Sunday sermon 12 August – signs of redemption
Readings: John 20:19-23 and Ephesians 4:17 – 32
Signs of redemption
So are you a sign of redemption in your community? Your family? At work? And what does that mean?
What is “redemption”?
Something to do with a price being paid for something? Yes – freedom. A sign of hope. A sign that God is at work really.
The main idea of redemption is that a price has been paid to win us back, or set us free. For the Hebrews, they were saved or rescued from slavery in Egypt. Their lives were spared. Why? The blood of the Passover lamb. A life was given up to win their freedom and to save them from death. That one image is enough. Next week we will celebrate the Christian Passover at communion – the first Passover points us to Jesus our Redeemer – himself the Lamb of God who takes our sins away – who saves us from death as well. We are saved from sin and its consequences (separation from God) and of course we are FORGIVEN when we don’t deserve it. Remember this verse? For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
The readings last week in the Essential Jesus challenge were all about God pointing to the future – to his plan of making things right, of providing, and of loving his people. They were signs that God was at work. That he could rescue them – from slavery, from death from snakes, and in the case of Jonah he was able to save a whole city.
The church is meant to be a community of redemption – set free from the old life of sin. Listen again to Paul writing to the Ephesians:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (verses 22-24).
People of the new self – created to be like God – in true righteousness and holiness!
And of course that means there should be real change. Paul lists the things that should go: No more lies, no more stealing, no more anger, and no more unwholesome talk. Instead we need to speak the truth, resolve anger, work hard and share what we earn, and say helpful things.
Our parents used to say something like – if you can’t say something nice, then say nothing at all.
More importantly verse 32 sums it up: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
SIGNS OF REDEMPTION
The video clip we watched in our home groups about being signs of redemption was about a school set up for students who had failed in main stream education – for whom there was no real hope. The teenagers had been thrown out of schools for various reasons – and could barely read. So this handful of people set up a school for them. The school was a sign of redemption.
Redeemed people are not rescued because they are worthy recipients. We were not worthy recipients when Christ died for us either. It’s about grace – extending grace – to undeserving people BECAUSE they are people and therefore should be treated well.
How we treat them and all other people reflects our sense of gratitude for how we have been treated. So when people take the trouble to spend time with people at the bottom of the pile – that’s a redemptive community at work. It gives people hope. It makes them feel valued when they are often marginalised.
Eph 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Listen again to the Gospel reading today: On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
The default setting of the church is forgiveness. Jesus made that clear when he breathed his Holy Spirit on his disciples and sent them out. In fact in Ephesians today we read about the Holy Spirit being grieved. amongst other things, when our anger leads us to sin, when we let the sun go down on our anger. That sounds to me like the opposite of forgiveness.
Last week we talked about being equipped for ministry or service. Are you? It’s this peace of Christ – God’s forgiveness through Christ – that we extend to others. If you are full of bitterness and criticism, gossipy and slanderous as you pick fault with others and spread stories. If you are angry and unforgiving and look like a volcano on a holiday – always about to explode. Guess what. You are not a sign of redemption. You’re no help to anyone. In fact you are turning away from God – your sinful behaviour is probably grieving the Holy Spirit. Listen to the verses from Paul:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Ephesians 4:30-31)
We should never grieve the Holy Spirit of God – how terrible that we cause sorrow to Him. How terrible that we cause sorry to God’s children and his church, or his anointed ones.
One final comment. If you want to be a sign of redemption – someone attractive for God – you have to actually talk to people as well! So often people focus on being a good example. It’s true. We really need to be friendly! 🙂 Taking an interest in people is half the fun of it. Genuine concern for them and their lives – being friendly and sociable – sounds very much like the kind of person Jesus was. And that means taking risks! Making new friends. Yes even talking to strangers! How scary and un-Kiwi. How very African – where people always greet others as to ignore people is like saying they are not there and they don’t matter!
Go and do it then! Go practice at tea time now! Maybe you just need to stay for tea in the first place! 🙂
And make sure that you determine to be a sign of redemption and hope tomorrow – and each day of the week!