Living For Jesus In Adversity and Uncertainty
- 22 August 2021
- Stuart Robinson
Living for Jesus – in adversity and uncertainty, is a key theme of the text before us today – as it is in the lives of the people in this church.
Did you know that a group of our parishioners meet – on rostered Sunday mornings to operate and serve in a community feeding programme – Bread of Life – with marginalised and homeless people in the Redfern/Surrey Hills area? And this has been going on for more than a decade!
And they observe all the COVID protocols as they offer hospitality and material support to those in great need.
This living for Jesus in adversity and uncertainty was modelled for me recently by another of our church family.
This woman, recently widowed herself, is engaged in caring for two of her dear friends who bravely contend with serious health issues. She was visiting them (now not possible of course) and is supporting them with calls, emails, prayer, and care packages.
Or then there are those of you who have swung in behind the giving requests from Anglicare, the Asylum Seeker Centre, and Lou’s Place women’s refuge.
The repository down in the St. Michael’s church is overflowing with gifts of disposable nappies, wipes, and toiletry supplies for distribution by these aid and relief organisations.
And rather than being beaten down by the uncertainty and anguish of this current ‘season’, you’ve stepped up: you’ve now written hundreds of letters and emails of encouragement to each other; phone calls and Zoom meetings between parishioners are commonplace.
And as a variation on that theme, one our parishioners concerned for the mental health and wellbeing of all the people in her large apartment complex, has set up a Zoom community group with breakout rooms and facilitated conversations for all those residents who wish to join in. Such loving care, right?
And in this time of global anguish, you have fallen to prayer – privately, and at our Tuesday night Zoom prayer meeting, for places and people groups where disaster and displacement is tearing communities apart: Haiti; Lebanon; Afghanistan; East Africa, and you’ve personally and generously given to the work of Anglican Aid, World Vision, Save the Children, Red Cross, Compassion, and the like.
And as we think on that subject of giving, we were reminded in our service just last week that we, as a church, collaborated with the Diocese of Sydney in liberating more than $900K in trust money from the sale of the Wentworth Chapel, for the work of mission and outreach in SW Sydney through the construction of a new Anglican church building in Leppington – where more than 500 people currently worship and serve in temporary accommodation.
Living for Jesus in uncertainty and adversity is what you are doing.
And the answer to the ‘why’ question’; why are we living for Jesus in the face of adversity and uncertainty?’, is given and modelled in the text before us today.
The answer to the ‘why?’ [in case you want to knock off now and get another cup of coffee 😊] is simply this: as Jesus gave his all for us – we respond to his grace and generosity by giving our all for his people and his purposes.
Like those very first European Christians in ancient Macedonia (Greece) – and today we heard the account of the start of the church in Thessalonica and Berea, we have listened to the reasoned claims that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 17:2,3) as foretold in the Scriptures, and having examined those claims (like the Bereans mentioned in the text), we have determined them to be true (v.11)!
We subscribe to the belief that Jesus is indeed God come among us – Messiah; that he did suffer our judgment and die; and that he rose from that death, thus demonstrating his authority, credibility, and identity (as Paul argued in Acts 17:3)
And like those first European churches – we are a diverse group: some of us come from a religious background and others do not, we comprise remarkably gifted and skilled women and men of various ethnic origins (Acts 17:4), with a common confession: Jesus is our Lord and King (Acts 17:7).
That means we use our resources in the service of him, our Lord and King.
Jason (or Saint Jason of Thessalonica in Orthodox tradition) is a remarkable example, in this text, of generosity and costly service.
Jason not only offers hospitality to Paul and Silas by opening his home to them as a base for their mission in the city, but Jason is also forcibly dragged out of that very home by a violent ‘anti-Jesus’ mob and hauled before the city officials on account of his gospel patronage – Acts 17:5-7.
Now, if that trauma wasn’t enough, Jason was then forced to pay a fine, or a bond, before he and his colleagues were released (Acts 17:6-9).
The opposition, and persecution, and cost associated with following Jesus that we noted in that simple vignette, did not let up.
A year or so later St. Paul wrote directly to this remarkable group of new believers in Thessalonica and said this (I Thessalonians 1:4-6),
4 For we know, brothers and sistersloved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
So moved by the generosity and courage of the people of Macedonia – in their financial support for the persecuted and impoverished Jerusalem mother church, Paul said this about them (in II Corinthians 8:1-6
We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty, welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.
In short, they lived for Jesus in adversity and uncertainty.
May the same be said of us, beloved:
Because with those very first European Christians, we too believe that Jesus is Messiah; that he died and rose from that death for us; that he is our Lord and King; that as he gave his all for us, so must we continue to lay our all before him – come what may.
In the name of Christ.