This week was a Family Service (no recording), but we have a sermon from
Revd Canon Malcolm Convery which continues his series on Philippians-Letter from prison.
This was given at Kirk Maughold church and kindly recorded for us to enjoy below.
"Letter from Prison 2"
October 4th, 2020
(Rev Canon Malcolm Convery)
(Readings from Philippians 2:1-13 and Matthew 21:23-32)
Click to read HERE
The year 2020 will be remembered and talked about for years to come.
We will remember the impact of covid 19 in the experience of lockdown.
I am sure we missed going to church for several weeks.
As a church we had to adapt while continuing to be concerned for each other, but keeping our distance. As ministers we've been challenged in exercising pastoral care for our flocks.
Many churches set up telephone links to their members. Others provided services on-line
and one or two produced live links for worship.
In Kirk Michael we continued our Bible study group through zoom.
These all helped, but we missed the fellowship of worshiping together.
It's great to be back in church and out of lockdown. It's something to be grateful for.
It's hard to imagine what lockdown was like,
but think what it must be like for the apostle Paul when he was in a Roman prison,
cut off from the churches he had set up and frequently visited.
He was awaiting trial, not knowing whether he would be released
or would be sentenced to death for proclaiming the gospel.
To think, there are Christians today who are imprisoned for their faith
and others who have died for their belief.
In our reading this morning Paul is in his third spell in prison.
He is in chains and guarded night and day. You'd think he would be fearful, helpless, weary.
Far from it!
He is delighted to receive a gift and a visitor from the Church in Philippi,
a Church he'd founded when he first visited and met a group praying down by the river bank.
Among the group was a lady call Lydia, a trader in purple cloth. On hearing the gospel,
Lydia and her family believed and were baptised. Lydia set up church in her home.
Paul is overjoyed to hear from these Christians.
They are very much in his prayers and on his heart.
He is encouraged to hear that the Church is thriving in Philippi.
It is not a perfect Church by any means.
but it is a Church that is passionate in its role in the spread of the Gospel.
So whilst in prison, Paul writes a letter to the Church
which Epaphrodites, the visitor who came, would deliver.
It is the most joyful of all Paul's letters, written in difficult circumstances.
Paul is confident of the faith of those Christians in Philippi, but he wants to continue to encourage them in the Christian life. He wrote:
"Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."
and this message is just as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago.
We live in a world where many people do not conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ and indeed do not know or believe in the Gospel.
Paul provides us with guidelines for living the Christian life in our reading from chapter 2 in Philippians. I found the first verse of the reading difficult in the translation I used,
so I looked up another translation in the Good News Bible which read:
"Your life in Christ makes you strong and his love comforts you.
You have fellowship with the Spirit and you have kindness and compassion for one another."
Paul is commending the Christians on their faith, but then he says:
"Make my joy complete, be of the same mind, having the same love,
being in full accord and of one mind."
He is addressing the problem disunity in the church.
It can easily happen when we disagree with others.
We need to remember we are one in Christ.
We share in the life of the Lord and we share with each other in that life.
We are reminded that every time we take part in the Holy Communion service
we are reminded of this fact.
We kneel together at the communion rail and partake in the life of Christ
through the receiving of the bread and wine.
Being united in Christ doesn't mean that we cannot disagree on certain issues.
For example, we don't all agree on women priests, homosexuality, remarriage of divorcees. Sometimes, we need to agree to disagree and respect each other's views.
What can help out unity is what Paul says next:
"Let each of you not look to your own interests, but to the interests of others."
Putting the concerns of others first can deflect from our own problems,
help our well being and is a witness to the Lord.
During Covid 19 we see many examples of people being concerned for others.
We are especially grateful to the doctors and nurses in the Covid wards
and especially those who lost their lives.
We also think of those who carried on working during the crisis
in our supermarkets and shops for example.
We are reminded in the Commandments of the importance
of concern for others when we read:
"Love your neighbour as yourself"
One of the marks of a Christian which Paul highlights in our reading, is humility. He wrote:
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit,
but a in humility regard others as better than yourselves."
We live in a world dominated by self centredness.
I am number one, I will achieve what I want, is often the goal and we see this reflected
in the scramble for toilet rolls and other food items in our supermarkets.
Paul points to the humility of Jesus by inserting words from what appears to be a hymn which predates Paul. It sums up the person and nature of Jesus.
Here is the Son of Almighty God.
stepping down from his position of honour
to become a servant
then to die the death of a criminal on a cross,
only to be exalted to highest heaven given a name above every name. So that:
"At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the Father."
It's hard to grasp what Jesus achieved in three short years of his ministry,
but even harder to grasp that the Son of God should come in human form,
identify with us, die on the cross for our sins, rise from the dead
and ascend into heaven, from whence he sends the Holy Spirit
that we can be forgiven and filled with new life - eternal life!
We don't deserve it, but such is God's grace and love for us.
Thank God for Jesus our saviour!
In verse 8 we read:
" Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death,
even death on the cross."
Humility and obedience are hallmarks of the Christian life.
We are called to follow Jesus' example.
We are not to think of ourselves as more important than anyone else.
Paul reminds us about this in his letter to the Romans when he wrote:
"Do not think more highly of yourself than you should. Instead be modest in your thinking." Romans 12:3
Human nature is such that people try to elevate themselves as did Adam and Eve, who although made in God's image, wanted to know what God knows and so became God.
Perhaps it helps to remember the words of the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.
"Blessed are those who are humble, they will receive what God has promised."
Obedience is another mark of a true Christian.
Our gospel reading teaches us something about obedience.
Jesus is in the temple, when the priest and elders arise to question his authority to perform miracles and drive out the money changers. Instead of answering the question, Jesus asked them a question about the baptism of John. Jesus puts them on the spot! They refuse to be drawn into an answer, so Jesus tells them a parable about two sons.
"The father asks one son "Go and work in the vineyard today" he said "I will not"
but later he changed his mind!
When he asked the second son, he said "I'll go sir"
but he didn't go!
Which of the two did the will of his father?"
The priests and elders answered "the first" (the first had a change of mind in obeyed his father). Jesus then shocked them by telling them the tax collectors and prostitute would be going into the Kingdom of heaven ahead of them! They believed, changed their minds and their lives.
The priests and elders did not believe the message of John the Baptist and did not change their minds. They thought they had too much to lose by committing themselves to Jesus.
They thought they could be put right with God through their own efforts.
They were self-righteous and did not see the need to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus
and the walking His way too.
So, let's be encouraged by the words written by Paul in his letter to the Philippians.
Let us make Paul's joy complete in heaven - by being one in Christ, putting others before ourselves, being humble and obedient to God,
and so fulfilling our call - to be faithful witnesses and servants of the Lord.