Beginning his sermon, Pastor Phyl asked if we were fed up of it all yet. Every day, we are bombarded with discussions about Brexit/Bremain, and about the trade deals that need to be struck. It is taking priority in the news coverage, even though there are catastrophes happening all over the world, with many people dying every day, and yet, our newspapers seem more worried about comments made by Boris Johnson. It is as if the world has gone mad.
Pastor Phyl then said that he was going to go off piste for this sermon, telling us that we were about to enter a trade free zone. He spoke of how the world is obsessed with trade zones; that economy is all about trade and consumerism. We have a consumer mentality, and we often come to faith and barter and trade with Him when we have actually entered a trade free zone.
Our relationship with God is not based on an exchange. We need to mark this place in our lives as a trade free zone. We need to understand and accept that God doesn’t require anything in return from us, other than for us to believe in Him. We must settle this matter in our own hearts.
Speaking from Isaiah 1:18, Pastor Phyl used the description of the white wool referred to in the passage of scripture. He spoke of shearing sheep as a child, and of how, when they were accidentally snagged, and cut, the sheep would not bleat. In a similar way, when Jesus was tortured and placed on the cross, He did not say a word. He neither cursed, nor condemned those who mocked, and beat and scorned Him.
Looking at the section of passage, “Though our sins are like crimson, they shall be white as snow”, Pastor Phyl asked the question, “What is sin?” The answer is that sin is our record of wrongs that are against us. These are things like disobedience, and omissions. The truth is that if God has asked us to do something, and we don’t do it, then this becomes sin for us.
In another part of the scripture, it talks about our sin being made as white as snow. When winter comes and we get snow, the most important question most children ask is whether it is sticking. There is something about untouched, freshly fallen snow, that is pure and white. God is there in all seasons, whether it be shearing white wool in the summer, and crisp white snow in winter, He will be there for us, and He still forgives us.
The truth is that all roads lead to God. Whenever we’re on a journey of faith. We might be in that middle ground, where we can’t quite make sense of things, but the Christian faith is uncompromising. It is not palatable to a lot of people, but people who come to faith must go on a journey, and we must reason and settle the matter in our hearts.
However, we must avoid being ‘religious’. The Pharisees were religious. In the case of the woman caught in the act of adultery, they were quick to judge her, but could not even follow their own law, when they failed to bring both the woman and the man. This situation was a case of lose-lose for Jesus, as, at the time, only Romans were allowed to put people to death, but Jesus was able to turn it around when He suggested that “only one without sin should cast the first stone”
We are called to look at our own hearts, and mark a line around ourselves and the church and our life. In truth, even our righteousness is like a filthy rag, but Jesus makes us clean. Even the good things we do are as filthy rags, but we can achieve redemption through the love of Christ Jesus “I am the way and the truth and the life”
The problem with human beings though, is that we have a problem with the idea of people just forgiving us. We feel that we should receive some punishment for our wrongs, but the only one who can truly condemn us is Jesus. Like in the passage of scripture when all of the Pharisees had left, He looked at the woman and asked her if nobody had condemned her, and when she answered, He said “Neither to I condemn you. Go and sin no more”
We must remember His words here, and not judge others. We are called to live a holy life, and to not try and trade with God. If someone comes in wounded, we need to pick them up. We must not condemn them, because if it wasn’t for God’s grace, we could be the ones wounded and condemned.
A truly trade free zone, is somewhere where we can rest in God. We can get caught up in belief systems. All other faiths are transactional, but they are man made faiths, created because we find it difficult to accept God’s free gift of grace. Christ is God’s free gift to us, but to truly receive it, we must not be religious. We are called to just enter the trade free zone and accept God’s free gift of Grace.
There is no such thing as a perfect church, or a perfect Christian. We are an imperfect church, and an imperfect people, covered by the amazing free gift of God’s grace. There is no payment due, and our debt is paid in full. Not even death has a hold on us, because of the sacrifice of Jesus.
Will we step out and accept this free gift?
Scriptures: Isaiah 1:18, John 8: 3-11, John 14:6