|Published by Anonymous on Sun, 16 Dec 2018 13:07|
Sermon 16th Dec 2018 3rd Sunday of Advent Luke 3:7-18 What shall we do?
Our gospel reading today has one question asked 3 times – What then shall we do? And John replies with some hard hitting answers which we heard. But what has that got to do with us, here today.
At this time of the year the advertising industry is operating at full throttle to entice, cajole, and persuade us to buy more: food, clothes, toys, perfume, alcohol, holidays. And credit companies offer us more money in order to buy all these things. All playing on our desire to have more and more stuff. And it becomes a spiral, the more we have the more we seem to want. Bernie Ecclestone who was the boss of F1 racing was asked one day if he had enough money, he replied “You can never have enough”. Really? If that is true, then no one will ever be content.
In todays reading John is teaching us to be content with what we have; to live simply, to share any surplus and to be grateful. This is a counter-cultural message that requires changes in our mindset, which is what repentance is all about. Contentment is the way of God’s kingdom, and this is true whether we have a little or a lot.
I wonder if you know the story of Thea Bristow who worked in a Devon souvenir factory. She earned a modest income, went to church, helped her husband Paul who run a cub Scout group and was quite content. In 2014 she won £15million on the National Lottery. She went to church the next day, made a roast Sunday lunch for her family and then told Paul what they had won. After a pause, Paul replied “Oh good, we can take the cubs away for a holiday”. So they hired a jet and took the youngsters and their parents to Canada. After other generous gifts to their church and their beloved Torquay United Football Club, they bought a local wood to protect it from development and to preserve it as a community space. Thea allowed herself one indulgence, she bought herself a brand new Ford KA. Those millions made very little difference to Thea, who knew the secrets of contentment that John the Baptist taught; simplicity, sharing and gratitude in a life lived following Jesus.
In the passage we have the question in v10, 12 and 14 “What then should we do?” John’s answers are surprisingly practical and realistic, but costly nonetheless. He doesn’t tell the tax collectors and soldiers to resign, or to sell all their worldly goods. He instructs them to carry out their jobs ethically and responsibly. What sort of ethical dillemas do we face whether at work or elsewhere? As we are being swept up into the frenetic preparations for Christmas, how in our shopping for presents, in our eating and drinking, might we celebrate ethically and responsibly. How during this season can we contribute to a more just society?
John was known for his outspoken words, his uncompromising message warning people of the dangers of their complacency and way of life. If we too have ears to hear, we over the last decade have been told about the disasters ahead if we continue with our present economic systems, if we do nothing to reduce the carbon emissions, if we continue to throw plastic away, and so on. If we remain complacent and do nothing – our planet will be ruined. I actually do think that many, especially the younger generations, realise what a situation we are in, and are trying to do something about it. We are getting better at having reusable bottles, paper straws, stronger shopping bags so we can use them more than once and so on. But there is a huge way to go.
I don’t know how many of you saw a challenging documentary, back in October about our fashion industry. Because of the West’s demands for cheap, throw away clothes that we only wear a few times, the cotton and clothes factories in Eastern Europe are having horrendous effects on our planet. The Arral Sea in Uzbeckistan has virtually dried up. The fishermen on the lake are without a livelihood. The factories further south are discharging awful polluted water into the local rivers, where the local communities drink, wash their clothing, and their bodies– creating terrible health problems. All so that we can buy t-shirts for a few pound coins.
What then should we do? What do we need to change in order to think ethically about our food, our clothes, our disposal of plastic and so on.
Are we listening to our modern day prophets – people like David Attenborough? I was watching a programme a couple of weeks ago on Prince Charles with William and Harry looking back at earlier news footage of their Father. Back in 1970 Prince Charles warned us all of the danger of plastic in our oceans. Everyone thought he was a bit of a weirdo and took no notice. Now 45 years on, people are realising that he was correct.
What then should we do?
The apostle John said that although he was speaking the truth, there was one more powerful coming. God is not a cosy Father Christmas type figure designed to make us feel comfortable.
Jesus, God’s son sent here on earth, came to challenge the way that we live, and to challenge the order of our world. And right now, we are at a critical point in the life of this planet that we live on. What then should we do? Be content with what we have; to live simply, to share any surplus and to be grateful. And fight injustice and support those in need.