A sermon for Morning Prayer, 19th February 2020
Psalm 72 / James 1.19-27 / Mark 8.22-26
A friend of mine has been having a difficult time recently and ended up in hospital for two weeks.
She’s now back home and getting better but it was a massive shock to her and her family.
A further complication, though, is that before all this happened she felt she was being called to do a new big work for God, but now that work seems beyond her and so she’s confused.
I don’t know what the answer to her dilemma is, but it’s got me wondering about what God wants from us.
Doing for God
Do we have to be doing great things for God or is it enough to be an ordinary person doing normal things in an everyday life?
We hear a lot about heroes of faith who do wonderful things, like Solomon in Psalm 72, being a good and wise king.
He judges with righteousness, provides justice for the poor, brings his people wealth, rescues those in need and brings down oppressors, with care for even the most insignificant person.
Then there’s Jesus in the gospel reading, healing a blind person while passing through a village.
And James charges us to care for orphans and widows, that is the people who are most vulnerable and needy in society, while also doing the very difficult task of keeping ourselves from saying things we shouldn’t.
So if you’re not dispensing good things from on high, or able to perform miracles, and if you have only a limited number of things you can do because of circumstances of your life, personality or resources, what then?
This also has a personal dimension for me in that I’m in the early stages of considering whether God is calling me to explore other forms of ministry, and I’m very conscious of my own limitations and what I can and can’t offer.
But perhaps we can find hope in a small word near the beginning of James’s letter – “Beloved”.
This one word speaks volumes about who we are and our relationship with God.
When someone is your ‘beloved’ their welfare is your concern.
When they are hurting, you feel it too, and what you want for them is things that will help them flourish, grow and be happy.
So if we are God’s beloved, and the whole story of salvation tells us that we are, then God wants what is good for us, indeed our welfare is his priority, even if it doesn’t always seem like it, such as when we end up ill in hospital.
Sometimes what’s best for us is to be challenged to move on to something new, to be stretched out of our comfortable ruts, to find out that we can do more than we thought was possible, or even to be stopped in our tracks.
But at the same time God doesn’t push us too far, doesn’t want us trying to do things he hasn’t set out for us to do, for that will only lead to heartache and disappointment.
So while the Bible stresses that our lives should be spent in service of God and others, it doesn’t say anywhere that we all have to do everything.
In fact, all we have to do is take the opportunities to serve that are in front of us, whether big or small, do what God puts in our hearts and minds, and what he makes it possible for us to do, remembering that the task of saving the world doesn’t fall to any one of us but to him.
As I’ve heard it put before, “There’s only one Saviour, and I’m not him”.
So yes, let’s do what we can to follow God’s will by caring for others and trying to make our bit of the world a better place, but also give thanks to God that ultimately everything is in his safe hands.