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:

Acts 9:22-24
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.

Acts 13:44-46,50
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.

Acts 14:1,2
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.

Acts 17:1-5
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.

Acts 17:13
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.

Acts 18:1,5-6,12
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.

Acts 20:2-3
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.

Acts 21:17,27-28
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.’

Acts 23:12-13
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.

Acts 25:1-3
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:

Romans 1:16-2:8
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.

Isaiah 1:2-4,10-11,16-17
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.

Acts 7:54-8:1
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.

Acts 9:1-5
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.

Romans 6:20-23
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!

Romans 7:24-25
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.