to get across, how do you do it?

There are advertising boards everywhere. There are so many television channels, now, all with nothing worth watching most of the time. There are voices coming from your phone, from social media. There are so many newspapers. And each of them has hundreds of voices telling you to listen to them and their mission to improve the world. How can you make yourself heard above the din?

[PAUSE]

Isaiah is one of those lucky folk to be given a vision of the Heavenly court. He sees someone called “The Servant” and it doesn’t take us long to hear that this servant of God is to be despised and rejected of men. This is Our Lord seen hundreds of years before His Incarnation, And what does He say?
“ I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain.”
It sounds very much like discouragement. If Our Lord suffers from discouragement then it stands to reason that we will too. Indeed, God promises that Isaiah’s message will not bring people back to God but rather harden their hearts against Him.

And that’s something we know from experience. Do you fancy going out into the street now and shouting “Glory to God in the Highest”? What will be the reaction? Will it be one of encouragement? The Church’s message of the Gospel is being distorted constantly through the noise of other messages. Falsehoods and fake news are obscuring the Word of God. Profanity and blasphemy are being presented alongside ikons of God’s love for the world. So why bother?

If even Our Lord faces frustration and discouragement, why bother?

[PAUSE]

Again, Isaiah is privileged to hear a conversation between two persons of the Holy Trinity. For the Father replies to His Son.
It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth…In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.
The Son is obedient to the Father and thus is His servant. He does what He has been told. The same is true for us, for if Our King Jesus is a servant, then so must we be if we accept Him as our king. Our business is to serve Him for the Glory of God. Our reason for being, our purpose, is solely for the good pleasure of God.

One of the messages that you will hear from the World around you is that results matter. Yet, that is not true. When we hear Our Lord tell us the parable of the talents, we realise it’s not the amount that we are given that matters, nor the amount that we make from what we are given: it’s that we do something with what we’re given.

When we listen to the Father, we hear Him say to the Son that it won’t just be the preserved of Israel that hear Him, but the Gentiles too, and that as a result, the suffering of people under the yoke of sin is destroyed – all because the Son is perfectly obedient to His Father.

The same is true for us too. We are not called to “succeed” whatever that might mean. We are called to be obedient to God, to keep faith with Him, to love Him and to love others. We are not to put any measure of success on what we do. If our voice is drowned out by the internet, at least it is still there for someone to stumble across. We may think that the Gospel we preach is lost in the noise, but it is not. If we are faithful to God, then our sound – His sound – will go out into all lands and His Word unto the ends of the World.

Faced with the tide of the world against Orthodox Christianity, it is only natural that we feel overwhelmed, frustrated and discouraged. Yet, St James reminds us “that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” We have to stick with it as an expression of our love for God and for no other purpose. The internet makes the whole world so small and we are said that we are part of a global community. If no prophet is accepted in his own country, then we are bound not to be heard very well in this global community. This is the fact

[PAUSE]

If this is the case, then this is the perfect reason to carry on. The world will not reward us for preaching the Gospel. If we expect a reward, then we are going to be disappointed. Nor should we expect a reward from God for preaching His Gospel. We already have more than any reward could be worth. We already have His love and His promise and no other reward comes near to that.

Let the world deride or pity us: in Christ we have all the encouragement we need to preach His truly Good News of His love.

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