The readings on which this
sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r198.htm
s198o13 Sunday 31 3/11/2013
‘you rulers of Sodom‘ Isaiah 1.10
Today I want to follow St Paul in some of his trials and
tribulations beginning straight after his conversion and all
the way to Rome:
22Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the
Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the
Messiah. 23 After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to
kill him, 24but their plot became known to Saul.
The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the
word of the Lord. 45But when the Jews saw the crowds, they
were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted
what was spoken by Paul. 46Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke
out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God
should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge
yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning
to the Gentiles. 50But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the
leading men of the city, and
stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove
them out of their region.
The same thing occurred in Iconium, where Paul and Barnabas
went into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a
great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. 2But
the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned
their minds against the brothers.
After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and
Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a
synagogue of the Jews. 2And Paul went in, as was his custom,
and on three sabbath days argued with them from the
scriptures, 3explaining and proving that it was necessary for
the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying,
‘This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.’
4Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did
a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading
women. 5But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the
market-places they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar.
But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God
had been proclaimed by Paul in Beroea as well, they came there
too, to stir up and incite the crowds.
After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 5 When Silas
and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with
proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah
was Jesus. 6When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he
shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, ‘Your blood
be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to
the Gentiles.’ 12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the
Jews made a united attack on
Paul and brought him before the tribunal.
When he had gone through those regions and had given the
believers much encouragement, he came to Greece, 3where he
stayed for three months. He was about to set sail for Syria
when a plot was made against him by the Jews, and so he
decided to return through Macedonia.
When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly.
27 When the seven days (of purification) were almost
completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple,
stirred up the whole crowd. They seized him, 28shouting,
‘Fellow-Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching
everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this
place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the
temple and has defiled this holy place.’
In the morning the Jews joined in a conspiracy and bound
themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they had
killed Paul. 13There were more than
forty who joined in this conspiracy.
Three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went
up from Caesarea to Jerusalem 2where the
chief priests and the leaders of the Jews gave him a
report against Paul. They appealed to him 3and requested, as a
favour to them against Paul, to have him transferred to
Jerusalem. They were, in fact, planning an ambush to kill him
along the way.
So we come to his first chapter of his letter to the Romans:
I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for
salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also
to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed
through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is
righteous will live by faith.’ 18 For the wrath of God is
revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of
those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19For what
can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20Ever
since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine
nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and
seen through the things he has made. So they are without
excuse; 21for though they knew God, they did not honour him as
God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their
thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22Claiming
to be wise, they became fools; 23and they exchanged the glory
of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being
or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. 24 Therefore God
gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the
degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God
for a lie and worshipped and served the creature
rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions.
Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27and
in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse
with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men
committed shameless acts with men and received in their own
persons the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave
them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be
done. 29They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil,
covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit,
craftiness, they are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters,
insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors
of evil, rebellious towards parents, 31foolish,
faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32They know God’s decree, that
those who practise such things deserve
to die — yet they not only do them but even applaud others
who practise them. 2:1 Therefore
you have no excuse, whoever you are, for in passing
judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the
judge, are doing the very same things. 2You say,
‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is
in accordance with truth. 3Do you imagine, whoever you are,
that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them
yourself, you will escape the judgement of God? 4Or do you
despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and
patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to
lead you to repentance? 5But by your hard and impenitent heart
you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath,
when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. 6For he will
repay according to each one’s deeds: 7to those who by
patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and
immortality, he will give eternal life; 8while for those who are selfseeking and who
obey not the truth but wickedness, there
will be wrath and fury.
Which exactly parallels our reading from the Old Testament
today, significantly in the FIRST chapter of Isaiah, the same
as Paul in his FIRST chapter in his letter to the Romans.
2Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the Lord has
spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have
rebelled against me. 3The ox knows its owner, and the
donkey its master’s crib; but Israel
does not know, my people do not understand. 4Ah, sinful
nation, people laden with iniquity, offspring who do evil,
children who deal corruptly, who have
forsaken the Lord, who have despised the Holy One of Israel,
who are utterly estranged!
10Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers
of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our
God, you people of Gomorrah!
11What to me is the multitude of your
sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of
burnt-offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not
delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
16Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of
your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17learn to
do good; seek justice, rescue the
oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
It seems religious persecution is an eternal byproduct of
every religion and we should be surprised if christianity is
immune. Of course Paul well knew of his own
complicity in persecution.
When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground
their teeth at Stephen. 55But filled with the Holy Spirit, he
gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing
at the right hand of God. 56‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the
heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand
of God!’ 57But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout
all rushed together against him. 58Then they dragged him out
of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid
their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59While
they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my
spirit.’ 60Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice,
‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.‘ When he had said
this, he died. 8.1 And Saul approved of their killing him.
Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the
disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked him
for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found
any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them
bound to Jerusalem. 3Now as he was going along and approaching
Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He
fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul,
Saul, why do you persecute me?’ 5He asked, ‘Who are you,
Lord?‘ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to
righteousness. 21So what advantage did you then get from the
things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things
is death. 22But now that you have been freed from sin and
enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The
end is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the
free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The wages of terrorism is indeed death, but obviously not just
for the perpetrator, but also for the victim!
Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of
death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Of course old boy’s networks and the female equivalent
continue to this day, including parts of the
church. One has only to think of GAFCON to see a
classic old boy’s network, intent on persecuting those who are
different. So when parts of the church condemn those who
are different they are doing as St Paul did. He
knew he deserved to die for persecuting others. He
was describing himself and his own conduct when he talks about
degrading passions. The Lord showed him that HE
was actually persecuting the Lord when he did
this. So when GAFCON and others persecute gay or
lesbian people, people who express their faith differently to
us, people who might call God by a different name - THEY are
persecuting the Lord.