Sunday 2nd June – Evensong
Rom 6 1-5; Rom 6, 6-14
Superficially, the first verse of this evening’s lessons sounds like carte blanche for criminals! Sometimes referred to as the theology of sin.
But read further………
St Paul devoted much time and energy towards giving guidance to the Christian communities in the Mediterranean region, who faced many challenges in their early days. But this was different. Rome was the centre of a wide ranging empire.
Although he wrote this lengthy epistle to the people there, he did not actually reach the city until much later, and then as a prisoner. As we heard this morning, he was not however, unknown to the authorities because of his pronouncements in various other places.
Rome. Imagine a multicultural city, imposing houses, places of worship devoted to different religions, centres of arts and culture. Sports, good living, albeit with the existence of slavery.
And a small church that was fairly well established.
Hardly surprising for the capital of a widespread empire.
Is this ringing any bells? It ought to be! The Scottish diaspora doesn’t have quite the same power as the Roman empire, but we have made our mark all over the world.
The city we are in has parallels to what Paul must have heard about. Though we lack the hierarchical system of government which operated through the Roman army.
You may feel that in the UK we currently we lack effective government, but that is another issue.
What would Paul make of us today? What might he be saying to us?
Consider yourselves alive in Christ. That’s rather impenetrable. Anyone receiving a letter today, telling them that, might be somewhat puzzled. We do sometimes talk about living our lives through other people, but that’s not quite the same.
What does that mean in for the church in today’s world? ‘Do not let sin reign in your mortal body’. Perhaps a warning against what Paul would label as sexual immorality.
But much more than that.
Love your neighbours, pay your taxes, generally behave as a good citizen. You can rise above the temptations of the world. Worship God. The readers of this letter would know about the ten commandments. Not perhaps the case in our secular world.
But on this Sunday after the Ascension, we rejoice, because we hear that as Christ rose, so we are redeemed. The hymns we are singing give musical expression to that. The old life is cast aside and new life is ours. This of course is a reminder of what happens at baptism, when we renounce evil.
During the days between Ascension Day and Pentecost, as a Diocese we are participating in the worldwide cycle of prayer entitled – your kingdom come.
Today’s focus includes the churches in the north area of the city and Queensferry. Plus our linked dioceses overseas. Ghana, Dunedin, and Espoo in Finland.
I have been fortunate in my travels to discover the Anglican communion in other parts of the world and it gives a great sense of being part of a larger whole when you go to a service and find that the liturgy is similar to that back here. some of you here this evening may be representatives of other provinces and I hope you feel the same.
I’m well aware that there is disunity within the communion but hopefully, with the Lambeth conference occurring next year, there will be opportunities to tackle that in a prayerful way and to nurture the church here and worldwide.
Paul wasn’t, obviously, looking so far afield in his letter writing, but he was diligent in his efforts to support the developing Christian communities. They had, after all, no other written message to turn to. But in their day to day lives they strove to live out Jesus’ teaching. And they succeeded, or we would not be here millennia later.
We have to carry on the work. Today’s petition in the diocesan prayer leaflet bids us pray
‘For courage to share God’s saving love in word and deed, that God’s light might shine in us and through us.’
We have opportunities coming up. Next week is designated as Volunteer week. I read an article describing the feel – good aspects of doing something for others, for a good and worthy cause. I felt rather sad that people need to be told that rather than discover it for themselves. Making a contribution that’s valued is certainly life enhancing.
We are also into Dementia awareness week. Plenty of opportunities there. I have managed to combine the two by signing up for dementia research. I’ve no idea where that will lead, but if I can do anything to promote development of treatment to counteract the pain and ravages that the different forms of the illness can cause, or even prevent it, I will be happy.
And equally seriously, it’s also a week to remember the part played by all who lost their lives on D Day as we mark the 75th anniversary. We should learn from history and be aware that there are still people reliving that day.
We have freedom. In everyday life and through our faith. Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive in Christ.
Sin will have no dominion over you since you are not under law but under grace.
That’s the key point. It is only by God’s grace that we enjoy a full life.
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