This sermon was preached
Readings: Ephesians 2:19-22, Mt 28:16-20
You are no
longer foreigners and aliens,
but fellow-citizens with God's people and members of God's household….
built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
At our Star Trek Safari Supper last night
I had the unnerving experience of being served coffee
by an Extra Terrestrial being looking amazingly like
a cross between Darth Vader and Maureen Coleman.
not actually have extra-terrestrial aliens to cope with in real life,
but we still manage to alienate (that is to treat as alien)
and exclude many of our own human race:
The crew of
the Star Ship Enterprise always showed respect for those of other
Here on spaceship earth, we seem less tolerant.
We are approaching the first anniversary of the London
It is also a week when we mourn for picnicking children blown up in Gaza
and for those who took their own lives in Guantanamo Bay.
Yet again we are reminded of the spiral of violence and
which seems so often to overwhelm spaceship earth.
be easy for us in this country to wrap ourselves in our world cup flags
and blame everyone else.
But we must share the blame.
British politicians seem to be vying with each other
to see who can sound toughest on immigration, asylum and deportation.
Rightly or wrongly the message seems to be that as a nation
we don’t really want to help foreigners and aliens,
and their only hope is that we are
even more inefficient than we are intolerant…
Have you noticed how literature about the poor
and the disadvantaged in our society
now talks interchangeably about poverty, deprivation and “social exclusion” –
a recognition that we exclude the most needy within our own society
just as we eject those we most fear from outside
Church Anniversary Sunday,
and so let’s turn to our text from Ephesians.
This passage makes it absolutely crystal clear that the Church is not like this.
“You are no longer foreigners and aliens”
All are welcome in God’s family –
there is no barrier to those seeking a place in the Church of Christ –
Jew or Gentile, Slave or free, rich or poor, saint or sinner – all are welcome.
are in any way mired in sin and failure, you are still welcome.
Whoever you are, God will never reject you,
never lose your name on his computer,
never tear up your heavenly visa
God forget about you? –
No – he has counted every hair on your head.
God close the border to you?
No - he will offer you citizenship of Heaven.
Thank God for that! That is Gospel for me! Why? Because
· I am the prisoner needing release from my sins and sorrows
· I am the alien in a far country with no rightful claim on God’s mercy
· One day if not now I may be the man in the ditch on the Jericho Road,
the doors are open and all may come in, then –
amazing grace - maybe even I may enter!
Grouch Marx famously declared that he would not want to belong any club
that would have him as a member.
start excluding people from Church because they are not good enough,
we will be in danger of bolting and barring the doors
and find that we are out in the cold on the wrong side of all our security barriers.
But that is not God’s way with us –
The choir have sung that wonderful setting of Psalm 139
Whither shall I go from thy spirit?
or whither shall I flee from thy presence? Lord, thou art there.
If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me;
even the night shall be light about me.
Yea, the darkness is no darkness with thee
but the night shineth as the day:
If I take the wings of the morning, Thou art there, O Lord.
matters not where we are spiritually, economically, morally or politically,
we are still loved by God and he still wants us in his family.
on this Church Anniversary, we thank God that we are accepted –
part of God’s family, his household, wayward but adopted children, citizens of heaven.
And as I
hope our jokey drama this morning may clear,
we are to build our Church on the precepts of the Gospel
and not the Home Office.
Christians we are called to welcome and accept
all those who might be excluded or marginalised -
those from other places
those who are sinners
those who are socially excluded
No longer aliens, we are called to be God’s dwelling
If you don’t know who Shiloh Nouvel
then you obviously do not read Hello magazine.
Shiloh Nouvel is the new baby born this week to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt –.
Shiloh is also the name of an ancient Israelite Tent of
a Holy Place and Temple dating back to the days of Joshua,
before the Israelites conquered Jerusalem.
It was at Shiloh that for 300 years the Ark of the
Covenant was kept at Shiloh.
It was at Shiloh in the days of Eli that Samuel heard the word of the Lord.
But Jeremiah tells us that in later generations
the people of Shiloh turned away from God, and it became a ruin.
So maybe Nouvel Shiloh
(a new place where God will be found and his voice heard)
is not a bad name for a baby.
And on Church Anniversary Sunday we think about this place.
the building of this Shiloh, this sanctuary –
a place where God’s covenant promises have been shared for the past 200 years.
that it may continue to be a Shiloh for us –
a place where God’s word is heard, where like Samuel we can respond.
that we may be loyal and faithful servants of the Lord,
that our Church may never fall into ruin
but always be a place where God is known.
But of course it isn’t the bricks and mortar
passage from Ephesians says,
we are not merely welcome in God’s house, we become that house –
“God is using us
all—irrespective of how we got here—
in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation.
Now he's using us, fitting us in brick by brick, stone by stone,
with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together.
We see it taking shape day after day—
a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it,
a temple in which God is quite at home.” [Eph 2, The Message]
What an image for Church Anniversary Day!
all for your donations to our Anniversary redevelopment Appeal
(and if you haven’t given yet, it isn’t too late!)
I hope and pray that this coming year will be a really exciting one
in terms of bricks and mortar.
give thanks today not just for your gifts of money but the gift of
May we become living stones to build an inclusive community
of love, peace and justice,
a dwelling place for God and all his children – even you and me!
May our doors be thrown wide
May God’s voice be heard in this place as of old
- His voice of love and welcome for all