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 Sermon Pent 16, yr C, 2022 Every day that I’m in the office I pass by the large anniversary quilt on the wall.  You know the one I’m talking about, blue and white with the signatures of the church members on the panels?  And that picture board where families smile at me in alphabetical order. I look at these pictures and see many faces I recognise despite their hair colour may have changed ;). And I gaze at the person sitting with them….many of whom I never got to meet.  Or families whose faces I’ve never seen… where are they now? To look at the faces then and see our congregation now, it easy to despair.  We are in very different times, very precarious times. Many churches are looking at closure, they are lacking priests, lacking congregation, lacking funds. I look around at us, and wonder what our future holds.  However, I also reflect on how much fun we had at the how down.  On how full the hall is during Tai Chi and guiding.  I see the quilters and the rummage sale starting up again.  I see the desire in the congregation for bible study and Indigenous education. We may be small, but we are mighty! But we were also near $20,000 short of budget offerings this year. We may be mighty, but we are also small. So, what are we to do?  That is the question on many lips.  If we are to continue this vibrant and important ministry…we need to pay the bills.  How much longer can we do that? What is the plan? Paul writing to Timothy today reminds us that there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment and that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil because in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith. Now the Anglican church doesn’t usually fall into the love of money trap, but it is often drawn to the love of what was.  Not so long ago the Anglican church was a bastion of influence, power and full pews.  Anyone who was anyone was in Anglican church on Sundays, and in Sunday School and the men’s group and in ACW. Etc. etc. etc. Now that we have lost that, it is not uncommon for people to lust after those days again and in our eagerness to restore what was, and it is possible to wander away from the faith. What does that mean?  (after all you are here are you not?!) Paul defines this wandering in the negative, in terms of what we are to pursue. “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith;” Paul exhorts Timothy (and us)  to pursue these virtues with all the vigour of someone prepping for a race.  Paul tells us to train for your faith like an athlete. Practice right relationship with God, daily.  Feast on the healthy food of gentleness and love.  Endure and be faithful in all things, so that you can excel and live into your baptismal vows, what Paul may be referring to when he says Timothy made the good confession in the presence of witnesses. Pursue these virtues because we are called to be rich in good works, generous and ready to share what wealth we have…and so that we can take hold to the life that is really life. We are not called to be a people who look back, we are called to move forward. This is emphasised brilliantly, but unfortunately nearly incoherently in Jeremiah. Now if you didn’t understand the reading from Jeremiah today…don’t worry.  It’s mostly legalize and biblical legalize at that.  I’d say it might as well be Greek! But it was in Hebrew and I doubt that is any better. Jeremiah was a prophet at a time when the kingdom of Judah was at war.  He spoke God’s words to the king on behalf of God….and unfortunately for Jeremiah, the word was that the King would lose the war they were fighting and be carted off to Babylon.  So, the King imprisoned Jeremiah. Now “at that time”’ we read, ”the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem”.  They were at war, a loosing war, Jeremiah the prophet was locked up in Jail, things looked pretty bleak. Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah…Buy this field that your nephew will offer you, so that your family can retain it’s ancestral property. We don’t know why Hanamel wanted to sell at this point…but it is in a war zone he may have been thinking of leaving.  We don’t know why he’d think Jeremiah …now imprisoned by an angry king would be interested or able to buy it…except that, as Jeremiah asserts over and over, the Word of the Lord said it was to be so. And it would have to have been God to say so because this is nuts.  Nobody goes out of their way to invest in family property in the middle of a war zone that they have already said will be lost! Except the word of the Lord declared it. So, Jeremiah bought the field, weighed out the money of nearly a week’s wages, signed the deed (in duplicate) with witnesses and placed the deed of purchase in the equivalent of the safety deposit box.  No doubts here… Jeremiah invested heavily in a land with no hope. Except that according to the Lord there is hope…For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land. God says there is hope.  Unseen perhaps…spoken by prophets alone, but there is hope.  Hope enough to invest in….heavily. God calls Jeremiah symbolically to invest in the future, Paul tells Timothy to take hold of life that is really life…looking forward not backwards. I can’t help but think that these words are meant for us as well. We aren’t called to hold tight to what we have, to value the wealth of our past beyond all else, but rather to invest in the future with good works and generosity.             It is no surprise that we are struggling along with all the other churches in our area.  It is no surprise that the church is losing the youth.  Losing finances. Times have changed and we cannot simply assume that if we have a better music program or Sunday school or bible study that people will automatically flock to St. Andrew’s. ·      The church has a lot of history that people now are recognizing as antithetical to what the church claims to believe.  We need to address that for people to consider the church to be authentic. ·      The church has for too long been seen as judgmental for people to think they may be welcome. ·      We need to actively practice welcome and hospitality for it to come naturally. ·      The church has long been concerned with it’s own affairs and neglected the community around. ·      We need to exit our doors and be alive in the world active in all of Christ’s world. ·      The church has been too concerned with being right and less open to being proved wrong. ·      We need to make mistakes and repent, try experiments and fail and be ok with that.   ·      We are called to ‘Fight the good fight of faith;” and to speak truth to power like the prophets. ·      We are called to revamp our priorities and realign our selves and our church with Christ. ·      We are called to listen for God’s voice calling us to invest in the unexpected.  To pursue God’s calling with all the vigour and determination of an athlete.  To see hope, where there appears to be none. Scripture is a living document and the words spoken to Jeremiah and Timothy so long ago are just as appropriate and just as inspired now as they were then. We may feel like the past was the good old days and that today we, as a church are in a warzone, fighting for survival. But over and over again God tells us to listen for the prophets among us, speaking God’s word and guiding us.  Over and over God tells us to hope.  To pursue faith and God’s call above all things. Beyond cash flow. Beyond the impossible.  Beyond cultural norms.  Beyond anything we could possibly hope for.   As the Anglican doxology goes.   Glory to God, Whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation, in the Church and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever. amen