Sermon - 13th February 2011
Matthew 5:23-37 & 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
The theme of today’s readings and sermon is right relationships. We are being encouraged to think about our relationship with God and our relationships with the other people in our lives.
Relationships are on many people’s minds at the moment as they prepare for Valentine’s Day tomorrow. It’s a day when people remember love, especially romantic love, in a big way. The stores are full of cards and gifts and foods to help people treat their loved ones. Others will declare their love for the first time too...or maybe keep the recipient of their card guessing!
We will all have our own feelings about Valentine’s Day...probably somewhere between loving it and loathing it!!
As Christians, we should remember Saint Valentine himself. Valentine was either a priest or a bishop who was martyred at Rome around the year 269. We don’t have the full story, but we can certainly see that Valentine was a person whose relationship with God inspired him to teach others about Jesus. This relationship that he will have shared with other people will have opened their eyes to faith in God. Valentine will have felt that sharing the faith in the God of love was worth the risks.
So tomorrow, let’s all remember St Valentine. He was martyred for telling people about the Gospel message of loving God and one another. Sometimes relationships demand sacrifices. Valentine’s martyrdom reminds us of this. His sacrifice was not in vain because he is now one of the saints in Heaven where he experiences the fullness of joy in God’s Kingdom.
We get to glimpse such joy during our earthly life and we also all get opportunities to share joy with people we are in relationship with. This includes people we are close too and those who we meet day by day and maybe do not appreciate or value as much as we should.
For Christians, Valentine’s Day marks an acknowledgement of an all-loving God who blesses those who love one another, as Jesus implored his own disciples so to do. Love should therefore be the basis for all our relationships.
But sometimes we fail to love. We may get irritable. Or, someone may treat us badly and it puts us in a mood. This is when we really need to turn to God and allow God to bring healing into that relationship or situation in some way.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy Chapter 30 we heard these words: ‘See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.’ Later in the same chapter we read, ‘This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’.
So, in this passage from scripture we find that life is associated with speaking a blessing, whereas death is associated with uttering a curse. How is your daily conversation? How is mine? Do people hear words of blessing coming from our lips? Do they perhaps hear curses? Maybe a mixture of both?
In our conversations, in our relationships and in chance encounters with strangers we are constantly presented with a choice. Basically, what are we going to say? Will it be something ‘love-ly’ or something ugly? Will our words be a blessing or a curse to the one who hears them? Are they words of life or are they words of death?
In our chapter from the book of Deuteronomy we read that God is clearly saying, ‘Now choose life’. Choose life! In every moment!
When people meet us we want them to feel that we are life-enhancing people. ‘Joy-full’ rather than ‘Joy-less’. Full of life! And it’s not all about how we feel. It’s about what we choose to communicate in our relationships with everyone.
All this will require effort on our part, especially when our efforts may meet a frosty response. ‘Choose life’ is the message from our scripture today! God has given us life and promises us eternal life through Jesus. We have much to celebrate and much to hope for in God – who loves us all unconditionally. So, even when you are feeling discouraged, remember God is with you in every moment and experience of every day and lovingly prompting you with the words: ‘Now choose life’!